There were many athletes who made big plays on the football field this fall, but their biggest plays should come later in adulthood when they have a chance to make a mark on the world.
Many of these players will become police officers, firefighters, social workers, teachers, doctors, nurses, veterinarians and therapists. Others will make a difference in other ways, but no matter what they become, they will have high school football memories that they will never forget.
Every one knows Sylvester Stallone as Rocky, but well before he was fighting Clubber Lang, he played high school football.
Prior to being the poster child of Jell-O Pudding, Bill Cosby played football and even spent two seasons playing at Temple.
Ashton Kutcher was a football player. Now, he's a playa. He's currently dating his former That 70s show co-star, Mila Kunis, even though he's still married to Demi Moore.
Jamie Foxx, Burt Reynolds and even Will Ferrell have their share of high school football memories, although we tend to think of Foxx acting as a football player in "Any Given Sunday" as well as Reynolds in the original "The Longest Yard." And, seriously, can you even picture Ferrell as a high school kicker without cracking a smile?
And what about Chuck Norris? The man who can light a post-game bonfire by rubbing two ice cubs together, also played high school football.
While our area's players might not have the toughness and masculinity of Norris -- nor the ability to blow bubbles with peanut butter - they did plenty of great things during the football season and created memories that will last a lifetime. Let's take a look back:
Name: Chris Moran, Batavia
Date: Week 1, August 24
Batavia senior safety Chris Moran stopped Glenbard North running back Justin Jackson on a potential game-winning two-point conversion with only 1:02 left to help the Bulldogs stun the host Panthers, 42-41.
The Panthers would go on to win their next 12 games before losing to Mt. Carmel, 28-14, in the Class 8A state championship.
"I got asked by a lot of people about that play and honestly it wasn't the prettiest play I've ever made," a modest Moran said. "It was a pretty poor tackle, but I held him up and luckily I had some guys come and help clean it up."
The play made all the hard work in the off-season pay off.
"I think we were super ready to play that game," Moran said. "We watched so much film on them preparing for the game, I mean, pretty much the whole off-season focusing on them."
A joyous bus ride from Carol Stream didn't get the Bulldogs back into Batavia until around midnight. Since it was too late to head out and celebrate further, Moran retreated to the comforts of home, chowed down on some food and rehashed the play and the rest of the game with his parents and one of his dad's friends.
Name: Steven Amoni Aurora Central Catholic
Date: Week 2, August 31
Senior Steven Amoni rushed for 211 yards on just 14 carries and averaged more than 15 yards per attempt. He also broke free for TD runs of 41, 42 and 56 yards in a 42-12 victory over the host Flying Dutchmen of Oostburg, Wisconsin.
Amoni and the Chargers stopped at the World Famous "Brat Stop" in Kenosha, Wisconsin on their way home. Rather than try one of the many specialty brats on the menu or the Wisconsin cheese curds, Amoni had his mind set on a cheeseburger as well as a buffet of chicken wings.
"Man," he said. "It was delicious and we were all starving. We couldn't get there soon enough."
The team received a warm welcome as about 100 Aurora Central supporters greeted the team with a standing ovation.
All in all, it proved to be an unforgettable day for Amoni and his teammates as their trek began at 9 a.m. and didn't end until the bus rolled back into Aurora at 11:30 p.m.
Name: Joe Hoscheit, St. Charles East
Date: Week 3, September 7
Talk about having an unforgettable game against your biggest rival. Senior Joe Hoscheit ensured that St. Charles North would remain winless by playing hard-nosed defense. On the other side of the ball, he single-handedly outscored the North Stars, catching a touchdown pass and rushing for a pair of scores. For good measure, he also faked a punt and completed a pass for first down. He simply pretty much did it all in a 23-13 victory.
"It was so exciting that we didn't want it to end," Hoscheit said. "Looking back, it ended up being the turning point of our season."
The bus ride, albeit a quick one, was unforgettable.
"Everyone was going crazy, singing the school fight song. It was a great experience."
Physically exhausted, but running on adrenalin, Hoscheit got together with some teammates afterward,
"We got some food, pigged out and just sat around talking about the game and victory with my teammates that I spend so much time with."
Name: Nicholas McCullough, St. Charles North
Date: Week 4, September 14
McCullough had an 88-yard punt return in a 49-0 rout of Elgin to help St. Charles North pick up its first victory of the season.
"After starting out 0-3 we really needed this one, so we were pretty fired up early," McCullough said. "The guys were hooting and hollering and it continued after the game."
McCullough said there was a lot of singing and dancing on the bus ride back into town from Elgin. Once the "Dancing with the (North) Stars" simmered down, McCullough replenished himself at Buffalo Wild Wings. And, he had an 88-yard anecdote to share with his friends.
"There's nothing better than getting that first win," he said. "It was a blast of a game."
Name: Joel Bouagnon, Aurora Christian
Date: Week 5, September 21
In 41-14 win over Class 5A St. Francis, the Class 3A Eagles received 208 rushing yards from Joel Bouagnon. He scored on TD runs of 21 and 34 yards and also picked up a fumble and strolled into the end zone for a touchdown.
"It was really my first game back running the ball and we really came out and hit them in the mouth," Bouganon said.
Afterwards, Bouganon was the one getting hit in the mouth, or at least around it, as he and his fellow seniors hung out at Coach Don Beebe's house to celebrate the victory over wings and pizza. "It definitely was a good time," Bouganon said.
Name: Matt Rodriguez, Kaneland
Date: Week 6, September 28
Kickers rarely have as busy of a night as Matt Rodriguez did in a 66-23 thumping of DeKalb, but teams don't score nine touchdowns in a game very often either. Rodriguez was a perfect 9-for-9 on PATs and added a booming 42-yard field goal. He also reached double digits in kickoffs.
After all that kicking, Rodriguez was tired so he just kicked it, as he chillaxed.
"The game ended so late," he said. "Sometimes we'll hang out with friends, but most times I just go home and rest."
The Knights get together for an unofficial team breakfast on Saturday mornings so Rodriguez participated in that, although it's doubtful that the numbers of pancakes he wolfed down equalized his 9 PATs against the Barbs.
Name: Izzy Rosa, Aurora Central Catholic
Date: Week 7, October 5
Aurora Central ended a 15-year playoff drought, crushing Guerin, 55-0, in Aurora. Left guard Izzy Rosa was part of an offensive line that helped the Chargers collect 346 rushing yards, score eight rushing touchdowns and then celebrate.
"It was unreal that we made history after 15 years," Rosa said. "It took awhile for it to soak in. Coach told us that we were all about 2 (years old) when it last happened, which is so hard to believe."
Rosa joined some of his teammates afterward where they hung out and discussed the game. Of course, a pitstop at Wendy's for burgers, fries and Frostys occurred beforehand.
"We were all pretty tired," he said. "So we took it easy, got something to eat and got some rest."
Name: Spencer Thomas, West Aurora
Date: Week 8, October 12
West Aurora broke a six-game losing streak, thanks in part to West Chicago committing six turnovers, to win 35-9. Senior Spencer Thomas had a huge day, returning both an interception and a fumble for scores to lead the Blackhawks.
Thanks to the two touchdowns, Thomas scored 12 points. The same number was prominent last year when he collected 12 rebounds to help the Blackhawks win the Class 4A basketball sectional title over Plainfield East.
Thomas finally got home from his final home football game at around 12 a.m. He enjoyed the moment, planting a kiss on his girlfriend, chatting with his parents, grandparents, twin brother Chandler as well as teammates.
"It was hard to believe that it was my last home game," Thomas said. "So I hung out for awhile and then just went home."
Thomas had reason to get home and rest because it was Homecoming weekend. He had to get his beauty sleep for Saturday's dance where he undoubtedly rehashed how he turned two turnovers into 12 quick points.
Name: Jake Ruddy, Marmion
Date: Week 9, October 19
In his final high school game, Jake Ruddy helped Marmion cruise to a 49-6 victory over Walther Lutheran. Ruddy had an interception, 20-yard TD reception and rushed for 83 yards.
"I stood with some of my friends on the field for awhile talking and just remembering everything that had happened here," Ruddy said. "It was hard leaving the field knowing it could be possibly my last game ever. I walked off with my best friend Matt Smith remembering the four years I've had here."
Ruddy went out for pizza with Smith and teammates Patrick Bakala, Charlie Clohecy, Tyler Eberth and Charlie Faunce. They ate well and they reminisced.
"We sat around for a couple hours, eating pizza, watching college football and talking," Ruddy said.
Name: Kevin Dunlop, Geneva
Date: Week 9, October 19
Some people take placekickers for granted, but the Vikings needed everything they could get out of senior Kevin Dunlop in a 35-34 double overtime victory over Streamwood. Dunlop booted a 30-yard field goal in the first quarter and a 29-yard field goal in the third quarter, as well as three extra points.
"We were excited about the game but also nervous because it was the last game for us seniors," Dunlop said. "It was great to go out with a win, and for it to go into two overtimes, there was a lot of pressure so it was like a playoff atmosphere."
Afterward, Dunlop retreated to Steak 'N Shake. While kickers live in a lonely world when they fail to deliver, Dunlop had plenty of company with him over Steakburgers, milk shakes and many of the other items on the menu.
Name: Dylan Nauert, Kaneland
Date: 1st round playoffs, October 27
A year ago, Belvidere quarterback Troy Vandenbroek almost guided his team to an upset over Kaneland. Dylan Nauert helped make sure that didn't happen this year as he intercepted three Vandenbroek passes in a 48-0 victory. Nauert also caught three passes for 38 yards.
Vandenbroek probably wasn't the only player to have nightmares as Nauert celebrated the victory by joining teammates Brandon Bishop, Jaumaureo Phillips, Gary Koehring, Alex Snyder and Tyler Slamans for a midnight showing of the new horror film, "Sinister." Nauert gave the film a big thumb's up, but horror isn't for everyone.
"It was pretty scary," he said. "We didn't have any plans for what to do after the game so we kind of just threw it together and decided to do a movie."
Names: Eric Motisi, and Brandon Mayes, Aurora Christian
Date: Class 3A State Championship, November 23
Aurora Christian won its second consecutive state title, defeating Tolono Unity, 42-12. Brandon Mayes had an unforgettable game on both sides of the ball as well as on special teams. Offensively, Mayes had 68 yards on 12 carries and a TD. He also caught a pass for 8 yards. Defensively, Mayes had 11 tackles and returned an interception for a 75-yard score. And, on special teams, Mayes returned a kickoff 70 yards, which helped set up the Eagles first score.
As for left guard Eric Motisi, he was key in setting the stage for Mayes and Joel Bouganon as the Eagles averaged 6.6 yards per rush and collected 185 yards.
The English-to-Snacklish translation of Brandon Mayes is Brandon Chompayes. Snacklish is the Snickers campaign that has transformed Adam Vinatieri, the only kicker to win four Super Bowls, to Adam Nougatieri and New York Knicks Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing to Patrick Chewing.
Speaking of chewing, Mayes chomped on a Snickers bar back at the hotel as the Eagles celebrated with their teammates, coaches and families. Sweets and soft drinks were off limits during the season, but after winning the title, the cola was flowing and there was plenty of chocolate, cinnamon rolls and goodies to go around.
"I'm not a huge candy guy, but after not having it for awhile I definitely wanted some," Mayes said. "We had a great reception at the hotel and I got to carry the trophy in. It was definitely a great chillout time."
The team finally hit the sack by midnight but awakened on Saturday to cheer on Montini in Saturday's Class 5A state championship. The bus ride home allowed the team to soak everything in before cruising into Aurora for a parade and "Welcome Home" celebration.
"It was great," senior guard Eric Motisi said. "We had so many people there to support us and some of the guys wore their state championship rings from last year. Everyone was going around and giving us so much credit; that was pretty cool."
- This article filed under:
- Maple Park
- North Aurora
- Sugar Grove
- Aurora Central Catholic High School
- Aurora Christian High School
- Batavia High School
- Geneva High School
- Kaneland High School
- Marmion Academy
- Rosary High School
- St. Charles East High School
- St. Charles North High School
- West Aurora High School
- Prep Boys