Melvin Aninagyei-Bonsu Huntley
Following a modest junior season when he carried the ball 13 times, this 5-foot-11 running back transformed himself into a 175-pound impact player for his senior year. The all-Fox Valley Conference selection rushed for 1,031 yards on 133 carries, gaining 7.8 yards per attempt. His 18 rushing touchdowns tied for the second-highest total areawide. "Melvin worked really hard in the off-season with (running backs) coach (Craig) Castning to get where he was," Huntley coach Matt Zimolzak said. "He's always learning. He's a very smart player. He knew it would take extra hard work to get where he needed to be and he worked his butt off to get there."
Ryan Cerza Aurora Central Catholic
Named Class 5A all-state honorable mention, this running back completed a three-year varsity career in record-breaking fashion. The 6-foot, 175-pound senior finished as the Fox Valley area's third-leading rusher with 1,248 yards on 133 carries (9.4 avg.). He scored 17 touchdowns. A repeat all-area and repeat all-Metro Suburban Conference selection, Cerza set new Aurora Central Catholic career marks for rushing yards (3,479), touchdowns (45) and points scored (280). "He did phenomenal," ACC coach Luke Brauweiler said. "We asked him to do a few different things compared to the last couple of years and he embraced it and tried to learn as much as he could about how we were running the offense. He was always willing to go the extra mile, which is what you want from your workhorse."
Drew Clippert Aurora Christian
Named Class 2A all-state, this 6-foot-2, 194-pound quarterback led the Eagles to the playoffs for the first time in three years with his ability to rifle the ball all over the field. The two-time Chicago Catholic League White Division Outstanding Offensive Player completed 248 of 408 attempts (60.8 percent) in a five-wide spread attack for 3,540 yards. He threw 36 touchdowns passes and 14 interceptions and broke five school passing records along the way. He also managed 2 rushing touchdowns. A heady player and an excellent student, Clippert recently committed to play Ivy League football at Brown. "This year he was at his best," Aurora Christian coach David Beebe said. "He is a high-character young man."
Riley Cooper Batavia
This 5-foot-10, 170-pound quarterback proves one need not be a giant to stand tall in the pocket. Cooper cemented a starting role over the summer and eventually helped the Bulldogs win the Class 7A state title with his poise and accuracy. The senior was a 66-percent passer (166 of 252) with 2,296 yards and 30 touchdowns in 14 games with 9 interceptions. In Batavia's first 4 playoff wins he threw 12 touchdowns without an interception. He threw 3 more touchdowns in the Class 7A title-game and set records for attempts (42), completions (28) and passing yards (295). The final pass of his high school career -- a 10-yard touchdown to Tommy Stuttle in overtime -- lifted the Bulldogs to a 21-14 victory and their second state title. "He's as improved a player as we've ever coached," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. "He played with a chip on his shoulder because he wasn't 6-5 and was happy to prove people wrong. There weren't many guys in Illinois who could play like him."
Devan Cross Aurora Christian
This 5-foot-11, 175-pound wide receiver rewrote the program record books. An excellent student with five Division-I offers, two from Ivy League schools, Cross flourished in a spread offense and helped vault Aurora Christian (5-5) to its first playoff appearance since 2014. The senior finished an 11-game season as the Fox Valley area leader by a wide margin in both receptions (96) and receiving yards (1,346). His 14 receiving touchdowns were second only to Batavia's Eric Peterson, who played 3 more games. Against Brother Rice, Cross had 10 catches for 205 yards and a touchdown and he notched single-game highs of 15 catches and 252 yards in a win over Hubbard. "Devan played with a lot of passion this year," Aurora Christian coach David Beebe said. "His character and work ethic enabled him to break six receiving records at Aurora Christian."
Colt Doherty South Elgin
This active linebacker was one of four defensive players to pull double duty on the offensive line for the Upstate Eight Valley champs. Doherty averaged approximately 100 snaps per game while playing linebacker and guard. The 6-foot, 180-pound senior was named the UEC Valley defensive player of the year for leading the Storm with 27 solo tackles and 12 assists along with a forced fumble, an interception, 2 sacks and a tackle for loss. His value wasn't limited to the stat sheet. "The great thing about Colt was his leadership," South Elgin coach Pat Pistorio said. "He's always been a leader, but this year he became more vocal and it was good to see. It got to the point he we was leading younger kids in practice. He was coaching as much as the coaches were in certain drills."
Austin Gates Bartlett
This 6-foot-2, 180-pound wide receiver enjoyed a breakout junior season. The athletic playmaker set a new Bartlett single-season receiving record with 65 receptions, which translated to 811 yards (12.1 avg.) and 9 touchdowns. He nabbed 7 receptions for a season-high 162 yards and 2 touchdowns in a win over West Chicago and hauled down a season-best 10 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown in a loss to West Aurora. He also returned a punt for a touchdown, scored a rushing touchdown on one of 12 carries and had an interception while playing safety. Also a skilled basketball player, Gates routinely outjumped defensive backs to catch the football at its high point. Bartlett coach Eric Ilich called the all-UEC Valley selectee a "great competitor and an impact player at multiple positions as a junior. The sky is the limit for him as a senior."
Nate Gomez South Elgin
This third-year varsity quarterback was named Class 8A All-State honorable mention and Upstate Eight Valley Co-Offensive Player of the Year after leading the division champs to an 8-2 record. The durable 6-foot, 180-pound senior was the area's second-leading rusher. In 10 games he carried 189 times for 1,249 yards and finished tied for second areawide with 18 rushing touchdowns. He also returned 2 punts to the end zone. Named honorary captain of the Fox Valley All-Area Baseball Team last spring, Gomez used his strong right arm to complete 62 percent of his passes (85 of 137) for 1,031 yards and 14 touchdowns and was intercepted 5 times. "He was our offense in a lot of ways," South Elgin coach Pat Pistorio said. "He proved to us that he could carry 15-30 times a game and still keep people honest in the passing game. He's a special talent. The sky is the limit for him whatever route he goes." Gomez intends to play baseball next year at Wabash Valley junior college in Mt. Carmel, Ill.
Brett Groves Cary-Grove
Few players made more of their potential in 2017 than this 6-foot-5, 305-pound two-way lineman committed to Southern Illinois. Named all-Fox Valley Conference after dedicating himself to an off-season weight-training regimen, Groves counted 2 sacks among his 13.5 tackles (6 solo). He even snagged an interception. He played on the offensive line situationally all season but played both ways full time in Week 9 and both playoff games. The Trojans won 7 of 11 games, thanks in part to his improvement. "He took huge steps from his junior year to his senior year," Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said. "Our kids voted him our most improved player. He worked so hard in the weight room and really established himself early on as a well-conditioned athlete. He went toe to toe with some really good offensive and defensive linemen and he won more of those battles than he lost."
Mike Hohensee St. Charles North
Perhaps no player capitalized on the opportunity to start as a senior more than this Class 7A all-state quarterback. The son of former Chicago Bears and USFL quarterback Mike Hohensee threw 14 passes as a junior but emerged this fall as the UEC River Offensive Player of the Year. The 6-foot-2, 198-pound signal caller completed 143 of 240 attempts (59.6 percent) for 2,325 yards. He threw 21 touchdowns passes and 8 interceptions. He played his best in big games. Hohensee led St. Charles North to a 35-34 overtime win at St. Charles East by overcoming 2 interceptions to complete 29 of 45 attempts for 429 yards and 5 touchdowns. He saddled eventual Class 7A state champion Batavia with its only loss by throwing for 216 yards and 2 touchdowns on 17-of-30 passing. In a season-ending loss to St. Rita, he threw for 380 yards and 2 touchdowns. North coach Rob Pomazak called his quarterback "the consummate professional" and said "his preparation as the leader of our program was second to none. The results and accolades that Mike achieved are the product of his daily process."
Tyler Holte St. Edward
Named Class 4A all-state and academic all-state, this 5-foot-11, 175-pound two-way standout will be remembered as one of the best players in St. Edward history. Offensively, Holte shattered St. Edward career records for receptions (107), receiving yards (1,672) and receiving touchdowns (17). This fall he caught 32 passes for 811 yards and 9 touchdowns for a team that finished 5-4 but missed the playoffs on points. Defensively, the cornerback made 6 interceptions -- the second-highest total areawide -- and returned one 29 yards for a touchdown against Guerin. Holte's success is derived of hard work. He weighed 98 pounds as a freshman and 112 as a sophomore, according to his coach. "Tyler made himself into the great player he was this year and last year," St. Edward coach Mike Rolando said. "He dedicated himself to being the best possible athlete he could be by committing to eating right and weight training. And he ran the best routes and had the best hands I've seen in high school. He deserves every accolade he gets."
Ricky Ibarra Dundee-Crown
This junior running back gives D-C fans reason for optimism. The 5-foot-10, 178-pound junior was a silver lining in a 1-8 season. He followed the blocking of a young, improving offensive line to finish fourth in rushing areawide. Ibarra carried 204 times for 1,190 yards (5.8-yard avg.) and scored 11 touchdowns. "He played really well for us," Dundee-Crown coach Mike Steinhaus said. "Anytime you finish as one of the leading rushers with some of the players running the ball in this area, it's a pretty special season. I'm sure he'd be the first to thank is offensive linemen, who are a little underrated as a group."
Justin Jett St. Charles East
This second-year varsity fullback was the Fox Valley area rushing champion. Jett finished with an area-best 1,306 yards and 18 touchdowns in 199 attempts (6.6-yard avg.). The sturdy, 6-foot, 210-pound junior absorbs the punishment inherent to playing fullback in a triple-option offense and keeps his feet moving. "He's just a tough kid and he has the right mentality for it," St. Charles East coach Bryce Farquhar said. "He can take the pounding and play that physical type of football that you expect from the fullback position. We've been fortunate to have him in that spot."
Trevor Keegan Crystal Lake South
Considered among the top college prospects in the Class of 2019 statewide, this 6-foot-6, 290-pound junior holds offers from Oregon, Michigan State, Northwestern, Minnesota and Illinois with more expected. Keegan was named Class 7A all-state in his third varsity season after blocking for an offense that gained 1,912 rushing yards and 1,127 passing yards in 9 games. "Trevor is one of the most athletic lineman I have been able to coach," Crystal Lake South coach Rob Fontana said. "He's a guy we definitely try to run the ball behind and he is always looking to finish his blocks with pancakes. He has quick feet, which allows him to block second-level guys. I'm really glad I get to have him back for another season."
Kyle Leva Crystal Lake South
This versatile running back finished as the sixth-leading rusher areawide despite playing in only 7 games due to injury. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior capped a three-year varsity career by running for 1,057 yards and 13 touchdowns in 115 attempts (9.2-yard avg.). He overcame an ankle injury in his final game against West Chicago to score 4 touchdowns, thereby setting a new program record for career touchdowns. Leva also caught 12 passes for 231 yards and 4 touchdowns. "Kyle is the swiss army knife of our team," Crystal Lake South coach Rob Fontana said. "He can do everything at a high level. He's a very patient runner who reads his blocks well, he can outrun defenders in space, he can lower his pad level and get the extra yards when needed, he catches well and he blocks very well. What Kyle has done for our program over the last three years will be almost impossible to replicate."
Joshua Marczuk Kaneland
Kaneland returned to the playoffs after a one-year hiatus, thanks in part to the season turned in by this productive 6-foot-3, 180-pound wide receiver. Named Class 5A all-state, the senior caught 43 passes for 799 yards, the third-highest total areawide. He hauled in 12 touchdowns and averaged 18.6 yards per catch. Marczuk helped the Knights win a share of the Northern Illinois Big 12 East title by making 8 catches for 176 yards in a 20-14 win at previously undefeated Morris in Week 5. In that game against the eventual Class 4A runner-up, he caught touchdown passes of 65 and 28 yards. "He's a long, tall kid at 6-3 with really great speed and great hands," Kaneland coach Pat Ryan said. "He will go up and get the football in a crowd. He was consistent and he made some great catches for us."
Brandon McPherson Marmion
This Class 6A all-state honorable mention pick was named Chicago Catholic League Green Division Co-Oustanding Offensive Player of the Year. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound senior quarterback helped Marmion make its second straight playoff appearance by completing 109 of 208 attempts (52.4 percent) for 1,711 yards and 17 touchdowns. He threw 8 interceptions for a team that finished 6-6. He also carried the ball 104 times for 283 yards and 10 touchdowns. "He's a great athlete," Marmion coach Dan Thorpe said. "He's a playmaker who can ad-lib when pass blocking breaks down and still make plays throwing the ball and running the ball." Also a starting pitcher who won the third-place game for the Cadets in Joliet last June, McPherson hopes to play both sports collegiately, Thorpe said.
Dylan Mlinarich St. Edward
A more-balanced offense meant this repeat all-area pick wasn't asked to throw nearly as much as his junior season, when he was named Class 4A all-state. Mlinarich remained dangerous, completing 98 of 182 attempts (54 percent) for 18 touchdowns. He was intercepted 6 times. Already the program's single-game record-holder for completions, attempts, yards, touchdowns and completion percentage, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound left-hander set new career marks for completions (392), attempts (716), passing yards (5,738), touchdowns (59) and completion percentage (54.7 percent). "He was a great leader," Green Wave coach Mike Rolando said. "We were able to put a running game around him and I think he got as much enjoyment out of the running game as the passing game. I'm very proud of him. I'm going to miss having a three-year varsity kid who thinks along the same wavelength. You don't have that as a high school coach too often."
Kindrel Morris Larkin
Larkin's elusive third-year running back remained tough to stop. The 5-foot-6, 135-pound senior finished eighth in area rushing with 1,003 yards in 169 attempts (5.9-yard avg.). The repeat all-area and repeat all-Upstate Eight River pick scored 8 touchdowns. In two-plus varsity seasons Morris carried 392 times for 2,382 yards (6.1 avg.) and scored rushing 23 touchdowns. He also caught 6 passes this season for 229 yards and 2 more scores, upping his career receiving totals to 21 receptions for 431 yards and 5 touchdowns. "Kindrel is a special person and athlete," Larkin coach Dragan Teonic said. "He was a go-to guy for us in all three phases. He had the big-play ability. Every time he touched the ball you held your breath because something special might happen. Not many players have that ability. Not only was he our most explosive guy, but he's also one of the most unselfish kids I've coached."
Eric Mooney Huntley
What did Fox Valley Conference coaches think of this ultra-athletic quarterback? They named Mooney FVC offensive player of the year. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior holds double-digit college offers, ranging from North Dakota and Northern Iowa to Harvard, Yale and Cornell. All have interest in the undecided fleet-footed quarterback who completed 64 percent of his passes (135 of 211) for 2,156 yards and 20 touchdowns with only 5 interceptions. Mooney used his 4.43 speed to lead the Red Raiders with 1,125 rushing yards and an area-best 19 rushing touchdowns. "He's one of those one-in-a-million kids that's a leader that the kids want to follow," Huntley coach Matt Zimolzak said. "He's also one of the hardest-working players I've ever had. He'll be missed, but he set the tone for future leaders in our program. He leaves a legacy."
Ian Mooney West Aurora
Named Class 8A all-state honorable mention, this 5-foot-10, 250-pound guard was a driving force behind an offense that rushed for 2,885 yards in 407 attempts (7.1-yard avg.) and passed for 1,165 yards. Mooney has the brain to go with the brawn. He was named to the academic all-state team. He was also the lineman the Blackhawks could count on most. "When you talk about getting it done over the course of the entire schedule, Ian consistently played at the highest level of anyone in our program and got it done," West Aurora coach Nate Eimer said. "If he was 6-2, he'd have multiple offers by now but he's 5-10. He's going to be a good college player for somebody."
Michael Niemiec Batavia
Named Class 7A all-state, this hard-hitting safety was the most intimidating member of a defense that limited 14 opponents to 981 rushing yards (70-yard avg.). The 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior finished with 128 tackles (99 solo, 29 assists), including 10 tackles for loss and a sack. The repeat all-area selection nabbed 2 interceptions, forced a fumble and broke up 3 passes, but he'll be remembered most for his physical play. "He's the enforcer," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said. "He just likes to hit people and that's what football is. He likes to hit people and has fun doing it. He whacks you and gets you to the ground. Ask any of our opponents; They hate his guts. He's very difficult to deal with because he makes you miss. If you do not block him every single time, he's going to tackle your running back within a yard or two of the line of scrimmage."
Tyler Nubin St. Charles North
This 6-foot-2, 180-pound junior was a two-way standout for the Upstate Eight River champion North Stars. The all-UEC River selection tied St. Charles North's single-season record with 47 receptions (6 for touchdowns) and his 702 receiving yards ranked sixth out of 23 schools areawide. Defensively, he was asked to cover the opponent's best receiver and still managed 26 solo tackles (2 for a loss), 2 interceptions, a forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries and a blocked field goal. "Tyler Nubin is an elite performer," St. Charles North coach Rob Pomazak said of a player with offers from Northern Illinois, Central Michigan and Illinois State. " His dominance on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball were a main reason why we had the success that we did. Tyler was a go-to player and in crunchtime moments we could always count on him to make the play." Nubin is one of 600 student-athletes to be invited to the Army all-American combine in San Antonio this winter, his coach said.
Eric Peterson Batavia
Heretofore known for his basketball prowess, this 6-foot-3, 185-pound wide receiver emerged as an offensive force during the playoffs for the Class 7A state champions. Peterson enjoyed a solid regular season with 20 catches for 422 yards and 6 touchdowns, but he played a more significant role in the postseason. In 5 playoff games the senior made 22 receptions for 373 yards and 9 touchdowns. The hot streak was capped by a stellar performance in DeKalb, where he tied the 7A championship game record of 10 receptions (2 for touchdowns) and set a record with 154 receiving yards. "He was always a good receiver," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said, "but in the playoffs he became great. Something just clicked in him between the energy and the confidence."
Lucas Segobiano St. Charles North
This all-Upstate Eight River selection had a monster season at running back and safety. Offensively, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior finished as the Fox Valley area's 10th-leading rusher and fifth-leading receiver. He carried 140 times for 934 yards and his 18 rushing touchdowns tied for second-most in the area. He also caught 47 passes for 733 yards and 7 more touchdowns. He scored an area-best 150 points, 26 more than the next closest player. Defensively, he played full time for the first 5 games and situationally thereafter, finishing with 26 tackles and 2 interceptions. "Lucas Segobiano, simply put, is the best player I have coached in 17 years," St. Charles North coach Rob Pomazak said. "Lucas was the linchpin to our conference championship. He leaves the program as the school career record holder in receiving (1,600 yards), total yards (3,560) and touchdowns (45). He was a dominant two-way player that every team had to account for." Segobiano, who Pomazak calls "a selfless leader," holds a preferred walk-on offer from Northern Illinois and has been assured a roster spot at multiple Patriot League schools, his coach said.
Loren Strickland Jacobs
This repeat all-area selection already had a target on his back following a breakout junior season, but opponents focused on him even more once fellow running back David Boutros and versatile offensive weapon Trevor Fitzsimmons were lost to injuries early in the season. A talented three-sport athlete, Strickland nevertheless managed 951 rushing yards on 119 carries (8-yard avg.) and scored 18 touchdowns. The 5-foot-10, 188-pound senior also caught 9 passes for 123 yards. He broke his hand in a Week 5 victory at Crystal Lake Central and played the final 5 games of the season wearing a cast. His brand of gritty athleticism has drawn offers from Winona State, Northern Michigan and Indianapolis. "It's hard enough playing this game without a cast on your arm, but he did a good job," Jacobs coach Bill Mitz said. "A lot fell on his shoulders. He's just a tremendous athlete in football, wrestling and track and he's very physical."
Tommy Stuttle Batavia
Named Class 7A all-state, this cornerback, wide receiver and punt returner's myriad contributions to Batavia's Class 7A state title team earned him the honorary captaincy of the 2017 Daily Herald Fox Valley All-Area Football Team. The 5-foot-11, 165-pound senior's versatility was best exemplified in overtime of the title game. Stuttle not only caught the go-ahead, 10-yard touchdown pass that gave the Bulldogs a 21-14 lead, but on the next play he broke up a pass that would have otherwise been a touchdown if not for his last-second deflection. Stuttle led the area with 11 interceptions, 2 shy of a school record, he broke up 12 passes and made 40 solo tackles with 5 assists. Offensively, he was Batavia's second-leading receiver with 457 yards and 5 touchdowns among his 36 catches (12.7 avg.). He also brought an intangible value to the state champs. "He played without fear," Batavia coach Dennis Piron said, "That attitude rubbed off on the rest of our defense."
Abe Swanson St. Charles East
This 6-foot, 200-pound middle linebacker was named Upstate Eight Conference River Division Defensive Player of the Year for good reason. The senior finished with 88 solo tackles and 51 assists for a team that finished 8-3, more than double his closest teammate in both categories. He contributed 2 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, and an interception against Bartlett he returned 25 yards for a touchdown. Committed to Division-II power Grand Valley State on full scholarship, Swanson was named Class 8A all-state honorable mention. His coach thought he deserved even more. "There are no linebackers on the 8A All-State team and I thought Abe was a no-brainer," St. Charles East coach Bryce Farquhar said. "He had a great year. His leadership, you couldn't ask for anything more out of a kid."
Reilly Waldoch Geneva
A 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior built to play fullback, Waldoch planned on being a lead blocker in Geneva's offense until multiple injuries at running back forced him to become the lead ball carrier. Waldoch responded with 144 carries for 619 yards (4.3 avg.) and 13 touchdowns. He caught 22 passes out of the backfield for 182 yards and another score. Also the team's kicker, he made 25 of 29 points after touchdown and 3 of 5 field goal attempts, including a long of 40 yards. He scored 118 points, the fourth-highest total areawide. "Reilly was our go-to guy all year," Geneva coach Rob Wicinski said. "He was a triple threat for us: tough runner, excellent hands catching the football and a strong kicking leg. Reilly produced the majority of our points each game. Hardworking kid."
Denver Warren West Aurora
Remember this name because you'll be hearing it on television on Saturday afternoons in a few years. This 6-foot-3, 300-pound sophomore defensive lineman led the Blackhawks with 5.5 sacks and finished tied for fourth on his team with 46 tackles (36 solo). Already benching 325 pounds, Warren sheds blocks and makes tackles. That's why he already holds offers from Michigan State, Syracuse, Iowa State and Central Michigan with more expected. "He has size and he moves well and he's only a sophomore," West Aurora coach Nate Eimer said. "He has a lot of talent. I think he could go down as the best defensive lineman in school history if he keeps with the program."
Addison West Cary-Grove
This Cary-Grove offensive lineman entered the season with a standing offer from Central Michigan and is sure to garner more attention after being named Class 6A all-state. A 6-foot-3, 245-pound junior, West finishes his blocking assignments to completion, demonstrated by 22 pancake blocks. West led the way for a triple-option offense that rushed for 3,334 yards and 47 touchdowns. "He's super-athletic, he has tremendous size and he's improved quite a bit from last year," Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg said. "He was our most consistent grader this year on the offensive line and a guy coaches certainly made note of from his film. We're just looking forward to having him back next year."
Jimmy Wormsley Jacobs
Bill Mitz has coached many all-state players in a 36-year, hall-of-fame career at Stevenson and now Jacobs. Wormsley, named Class 7A all-state, becomes the latest in that long line after leading an offense that averaged 33 points per game. However, the Southern Illinois-bound senior can point to a unique distinction: the repeat all-area pick is the first player to ever start all four years for a Mitz-coached team. "He's the only player out of the thousands I've coached that's done that," the veteran coach said. "He's special. He'll move inside to play center at SIU, but he was just great for us at guard."