Michael Castoro St. Edward
Listed generously at 5-foot-8 on the team roster, this senior two-way player proved high school football is more about imposing your will than possessing imposing size. Before Castoro was lost to a season-ending knee injury early in a Week 9 road game, the all-Suburban Christian Blue pick helped the Green Wave win 5 games and qualify for their first playoff berth since 2010. He led the team in receptions (19), receiving yards (357) touchdown catches (4) and 2-point conversions (2). He also rushed 39 times for 485 yards and 4 touchdowns. Defensively, he made 38 tackles and defended 7 passes. "He was the heart and soul of our team," St. Edward coach Mike Rolando said. "I've never heard so many compliments about one of our players from opposing coaches, players and fans who respect how hard he plays. He's the kind of kid who makes other players play harder and coaches coach harder."
Tyler Christensen South Elgin
A two-time all-Upstate Eight Valley selection, this senior wide receiver's crisp route running and great hands yielded another productive season. The 5-foot-11, 160-pound senior finished second in the area in receiving yards (770) while nabbing 36 receptions, 5 for touchdowns. "Tyler set the goal early on to be an overall, well-rounded player on the perimeter and he did that very well for us by grading out as one of our best blocking wide receivers," South Elgin coach Pat Pistorio said. "He could find the sweet spot in a zone defense and exploit it, which is something you don't often see at the high school level.
Damion Clemons Larkin
A repeat all-UEC River pick who finished third in the voting for league offensive MVP, this running back's unique blend of speed and vision made him difficult to stop in the open field. Clemons rushed 145 times for 874 yards, the fifth-best total in the area, and scored 13 touchdowns. He also finished with 16 receptions for 250 yards and 2 more scores. "He's a special talent," former Larkin coach Mike Scianna said. "Players like him don't come around very often because it's rare to find a player who can run like that and catch the ball the way he does. He's not a boisterous guy. He just worked extremely hard and led by example."
Robert Cuda South Elgin
A repeat all-area selection, this senior quarterback improved on his performance of a year ago by throwing for nearly 700 more yards (2,401), 4 more touchdowns (24) and 5 fewer interceptions (7). Again named all-UEC Valley, he completed 31 of 237 attempts (55.3 percent). "Coming off a very successful junior campaign, Rob talked about reducing the number of interceptions from his junior year, and he was able to do that while picking up a new, no-huddle system that puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback," first-year South Elgin coach Pat Pistorio said. "We're proud of how well he handled it and put up numbers." Cuda also carried the ball 100 times for 156 yards and scored 9 rushing touchdowns. One of the top students in his class, Cuda has interest from multiple Division-II football programs but his college choice will be driven by academics, his coach said.
Brandon Dranka Huntley
This 6-foot-2, 235-pound defensive end developed into a player opposing offenses had to scheme to stop. The senior led the Red Raiders with 9.5 sacks for 50 yards in lost yardage. Overall, he made 34 solo tackles and 17 assists, forced 2 fumbles and defended 2 pass attempts. "I think he was one of the best defensive players in our conference," Huntley coach John Hart said. "He played extremely well against Division-I offensive linemen from Cary-Grove and Prairie Ridge and is on fire getting looks from colleges now because of it. What he did against those guys was impressive. And he's a great student on top of it."
Malik Dunner Dundee-Crown
After spending a year at Elgin High, this junior returned to the school he attended as a freshman and helped the Chargers reach the playoffs for the first time in 19 years. Named all-FVC Valley, the 5-foot-11, 195-pound safety grabbed an interception and finished among D-C's leading tacklers. Offensively, he joined the offense at midseason and rushed 16 times for 233 yards and 5 touchdowns. He missed D-C's final regular-season game and played sparingly in the playoff game against Oak Park-River Forest due to a sprained ankle. "He's a tremendous player and he's a great kid with a good head on his shoulders, too," Chargers coach Vito Andriola said. "He walked into our program, accepted what it was about, wanted to be a part of it and contributed to our success. He's a really good athlete."
Alex Duran Larkin
Named to the academic all-state team, this repeat all-UEC River and repeat all-Area selection turned in another outstanding season for the Royals. The senior free safety led Larkin with 88 total tackles to go with 2 interceptions, a blocked punt and 4 fumble recoveries, one of which he returned for a touchdown. "If you could have every kid be like Alex and be a wrestler, a tough kid who shows up every day and works hard, you'd never lose," former Larkin coach Mike Scianna said. "He wouldn't have to make that many tackles if we'd had a little more help up front, but he did a great job as the last line of defense. He had a great season for us." DaVontae Elam St. Edward
Named first-team all-state for Class 4A by the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association and named all-Suburban Christian Blue, Elam's senior season was his best yet. He carried 209 times for 1,426 rushing yards (6.8 avg.), setting a new single-season record for a program founded in 1944. He scored 17 rushing touchdowns and picked up 72 first downs via the ground game. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound running back finishes a four-year varsity career as St. Edward's all-time leading rusher with 3.095 yards. Elam also caught 13 passes for 232 yards (17.8 avg.) and 4 touchdowns. In limited defensive action he made 9 tackles and recovered 2 fumbles. "He was finally healthy and had the kind of year we expected of him and he expected of himself," St. Edward coach Mike Rolando said. "He didn't talk about records. The only time he liked to draw attention to himself was to set up play action. We'll really miss him."
Sam Franckowiak Dundee-Crown
This talented safety was the area leader with 6 interceptions, 2 more than the next closest defender. His season highlight came in Week 9, when Franckowiak twice intercepted Jacobs quarterback Bret Mooney in the first half to keep D-C competitive in the District 300 rivalry game. The senior also brought important intangibles to the table for a team that won 6 games and reached the playoffs for the first time since 1994. "Sam is a self-made football player and one of the best captains I've ever had," D-C coach Vito Andriola said. "He was able to get the team organized without me having to say anything. He didn't play at all his sophomore year and now he has interest from Division III schools. He has come a long way."
Michael Gomez Cary-Grove
This versatile, three-year varsity athlete was a key player for a team that won 7 games and reached the second round of the Class 6A playoffs. The junior switched primary roles from offensive line to defensive line and immediately made an impact on defense. Late in the season he exchanged his offensive guard position for tight end duties and again excelled, according to his coach. "You don't take his athletic ability and skill for granted, but you do think he can do just about anything because he's strong, he's quick, he has tremendous feet, great power and he's smart," Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said. "We moved him to defensive line because he filled a void with his strength and size. He's a difference maker. He does things on the field most players just can't do." Though he did not play a full season on defense, the two-time all-FVC Valley pick finished with 27 solo tackles and 11 assists.
Collin Holte St. Edward
This 5-foot-10, 235-pound, two-way lineman was voted captain by his teammates for the second straight year. As a defensive lineman, the senior made 74 tackles and notched 3 sacks. Named all-Suburban Christian Blue, he played guard and center for an offense that rushed for 2,610 yards and 28 touchdowns and threw for 1,118 yards and 13 more scores. Holte carries a 4.41 grade-point average and is ranked third in his class. He was named academic all-state in addition to being named honorable mention all-state for his on-field performance. He has a partial scholarship offer from Valparaiso and offers to play as a preferred walk-on at Notre Dame and Washington University. "He gave us great leadership on the field and in the hallways and is a great example for our younger players," St. Edward coach Mike Rolando said. "He's very athletic for a big man and very hard to block."
Tim Jansen Hampshire
Jansen made the most of his opportunity when it came time for him to become Hampshire's featured wide receiver. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound wide receiver finished as the area leader in receiving yards (793) and tied for the area lead in touchdown receptions (11). His 41 catches were the second-highest total areawide; 10 went for touchdowns. Jansen personally accounted for 74 percent of the receiving yards for a team that won 6 games and reached the Class 5A playoffs for the first time in five years. "He really worked hard in the off-season to make himself into a better football player and you could see the results on the field," Hampshire coach Dan Cavanaugh said.
Emerson Kersten Cary-Grove
A starting defensive lineman on Cary-Grove's 2012 Class 6A state runner-up, this senior made an early season switch to linebacker to fill a void left by injury, and he excelled at his new position. Kersten (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) finished with 60 solo tackles and 38 assists, the third-highest total for a team that won 7 games and made a second-round playoff appearance. He even grabbed an interception. "Once he got acclimated, Emerson was all over the field," Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said. "To move from the defensive line to linebacker and play the way he did was just outstanding. Probably his best attribute is a motor that never stops, which made him a great practice player and a great example for our younger players to look up to because he translated hard work in practice into success on the field."
Nick Kielbasa Hampshire
This fullback was the driving force behind a balanced, successful offense that produced 29 points per game. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound senior was the area's second leading rusher, carrying 213 times for 1,218 yards (5.7 avg.). He scored 20 rushing touchdowns, tops in the area, losing only 2 fumbles while scoring 120 points. Also Hampshire's punter, he averaged 38.4 yards on 25 boots. Kielbasa even made 3 receptions for 33 yards. "Nick was injured as a junior but he showed us what he could do the last couple of games of last season and played well all this year for us," Hampshire coach Dan Cavanaugh said. "He worked extremely hard in the off-season and became a highly effective player."
Mark Mamola Jacobs
This 5-foot-9, 225-pound, two-way lineman was a key player in Jacobs' run to its first outright title in the Fox Valley Conference and a fourth consecutive playoff berth. As a right guard, he paved the way for an offense that averaged 30.4 points per game. Defensively, he notched 9.5 sacks among his 64 tackles. "Mark never left the field and led our team in playing time," Jacobs coach Bill Mitz said. "He's extremely physical for a guy his size. He's a very strong, tough young man who really came on for us. I can't say enough about him."
Jeremy Marshall Dundee-Crown
This senior lineman was a big reason Dundee-Crown was able to sustain long marches on the ground en route to its first playoff appearance since 1994. Marshall (6-2, 285), a two-year starter at quick guard, provided the push for a ground-based offense that averaged 223 rushing yards and 24.1 points per game. "Jeremy really did a good job for us," D-C coach Vito Andriola said. "He did most of the pulling and trapping, which is a big responsibility in our offense. I think he has a chance to be a real good football player in college."
Casey Matthews Burlington Central
Named all-Big Northern East, this versatile senior epitomized the whatever-it-takes spirit of high school football. "He broke his wrist and the doctor said he had to sit for two weeks or put it in a cast and play, so he got the cast on and played for two weeks with it," Central coach Rich Crabel said. "It's impossible to keep him out of a game." A three-year varsity starter at safety, Matthews made 82 tackles and snared 4 interceptions. He became Central's starting quarterback late in his junior year, but taking snaps was one of many roles he played on offense this season. Matthews rushed for 638 yards and 8 touchdowns, and he completed 49 of 90 attempts (54.4 percent) for 579 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also made 8 receptions for 105 yards and a score. Matthews even punted (26/29.2 avg.) and made 9 of 14 extra-point kicks.
Bret Mooney, Jacobs
A 6-foot-4, 210-pound quarterback who committed to Colgate during the season, Mooney completed 147 of 240 attempts (61.3 percent) for 1,817 yards and 18 touchdowns. The senior also rushed for 704 yards and 9 touchdowns on 139 carries (5.1 avg). Named all-state for Class 7A by the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association and named honorary captain of the Daily Herald All-Area Team, Mooney will be remembered most for delivering in the clutch. On the last play of a Week 6 game at Crystal Lake South, he scrambled 26 yards before throwing a lateral across the field to a running back who ran the rest of the way for the game-winning touchdown. A week later against Cary-Grove, Mooney threw a touchdown pass with seconds left, then completed the 2-point conversion for the win, which propelled the Golden Eagles to their first outright title in the Fox Valley Conference. "He just did a phenomenal job," Jacobs coach Bill Mitz said.
Damon Mull, Hampshire
This returning inside linebacker was a big reason why Hampshire allowed 8.9 fewer points per game in 2013 than in 2012. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior registered 32 solo tackles and 51 assists to help lead the Whip-Purs to their first playoff berth since 2008. "He had that perfect mentality you want out of a defensive player," Hampshire coach Dan Cavanaugh said. "He is a high-motor guy who plays with high energy and knows how to get to the ball, which is exactly what you want from an inside linebacker."
Austin Rogers, Crystal Lake South
This senior held the dual roles of quarterback and safety and he even played a bit of wide receiver for the Gators. "He did everything for us," Crystal Lake South coach Chuck Ahsmann said. "He probably could have played every position." The CL South staff shifted Rogers from cornerback to safety to take advantage of the athleticism and leaping ability of a 6-foot-2, 205-pound athlete who was named to the all-Area basketball team as a junior. Offensively, he completed 72 of 131 attempts (55 percent) for 782 yards and 7 touchdowns. He kept the ball 113 times, gaining 451 yards and scoring 6 more touchdowns. He also made 5 catches for 69 yards and 2 scores. Defensively, Rogers snagged 2 interceptions.
Trevor Ruhland, Cary-Grove
Perhaps the top college prospect Cary-Grove has produced in 52 years of football, this 6-foot-5, 263-pound offensive tackle cleared the path for a triple-option offense that averaged 22.6 points per game. Named the team's outstanding offensive lineman, Ruhland will undergo off-season surgery to repair a torn labrum suffered on the second play of a Class 6A second-round game against top-seeded Boylan, a game he nevertheless completed. A two-time all-FVC Valley pick, Ruhland, who already has offers from Minnesota, Northern Illinois, Illinois, Duke and Northwestern, is expected to make a full recovery. "Most of the guys in our program are quick and athletic, but Trevor does things that are luxuries for an option offense," Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said. "He can base block a guy and move the guy across from him consistently. He does things other guys can't do." Ruhland also made 11 tackles in spot duty on the defensive line.
Matt Sutherland, Cary-Grove
Named all-FVC Valley, this junior was the glue holding the Trojans together. Named team MVP by his teammates in his second varsity season, the starting free safety also stepped in as the starting running back when a teammate was lost to injury a week before the season opened. Sutherland became a full-time, two-way starter all season long, joining a short list of Cary-Grove players to have done so, including Alex Kube and Andrew Lorman, who were both seniors when they played both ways. "That's some pretty good company," Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said. "Matt is just a solid football player. He was our most valuable player because of the impact he had on both sides of the ball." The 5-foot-7, 160-pound running back gained 395 yards on 80 carries and scored 3 touchdowns. Defensively, he was second on his team in tackles with 59 solo and 41 assists, and he snagged an interception.
Josh Walker, Jacobs
One of the fastest, most durable, elusive running backs in the area, this 5-foot-6, 160-pound junior learned to follow his blockers in his second varsity season. "We preached patience, patience, patience with Josh because he was still learning the position and wanted to hit the hole too quick before it developed," coach Bill Mitz said. "He started seeing things a lot better around Week 5 and made us a much better team because he is a game breaker." Walker was the area's third-leading rusher with 1,050 yards on 156 carries (6.7 avg.). The all-FVC Valley pick scored 14 rushing touchdowns. He also had 20 receptions for 292 yards (14.6 avg.) and 2 scores.
Hunter Williams Jacobs
A repeat all-Area and repeat all-FVC Valley selection, Williams (6-0, 200) was equally effective as a possession receiver or a deep threat. He led the area with 55 receptions, 14 more than the next closest receiver. The senior finished his third varsity season with the third-most receiving yards (743) and third-most touchdown receptions (8) in the area. "He really came on strong for us ever since his sophomore year," Jacobs coach Bill Mitz said. "He's been a part of three of our four playoff teams here and he's done some really good things." Williams has interest from multiple Division II college programs.
2013 Fox Valley all-area team
Player School Yr. Pos.
Michael Castoro St. Edward Sr. RB/DB
Tyler Christensen South Elgin Sr. WR
Damion Clemons Larkin Sr. RB
Robert Cuda South Elgin Sr. QB
Brandon Dranka Huntley Sr. DE
Malik Dunner Dundee-Crown Sr. S/RB
Alex Duran Larkin Sr. S
DaVontae Elam St. Edward Sr. RB
Sam Franckowiak Dundee-Crown Sr. S
Michael Gomez Cary-Grove Jr. DT/TE
Collin Holte St. Edward Sr. DL/OL
Tim Jansen Hampshire Sr. WR
Emerson Kersten Cary-Grove Sr. LB
Nick Kielbasa Hampshire Sr. RB
Mark Mamola Jacobs Sr. DL/OL
Jeremy Marshall Dundee-Crown Sr. G
Casey Matthews Burlington Central Sr. QB/WR/S/K/P
*Bret Mooney Jacobs Sr. QB
Damon Mull Hampshire Sr. LB
Austin Rogers Crystal Lake South Sr. QB/S
Trevor Ruhland Cary-Grove Jr. OL/DL
Matt Sutherland Cary-Grove Sr. RB/S
Josh Walker Jacobs Jr. RB
Hunter Williams Jacobs Sr. WR
* Honorary captain
Bartlett -- Kyle Sanft (So., OL), Clint Zierke (Sr., TE/DE)
Burlington Central -- Reilly Marino (Sr., RB/LB)
Cary-Grove -- Jason Gregoire (Jr., QB), Larkin Hanselmann (Jr., WR/DB), Matt Hughes (Sr., LB), Tyler Pennington (Fr., FB)
Crystal Lake South -- Chris Ivers (Sr.,RB)
Dundee-Crown -- Trent Hanselmann (Sr., OL), Caleb Parson (Jr., RB), Tim Schanmier (Sr., LB)
Elgin -- Ryan Sitter (Sr., QB)
Hampshire -- Mike Gibas (Sr., OL/DL), Trey Schramm (Jr., DB)
Huntley -- Josh Esikiel (Jr., WR), Mitchell Kawell (Sr., RB), Marcus Wright (Sr., DL)
Jacobs -- Blake Broz (Sr., OL), Greg McLeod (Sr., LB)
Larkin -- Kemmerin Blalark (Sr., QB), Dante Bonds (Sr., WR/DB)
St. Edward -- Will Bothwell (Sr., LB/TE), Jack Tierney (Jr., LB)
South Elgin -- Dalton Garland (Sr., LB), Nate Marotta (Sr., LB), Nick Menken (Jr., WR)
Streamwood -- Collin Tatone (Jr., LB), Noah Polich (Jr., WR)
Westminster Christian -- Scott Graziano (Fr., WR), Max Tucker (Jr., QB)
Captain's honor roll
1995 -- Eric Miquelon (Larkin)
1996 -- Vince Webber (Larkin)
1997 -- Vince Webber (Larkin)
1998 -- Matt Schabert (Larkin) and Kevin Kaplan (Cary-Grove)
1999 -- Matt Schabert (Larkin), Travann Hayes (Larkin) and Clint Reames (Jacobs)
2000 -- Dan Sheldon (Burlington Central) and Colin Williams (Elgin)
2001 -- Brett Borchart (Huntley) and Eric Kramer (Bartlett)
2002 -- Brad Podge (Bartlett) and Trent Steckel (Crystal Lake South)
2003 -- Doug Sanders (St. Edward) and Averill Sutchar (Bartlett)
2004 -- Kent Martin (Bartlett) and Brian Mitz (Cary-Grove)
2005 -- Jake Goebbert (Hampshire) and Alex Kube (Cary-Grove)
2006 -- Andrew Lorman (Cary-Grove) and Paul Duyckinck (Burlington Central)
2007 -- Sam Campbell (Prairie Ridge) and Cam Kinley (Larkin)
2008 -- Jordan Neukirch (Huntley) and Kyle Zelinsky (Bartlett)
2009 -- Jalen Williams (Larkin) and Eric Chandler (Cary-Grove)
2010 -- Drew Ormseth (Crystal Lake South) and Andrew Puccini (Bartlett)
2011 -- AJ Bilyeu (Bartlett) and Brad Walovitch (Crystal Lake South)
2012 -- Kyle Norberg (Cary-Grove)
2013 -- Bret Mooney (Jacobs)
All-area selections and capsules by Jerry Fitzpatrick