Talha Ayhan, Glenbard South
That Ayhan recorded 89 tackles at defensive end and nose tackle in his second year of football attests to his athleticism and drive. A passionate, natural leader and team co-captain, the 5-foot-10, 200-pound senior made 16 tackles for loss with 7 sacks, and forced 2 fumbles. He blocked 4 punts, recorded a safety and when the Raiders needed offensive help he ran the football, gaining 100 yards against Fenton. Against Ridgewood, Ayhan returned both a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns. Voted Glenbard South's MVP, Ayhan earned Metro Suburban Blue all-conference. "His speed and his ability to play sideline to sideline was just unmatched," coach Ryan Crissey said.
Josh Bean, Hinsdale Central
In his third varsity season Bean lifted his play to another level. At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, the senior quarterback added a punishing ground game to his passing talent. "He's a kid we won't be able to replace," coach Dan Hartman said. The West Suburban Silver's player of the year, Bean also earned IHSFCA all-state honors. He threw for 1,462 yards, completing 68 percent of his passes, while throwing 13 touchdowns. The Columbia recruit rushed for 377 yards and 7 touchdowns. "After three years he knew the offense as well as I did," Hartman said.
Greg Bogdanski, St. Francis
Asked about this 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior linebacker and tight end, Marmion coach Dan Thorpe said, "A big thumbs-up." A repeat all-Chicago Catholic League North selection, Bogdanski made 107 tackles, 4 for loss at inside linebacker. Bogdanski made 21 tackles against De La Salle. A Class 5A All-State honorable mention pick and Academic All-State, on offense Bogdanski was mainly a blocking tight end with 7 catches but also ran for 37 yards and a touchdown. Committing to Division III power St. Thomas, the Spartans' team leader played basically every snap. "He's a physical, downhill football player when it comes to both offense and defense," coach Joe Lepsche said.
Cole Brady, Glenbard West
Never flashy, Brady still proved to be one of the area's most effective offensive players in his only season starting as the Hilltoppers' quarterback. "He's one of the best quarterbacks we've had in the last 10 years," coach Chad Hetlet said. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound senior displayed the perfect blend of moving the chains and hitting the home run with the long ball. The all-West Suburban Silver honoree became critical when injuries hampered the backfield. Brady threw for 2,083 yards and 23 touchdowns. "He just didn't miss many passes all season," Hetlet said.
Trevor Campbell, Naperville Central
For all the tremendous offensive linemen who have played at Naperville Central, Campbell might be the best. "He's really taken pride in his craft," coach Mike Stine said. Campbell was a three-year starter and a two-time offensive lineman of the year in the DuPage Valley Conference. The Western Michigan University recruit was versatile enough to play at three spots on the line. The 6-foot-5, 285-pound senior also played the last three weeks on the defensive line. "He might be the strongest player we've ever had," Stine said.
Tommy Ciesla, Neuqua Valley
Voted by DuPage Valley Conference coaches as the league's outstanding defensive lineman, this 6-foot-3, 240-pounder had an unrelenting motor. A team co-captain and repeat all-DVC honoree, Ciesla recorded 52 tackles, 11 for loss with 3 sacks -- each sack against Metea Valley. A weight-room leader, the explosive senior led Neuqua with 6 quarterback hits from his defensive end position. He also played tight end and earned the fullback job the last two weeks of the season. In the playoffs Ciesla scored on a touchdown catch against Glenbard West. "There's a lot of places we could have moved him to and he could have won (those spots)," coach Bill Ellinghaus said.
Khalif Copeland, Willowbrook
Copeland was a crucial contributor on both sides of the ball as the Warriors made a run to the Class 7A quarterfinals. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior especially dominated at defensive back in the playoffs. "Khalif legitimately shuts down half of the field," coach Nick Hildreth said. Copeland had 67 tackles, 6 pass breakups and 3 interceptions, including a Pick 6 in the quarterfinals. In addition to being a terrific blocker on offense, the tight end had 32 catches for 490 yards and 7 touchdowns. "He was an unsung hero on offense," Hildreth said.
Deontae Curry, Hinsdale South
Nothing could prepare opposing players for the devastating hits Curry delivered. "He plays with explosion, which is fun to watch," coach Mike Barry said. The 6-foot, 230-pound senior linebacker was the West Suburban Gold's defensive player of the year and an IHSFCA Class 6A honorable mention all-state selection. Curry had 91 tackles, including 20 for loss, a sack and 40 solo tackles. He recovered two fumbles and blocked an extra point. "His hits redirect the ball carrier," Barry said. "He is a punishing tackler."
Nick D'Ambrose, Addison Trail
Whether it was running the ball, catching it or returning it on kicks and punts, D'Ambrose always found a way to gain big yards for the Blazers. "He's got those football instincts that you can't coach," coach Paul Parpet Jr. said. The 5-foot-8, 185-pound junior running back is already a two-year starter. This year the all-West Suburban Gold selection earned a spot on the IHSFCA Class 7A all-state honorable mention team. D'Ambrose rushed for 1,285 yards and 15 touchdowns, caught 14 passes for 254 yards and 3 scores and returned a kick 81 yards for a 19th touchdown.
Dan Dominiak, Waubonsie Valley
A 6-2, 290-pound senior offensive lineman, Dominiak was a load. This season at Waubonsie Valley he played left tackle after starting at right tackle his junior year. (He started as a Montini sophomore before transferring.) Bench-pressing 325 pounds, power was his game, and his footwork was sharp. Strength made run blocking his forte, though coach Paul Murphy said Dominiak's best game came against Hinsdale Central primarily in pass protection. All-DuPage Valley and a Warriors co-captain, Dominiak graded out at 92 percent. "Once he got his paws on you he was a good drive blocker, plus he had the agility to pull on our trap play," Murphy said.
Grant Ericksen, Naperville North
Two years as an all-DuPage Valley Conference performer provided Ericksen the experience to anticipate a game's biggest moments and react accordingly. "He always found a way to make our team better," coach Sean Drendel said. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior free safety was named to the IHSFCA Class 8A Honorable Mention All-State team. With a great jump on the ball, Ericksen had 7 interceptions and broke up 9 passes. He notched 49 tackles and recovered a fumble. "He's a student of the game," Drendel said. "That allowed him to understand what other teams were trying to do."
Gianni Frasca, Hinsdale Central
Frasca made a positive impact at multiple positions during two seasons as a starter for the Red Devils. He broke into the lineup at fullback as a junior but excelled this season at linebacker. "He's just a tough, hard-nosed kid," coach Dan Hartman said. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior used his rugby ability to lead the team with 67 tackles, including 10 for loss and 6 sacks. Frasca was a powerful lead blocker on offense. In a win over Oak Park, he played every snap. "He was undersized but he was still our defensive leader out there," Hartman said.
Nathan Gray, Naperville North
High praise wasn't hard to find for the Huskies' two-year starting center. "We've had a lot of good lineman come through the program, and he's one of the best," coach Sean Drendel said. The 6-foot, 250-pound senior graded out at 86 percent for the season -- one of the highest marks in program history. Great footwork helped Gray thrive in a new offense, and earned him a spot on the all-DuPage Valley Conference team and the IHSFCA Class 8A all-state team. "We ask a lot of our centers in this system," Drendel said. "He did a great job for us for two years."
Anthony Ippolito, Neuqua Valley
The Wildcats' emotional leader on defense, Ippolito was a three-year starting linebacker athletic enough to play tailback when injuries struck. All-DuPage Valley Conference and a team captain, the 6-foot, 205-pound senior led Neuqua Valley with 89 tackles, including 6 for loss with a sack, a blocked kick and an interception he returned 86 yards for a touchdown against Naperville Central. (He scored that game's first touchdown on a 2-yard run.) A student of the game with explosive initial steps, Ippolito excelled at middle, strong side and weak side linebacker spots. "When things weren't going well he was the guy we could count on," coach Bill Ellinghaus said.
Niko Ivanisevic, Hinsdale Central
Despite graduating two Big Ten offensive linemen last year, the Red Devils didn't skip a beat thanks in much part to this two-year starter. The 6-foot-2, 265-pound senior was a rock at left tackle in the run and pass game. "He was really the leader of our offense the last two years," coach Dan Hartman said. Committed to Princeton, Ivanisevic's wrestling talent clearly translated to the football field. The West Suburban Silver's co-offensive lineman of the year also played well in his spot time at defensive tackle. "He was so physical on both sides of the ball," Hartman said.
Jace James, Glenbard North
This Northwestern recruit excelled in all three phases. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound senior cornerback and receiver earned DuPage Valley Conference defensive team captain honors after his 9 interceptions tied the DVC record. He added 2 postseason interceptions against Pekin, including a 39-yard touchdown return, for 11 total picks to go with 44 tackles. James caught 47 passes for 1,019 yards and 5 touchdowns, with 7 catches, 201 yards and 42- and 82-yard touchdowns against Neuqua Valley. Class 7A All-State, James averaged 35 yards as the Panthers' punter and returned punts and kickoffs. Unselfish, James was a great blocker. "He did it all," coach Ryan Wilkens said.
Jack Jessen, Willowbrook
Watching Jessen play football, it's no wonder he's committed to wrestle at Northwestern University. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound junior set records on both sides of the ball for the Warriors while playing running back and linebacker. "Jack put up numbers that do not happen in this day and age," coach Nick Hildreth said. Jessen set program records for rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and single-game tackles. The IHSFCA Class 7A all-stater and West Suburban Gold offensive MVP rushed for 1,671 yards and 21 touchdowns and had 138 tackles, including 12 for loss.
Chris Johnson, IC Catholic
When Knights coach Bill Krefft calls this 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior a "downhill kind of guy" he means it in the best way -- a physical presence who delivers a blow. In charge of stopping an opponent's ground game, at middle linebacker Johnson made 149 tackles, 7 for loss, plus an interception and a fumble recovery. He recorded 16 tackles against St. Laurence, Bishop McNamara and St. Joseph-Ogden. ICCP's Hustle Award winner, Johnson was named the Metro Suburban Blue's defensive player of the year and Class 3A All-State honorable mention. "He was a great tackler in space but just a physical guy that's strong and downhill," Krefft said.
Erik Jones, Benet
Two interception returns for touchdowns epitomized the big-play potential from Jones. The Redwings' defense came together when the 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior defensive back returned from a broken hand suffered before the season. "It was huge for us when he came back to the lineup," coach Pat New said. A lockdown cornerback, Jones faced some of the toughest receivers in the state in the course of 11 games. He picked off 5 passes and broke up 10. Twenty-one of his 52 tackles were solos. "He's one of the best coverage guys we've had," New said.
Jon Kelso, Willowbrook
It's tough to figure out which side of the ball benefitted more from Kelso's impact. Whether it was at receiver or defensive back, few were better this season. "His numbers do not do justice to the impact he had on the football game," coach Nick Hildreth said. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior earned all-West Suburban Gold honors. He tied a program record for receptions in a game with 11 and touchdowns catches in a game with four. For the season Kelso caught 50 passes for 848 yards and 7 scores. Defensively, he had 40 tackles, 5 interceptions and defended 15 passes.
Jimmy Kenneally, IC Catholic
This 6-foot-1, 235-pound senior started on both sides of the line the last three seasons. ICCP's lineman of the year and both a two-time Class 3A all-state honorable mention and Metro Suburban Blue all-conference choice, Kenneally was ICCP's "Pancake King" at right tackle. He made 32 pancake blocks keying the Knights' ground game. He played strongside defensive end and finished with 82 tackles, including 17 for loss with 8 sacks, 14 hurries, 5 caused fumbles, 2 recovered and 3 passes defended. Explosive, consistent, tough, smart and a two-year captain. "He's just one of those leaders that you can't ever replace," coach Bill Krefft said.
Mark Mattson, Glenbard West
A major part of the Hilltoppers' Class 7A title run last season, Mattson became even more important this year at the heart of a defense decimated by injuries. "He was our saving grace being healthy and making sure guys were in the right place," coach Chad Hetlet said. Athletic with vision and good instincts, the 6-foot, 190-pound senior all-West Suburban Silver linebacker had 118 tackles, including 6 sacks, 2 interceptions and he recovered 3 fumbles. "I don't think he missed a snap in two years with us," Hetlet said. "He was just a hard-nosed kid."
Alec McEachern, Benet
Whatever was asked of McEachern during three years on the varsity, he delivered. At various times he played defensive line, linebacker, running back and safety. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound senior even offered to play offensive line this season. "He got it done on both sides of the ball," coach Pat New said. This year McEachern spent most of his time in the Redwings' secondary, but he also rushed for 203 yards and caught 12 passes for 138 yards while scoring 6 touchdowns. He had 106 tackles, including 15 for loss and 5 interceptions.
Mark McGrath, Lisle
No player was more important to his team than this 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior. Sometimes playing quarterback, slotback and receiver in the same game, the selfless repeat All-Area player represented 59 percent of Lisle's offense, 26 of 44 touchdowns. On all special teams and Lisle's place-kicker, the two-time all-Interstate Eight Small pick led Lisle with 742 yards rushing, 335 receiving and threw 5 touchdown passes. At safety McGrath returned 2 of his 3 interceptions for touchdowns of 102 and 62 yards. He returned a kickoff 68 yards to score. "Mark is one of the most complete football players I've ever been around," coach Paul Parpet Sr. said.
Cam Moore, WW South
Moore showed no signs of rust despite sitting out last year following a transfer from Wheaton North. His only varsity season proved to be memorable at multiple positions, but especially at receiver. "As talented as he was, I probably could have called his name every single play," coach Ron Muhitch said. Selected to the IHSFCA Class 7A All-State team, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound senior was also named all-DuPage Valley Conference. Moore had 44 catches for 1,003 yards and 9 touchdowns. He also threw 3 touchdown passes and rushed for another score.
Dionte Moorehead, Glenbard West
On offense and defense, Moorehead leveled or stormed past just about everything in his path. For two years the 6-foot-4, 210-pound senior excelled most as a rush end terrorizing opposing quarterbacks. "He made so many plays in the backfield against bigger players," coach Chad Hetlet said. The defensive lineman of the year in the West Suburban Silver was explosive coming off the edge, but he also delivered crushing hits as a lead blocker in the run game. Moorehead counted 21 tackles for loss among his 65 total tackles. He had 12 sacks and forced 4 fumbles.
Erik Mueller, Wheaton North
For three years Mueller thrived at linebacker for the Falcons. Even as a sophomore he showed he belonged. "He's always been a physical kid," coach Joe Wardynski said. "He's always been able to play at this level." Instead of accepting one of his numerous scholarship offers, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior will walk on at Northwestern. What stood out this season was Mueller's improved athleticism and his ability to go sideline-to-sideline. He made 56 tackles, including 49 solos and 2.5 for loss. "He was consistent for us every single week," Wardynski said.
Donny Navarro, Neuqua Valley
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound receiver progressed from making 7 receptions last season to catching a Valparaiso offer his senior year. A unanimous all-DuPage Valley Conference selection, Navarro caught 45 passes for 677 yards and 4 touchdowns while leading Neuqua Valley in punt and kickoff return yardage. He averaged a team-high 115 all-purpose yards. Elusive, precise running his routes and fearless going across the middle, Navarro caught 7 passes for 137 yards with a 52-yard touchdown play against Lake Park and set a Wildcats record with 10 receptions against Naperville Central, for 134 yards. "He was our spark on offense all year long," coach Bill Ellinghaus said.
Chris Noeun, Glenbard North
Twice an all-DuPage Valley Conference selection at defensive end, when there was a play to be made the Panthers' No. 9 was usually in the vicinity. A 6-1, 225-pound senior, Noeun (pronounced "new-en") made 56 tackles with 10 tackles for loss and 8 sacks. He forced 3 fumbles, recovered 1, and batted down 3 passes. Equally adept at defending the run or rushing the quarterback, Noeun also was Glenbard North's best blocker at tight end. "He had the strength and the quickness, he had the whole package," Panthers coach Ryan Wilkens said. "He could take on a block, he could make people miss. He could do it all."
Danny O'Malley, Benet
Benet's defense was one of the area's best, and O'Malley was named its most valuable player. A physical safety with great hands in the secondary, he snared 2 of his 4 interceptions in a quarterfinal playoff victory over Rolling Meadows. "He was our hardest-hitting player on defense," coach Pat New said. All-East Suburban Catholic Conference, O'Malley made 96 tackles, including 40 solo tackles. He broke up 5 passes and blocked a punt. "He came up with so many big plays for us," coach New said. "He always seemed to be around the ball and he had a knack for hitting hard."
Jacub Panasiuk, Lake Park
Panasiuk spent the last three years performing as one of the state's top defensive linemen. The reward is a full ride to Michigan State University. "He's a game-changer," coach Chris Roll said. An all-state selection by the IHSFCA, the 6-foot-4, 270-pound senior showed incredible athleticism for his size. Enough athleticism, in fact, that he played quarterback out of the Wildcat in goal-line situations. Fast and explosive, Panasiuk had 55 tackles, including 14 for loss and 6 sacks. "He's such a versatile athlete," Roll said. "He's going to be dynamic at the next level."
Devin Petersen, Benet
A senior-led defense wouldn't have been nearly as effective without this junior inside linebacker. Consistency was Petersen's strength while averaging nearly a dozen tackles a game. "He was always in there making plays for us," coach Pat New said. Physical and athletic, Petersen's old-school work ethic was matched only by his high motor on the field. The 6-foot, 210-pounder led the Redwings in tackles -- by a margin of 46 -- with 152. Sixteen tackles for loss featured 3.5 sacks. "He'll be a big piece of the puzzle for us next season," New said.
Alec Pierce, Glenbard West
After an injury kept Pierce out of action all last summer, it was tough to know what to expect from the 6-foot-4 junior receiver. It didn't take long to notice the impact of the converted safety. "He became one of the most dominant receivers in the area," coach Chad Hetlet said. The IHSFCA all-state and all-West Suburban Silver honoree averaged nearly 30 yards on his 28 catches, seven that went for touchdowns. Explosive speed, strength coming off the line and hands like vices made him a lethal deep threat. "He's the epitome of a big-play guy," Hetlet said.
Mark Pivek, Lisle
A three-year starting linebacker, Pivek was Lisle's co-MVP with Mark McGrath. Twice all-Interstate Eight Small, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior recorded 108 tackles, 19 for loss, with 3 sacks. Using speed and Academic All-State intelligence to diagnose plays, Pivek hit Sandwich with 6 tackles for loss; he made 22 tackles and recovered a fumble against Peotone. "One of the toughest kids we went against," Wilmington coach Jeff Reents said after Pivek's 12 tackles, 3 for loss, against the Wildcats. A fierce competitor, Pivek also started at tight end. "You have more than 100 tackles as a two-way player, that's pretty good," said Lisle coach Paul Parpet Sr.
Jon Rhattigan, Neuqua Valley
"As tough as nails," coach Bill Ellinghaus called this 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior, whose team-high 9 tackles against Glenbard West came with six screws and a plate in his thumb, having broken it two weeks earlier. The Class 8A all-state middle linebacker recorded 79 tackles, 9 for loss, with a sack, interception and forced fumble. A three-year starter (injured most of 2015) with offers from several Ivy League schools and Army, among others, the all-DuPage Valley Conference selection used instinct and sideline-to-sideline effort to make 13 tackles against Bishop Chatard. "He was the heart and soul of our defense in the middle," Ellinghaus said.
Luke Ricobene, IC Catholic
The 6-foot, 163-pound junior brought calm experience to an undefeated champion whose 721 points rank third in state history. The starting quarterback 34 straight games, Class 3A all-state and voted IC Catholic offensive MVP by his teammates, Ricobene completed 64 percent of his passes for 2,389 yards, 30 touchdowns. He ran for 648 yards, 11 touchdowns. He threw for 342 yards against Riverside-Brookfield, 307 against St. Laurence, rushed for 200 against Wilmington. Limited by a sprained knee to an hour's practice during championship week, Ricobene's first 2 passes in a 43-0 win over Carlinville were touchdowns. "He's the one who makes it all run," coach Bill Krefft said.
Chuck Robinson, Waubonsie Valley
A supreme athlete and large target, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound tight end earned Class 8A all-state as a junior. In the Warriors' 33-23 playoff win over Hinsdale Central, Robinson set program receiving records with 214 yards and 4 touchdown catches. Waubonsie Valley's team MVP and all-DuPage Valley Conference, Robinson's conversion catch earned another huge win, against Glenbard North. When the team needed defensive help Robinson started at defensive end and safety. Strong, with great leaping ability and hands, Robinson led Waubonsie with 35 catches, 671 yards receiving, 8 touchdowns and made 32 tackles. "The best news is he's only a junior, he's coming back," coach Paul Murphy said.
Jordan Rowell, IC Catholic
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound senior running back and cornerback is the Daily Herald DuPage County 2016 All-Area football captain. Repeating as Class 3A all-state and Metro Suburban Blue offensive player of the year, Rowell ran for 2,297 yards and 37 touchdowns in a 14-0 season. Bearing offers from Northern Illinois, Iowa and Purdue, Rowell ran for 302 yards against Monticello and a 3A title-game record 272 yards against Carlinville. He added 543 yards receiving and scored 264 points. Starting at cornerback, he intercepted 3 passes and broke up 7. Rowell ranks eighth in Illinois with 6,032 yards rushing. "He's a machine," said ICCP coach Bill Krefft.
Dimitrie Skakavac, Wheaton Academy
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior hugely impacted the program's first consecutive six-win seasons since 1957 and first consecutive playoff appearances, period. Starting initially at left tackle, injuries moved the flexible all-Metro Suburban Blue honoree to tight end. He caught some passes, even ran the ball. At inside linebacker, Skakavac led the Warriors with 70 tackles, 9.5 for loss, making 16 tackles against Glenbard South and returning an interception 40 yards to score against Fenton. He became the rare junior to win Wheaton Academy's Warrior Award reflecting program values. "Dimitrie emerged as a key guy for us who would have been nearly impossible to replace," coach Brad Thornton said.
Joe Spivak, Montini
Epitomizing brains and brawn, this Northwestern-bound Academic All-Stater bench-presses 400 pounds and squats 600. "He's as good as we saw all year at any position, anyplace," said Marmion coach Dan Thorpe. The 6-foot-1, 295-pound senior lineman started four seasons, the last three on both sides of the ball as a team captain. Twice all-Chicago Catholic League North and the 2016 co-defensive MVP, Spivak made Class 6A all-state. A devastating blocker at offensive guard and an immovable defensive tackle, Spivak made 42 tackles with 8 for loss, 3 sacks. "He's going to be known as one of our all-time great players," said Montini coach Chris Andriano.
Jack Sznajder, Benet
Thrust into the role of starting quarterback earlier than expected as a sophomore, Sznajder in three varsity seasons grew into a valued leader. "It wasn't easy for him to step in like that, but he did a great job for us," coach Pat New said. Growing to 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, the senior was named to the all-East Suburban Catholic Conference team for the second time. Sznajder's strength was spreading the ball to multiple receivers, but he also offered a potent running threat. He threw for 2,287 yards and 21 touchdowns. "He improved every year," New said.
Alonzo Taylor-Jones, Metea Valley
The reigning DuPage Valley Conference 100-meter dash champion, Taylor-Jones obviously had speed. Did he have the durability to be Metea Valley's featured running back? The 5-foot-6, 165-pound senior dedicated himself to conditioning and proved he could handle the load. Lowering the shoulder to deliver hits he couldn't outrun, Taylor-Jones ran for 1,105 yards and 6 touchdowns, averaging 123 yards a game. Voted Metea's offensive MVP and all-conference, he gained 160 yards on 30 carries against Wheaton North. Needing 135 yards for 1,000 against Lincoln-Way Central, he ran for 240 and 3 touchdowns. "He had a great year," coach Ben Kleinhans said. "He was consistent."
Marquis Thomas, Westmont
Despite everyone knowing where Westmont's bread was buttered, Thomas led DuPage County with 58 receptions, for 687 yards, 6 touchdowns. "We would have been better off if we could have cloned him," quipped Sentinels coach Otto Zeman. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound senior, all-conference in the Interstate Eight Small Division, set Westmont all-time records with 115 receptions for 1,857 yards and 22 touchdowns. This season Thomas had 148 yards receiving against Wilmington, 110 yards against Lisle, 149 yards with 3 touchdowns against Seneca. As a sophomore his 332 yards against Lisle rank fourth all-time. Athleticism, speed, hands, routes -- "He's got everything you need to be a receiver," Zeman said.
Vittorio Tricase, Glenbard North
Twice named all-conference, the 5-foot-7, 170-pound tailback earned DuPage Valley Conference offensive team captain and Class 7A all-state. Delivering shiftiness and strength to run around or over defenders, the tireless senior gained 1,877 yards and 35 touchdowns on 310 carries, added 212 yards receiving with 3 touchdowns and led the Panthers in kickoff return yardage. Tricase's 6 touchdown runs against Wheaton Warrenville South tied a DVC record, then he scored 7 overall at Thornton. Against Wheaton North came personal bests of 39 carries and 314 yards, with 4 touchdowns. Plus, he's Academic All-State. "He's exactly the kind of kid you want to coach," coach Ryan Wilkens said.
Joe Vazquez, Glenbard North
The big junior was a key focus up front for a Glenbard North offense that ran the ball 76 percent of the time and gained 2,563 yards rushing, an average of 233 a game. Vazquez was one of two juniors along with nine seniors who comprised a loaded roster of offensive linemen voted onto the DuPage Valley Conference all-conference team. A two-year starter, the 6-foot-3, 300-pound right guard executed the whole repertoire of blocking assignments. His athleticism and his football IQ made him expert at pulling down the line on trap plays or sweeps. "We like him at the point of attack," said Panthers coach Ryan Wilkens.
Isaac Velasco, Naperville North
Velasco didn't experience much glory in two years as a starter on the Huskies' defensive line, but no member of the unit was more important. "He was a kid who would do whatever it takes to help his team," coach Sean Drendel said. After being an honorable mention selection to the all-DuPage Valley Conference team as a junior, the 6-foot, 265-pound defensive tackle was a first-team selection this senior year. Taking on double-teams to free up the linebackers, Velasco still had 44 tackles, including seven for loss. "He's an old-school football player," Drendel said.
T.J. Walsh, Glenbard East
An offensive line warrior, Walsh played the entire season with a torn labrum in his left shoulder -- and twice dislocated his right shoulder, popping it back in place on the sideline. "He was our rock," said Rams coach John Walters. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound left tackle allowed only 1 sack and made 29 pancake blocks, a strong road grader with great feet. All-conference in the Upstate Eight's Valley Division, Glenbard East's co-captain started 18 straight games over two seasons. In 2015 he won the program's biennial award for hardest-working player. "He's a big grizzly bear," Walters said. "He gets his paws on you, you're pretty much going nowhere."
Mitch West, Montini
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound senior's best games were the biggest. In a win over Mt. Carmel that essentially secured a playoff spot, the cornerback-receiver scored on a 10-yard sweep, made an interception setting up another touchdown and caught a 22-yard, fourth-down pass to extend the winning drive. The Purdue commit with 4.4 speed is a repeat all-Chicago Catholic League North pick, Class 6A all-state honorable mention. Headed to the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl, despite a broken hand and sprained ankle West led Montini with 343 yards receiving, plus 39 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries. "He's top notch," said Broncos coach Chris Andriano.
Eric Wright, Naperville North
As a credit to Wright's talent and leadership, the senior was voted the Huskies' MVP by his teammates. His contributions went beyond what Wright brought to the backfield. "He was as good as we've had at that position," coach Sean Drendel said. The speed side of the offense's "thunder and lightning" ground game, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior running back rushed for 1,021 yards and 10 touchdowns and was a unanimous all-DuPage Valley Conference pick. He was also effective running the Wildcat at quarterback. "He played at a high level for two years," Drendel said.
Connor Yukna, Waubonsie Valley
A Class 8A academic all-state selection, the 6-foot, 180-pound senior operated in attack mode. Yukna started at safety three years for Waubonsie Valley, all-conference in the DuPage Valley the past two seasons. He made 17 tackles against both Lake Park and Wheaton North; he broke up 3 passes and caused a fumble against Naperville Central. Yukna recorded a team-high 151 tackles and 11 pass breakups. After quarterback Tanner Westwood got hurt in the playoffs against Lincoln-Way East, Yukna played there for the first time since sophomore season and threw for 82 yards. "I thought he was a very instinctive football player," coach Paul Murphy said.
D.J. Anderson (Hinsdale South, sr., DB), Joe Backe (Neuqua Valley, sr., OL), Matt Bjorson (Hinsdale Central, jr., TE), Dylan Butts (Fenton, sr., RB-DL), Freddie Clay (Willowbrook, sr., DB-WR), Darrion Conrad (Addison Trail, sr., WR-DB), Shane Conway (Glenbard North, sr., QB), Ben Cooney (Benet, jr., DB), Jack Crouch (Glenbard South, jr., QB), Nick D'Ambra (Glenbard South, jr., LB), John D'Angelo (Benet, sr., DL), A.J. Deinhart (Naperville Central, jr., RB), Matt Dohse (Wheaton Warrenville South, sr., QB), Josh Dominiak (Waubonsie Valley, jr., LB), Marty Dosen (Benet, sr., RB-WR), Bryce Effner (Metea Valley, jr., OL), Andrew Felix (Addison Trail, sr., LB), Brian Foley (Hinsdale Central, sr., OL), Jackson Goleash (Glenbard West, sr., DB-LB), Jake Julian (Waubonsie Valley, sr., DL), Joe Keys (Downers Grove North, sr., DB), Ben Loutsis (Metea Valley, sr., WR), Ryan Marrano (Naperville North, jr., LB), Chris McCoy (York, sr., DL), D'myreo Mitchell (Glenbard North, sr., LB), Zach Netchin (Glenbard East, sr., LB), Greg Newsome (Glenbard North, jr., WR-DB), Devonte Pascal (West Chicago, sr., RB-LB), Matt Paulauskas (Lake Park, sr., DL), Joe Perilli (Glenbard North, sr., OL), Peter Pigatti (Hinsdale Central, sr., DL), Alex Pihlstrom (Glenbard West, sr., TE), Kemon Reese (IC Catholic, so., OL-LB), Mitch Reyes (Metea Valley, sr., DL), Isaiah Robertson (Neuqua Valley, sr., WR-DB), Michael Ross (Montini, sr., OL-DL), Luke Sacksteder (York, sr., LB), Khalil Saunders (IC Catholic, so., WR-DB), Matt Sutton (IC Catholic, sr., WR-DB), Harrison Taylor (Wheaton Academy, sr., RB-DB), Payton Thorne (Metea Valley, so., QB), Luke Turner (Naperville Central, sr., DB), Marc Vatch (Lake Park, sr., OL), Robert Vitek (IC Catholic, sr., OL-DL), Danny Walker (Wheaton North, sr., LB), Bob Wall (Wheaton North, sr., OL), DeAnte Washington (Downers Grove South, sr., DL-LB), Tanner Westwood (Waubonsie Valley, jr., QB), Aaron Woods (Hinsdale South, sr., DL), Jake Zeiler (Neuqua Valley, sr., OL).