DuPage County All-Area team
Kenny Adams, Glenbard East
A 6-foot-1, 160-pounder, Kenny Adams set Glenbard East varsity records with 88 receptions and 1,287 yards receiving. The all-Upstate Eight Valley senior caught 54 passes this season for 836 yards and 7 touchdowns, averaging 15.5 yards a catch. Rangy and a crisp route runner, he used strong hands to record an average of 6 catches a game. Adams had games of 160, 159, 145 and 140 yards receiving. "The biggest thing with Kenny is he was our go-to guy," said Rams coach John Walters. "If we needed a big grab, a big play, if we needed to get out of a hole, third-and-long, he was the guy."
Lavar Archibald, Naperville Central
The Redhawks entered the season expecting Archibald to play 15 to 20 snaps a game. The 6-foot, 260-pound senior defensive lineman wound up playing up to 60 snaps on his way to earning Outstanding Defensive Lineman honors in the DuPage Valley Conference. "You really had to double-team him," coach Mike Stine said. "And even when you did he was able to make the play." Seven of Archibald's 94 tackles were for loss. He had 2 sacks and 10 hurries, including a game-saver in the final seconds of a playoff win at Homewood-Flossmoor. "I'm really proud of what he brought to the team," Stine said. "He was tremendous."
Mike Baumgardner, Neuqua Valley
Neuqua Valley's middle linebacker began the season with 3 tackles for loss against Metea Valley and took off from there. Standing just 5-8, Mike Baumgardner nonetheless delivered a strong 190 pounds to the point of attack. The senior topped the Wildcats in tackles with 86, including 11 for loss with 4 sacks. All-DuPage Valley Conference, Neuqua's defensive emotional leader and captain made 17 tackles against Glenbard North, 15 against Wheaton North. He played 7 yards off the line but speed and slipperiness off blocks made up for it. "Mike's just got a great nose for the ball and read the offensive scheme extremely well," said Wildcats coach Bill Ellinghaus.
Jack Benish, Benet
Benish only played on one side of the field as a defensive end, but he still finished as the Redwings' second-leading tackler and was a terror for opposing quarterbacks. "He really made it difficult for teams to throw on us," coach Pat New said. "We knew he'd have a great season for us." Up last season as a sophomore, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior was big and athletic with deceptive speed. Twenty-six of Benish's 97 tackles were solos, 25 were for loss and 13 were sacks for a total of 123 yards lost. He also had 15 quarterback hurries and forced four fumbles. "He'll be amazing next year," New said. "He's tough for teams to handle."
Matt Bjorson, Hinsdale Central
A three-year starter committed to Indiana, Bjorson was an offensive force in many ways. "The biggest thing he gave to the program was his toughness and tenacity to compete at this level," coach Dan Hartman said. With the Red Devils not as strong up front as previous seasons, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound senior tight end became the team's best blocker. Bjorson was the lead blocker for the ground game that piled up 2,500 rushing yards. The IHSFCA all-state honoree and offensive player of the year in the West Suburban Silver caught 25 passes for 411 yards and 8 touchdowns. "He was the focal point of our offense," Hartman said.
Jackson Bruscianelli, Montini
As active at linebacker as his brother, Franklin, was a few years ago at Montini, 6-foot, 210-pound junior Jackson Bruscianelli made 136 tackles, nearly 14 a game. A two-year starter, he earned all-conference honors in the rugged Chicago Catholic League Green and was a Champaign News-Gazette honorable-mention all-state pick. Watching game film, reading keys, using his instincts and closing fast, Bruscianelli made 10 tackles for loss and forced 2 fumbles. He made 21 tackles against Lake Zurich and factored in every game. "He had a way to create a perfect path to the ball and he just seemed to do that all the time," said Broncos coach Mike Bukovsky.
Dylan Butts, Fenton
Dylan Butts' personality, physicality and motor garnered respect. Despite Fenton's 2-7 record the relentless 6-foot-1, 200-pound senior earned IHSFCA Class 6A All-State honorable mention and all-Metro Suburban Blue. Everyone knew Butts was getting the ball yet he ran for 848 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 5.4 yards a carry. Fenton's offensive MVP broke an 81-yard touchdown run against Glenbard South and scored 5 touchdowns on 13 carries at Walther Christian. At defensive end the three-year starter made 18 tackles for loss with 7 sacks. His drive, vision, strength, quickness and leverage won battles. "He has the heart of a lion," said Bison coach Matthew Lynch.
Nick Calcagno, Naperville North
A two-year starter and two-time all-DuPage Valley Conference selection, Calcagno holds half a dozen scholarship offers, including one from Northern Illinois University. "He's probably one of the best overall players we've had here," coach Sean Drendel said. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior had ideal size as a receiver. A great route runner with strong hands, Calcagno had 59 catches for 742 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also returned a punt for a touchdown while leading Naperville North in scoring. "He loves to compete and he makes big plays when it matters," Drendel said. "He constantly played with an edge and he was good at it."
Kevin Cooke, IC Catholic Prep
Rare is the sophomore who leads a state championship team in tackles, like IC Catholic Prep linebacker Kevin Cooke. Going 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, Cooke was credited with making 155 tackles over 14 games, including 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, an interception, 2 fumbles recovered and 1 forced. A coach on the field, the blitzing Cooke played beyond his years, filling gaps fast and delivering jarring hits. Used sparingly on offense he nonetheless was clutch in pass protection; at tight end or slot receiver he caught 8 passes for 125 yards. "His reads are the cleanest I've seen at linebacker since I've been coaching," said Knights coach Bill Krefft.
Ben Cooney, Benet
Cooney may not have snared as many interceptions as he did last season, but his overall play improved dramatically. "He was great on offense, defense and special teams," coach Pat New said. "He set the tone for the entire team." The 5-foot-10, 160-pound senior cornerback had 4 interceptions and broke up 10 passes. Cooney also showed his physicality by making 60 tackles, including 33 solos and five for loss. An offensive playmaker, Cooney rushed for 246 yards, caught 33 passes for 368 yards and scored 6 total touchdowns. "He really never came off the field this season," New said. "He's definitely one of the toughest kids I've ever coached."
Jack Crouch, Glenbard South
This 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior quarterback accounted for 2,811 yards and 27 touchdowns. A three-year starter voted IHSFCA Class 5A All-State honorable mention, Crouch completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,829 yards and 14 touchdowns; he ran for 982 yards and 13 touchdowns. Fast, explosive, a leader by example and a film study guru who could improvise on the spot, the all-Metro Suburban Blue pick passed for 349 yards, 4 touchdowns against Galesburg and threw for 173 yards and ran for 141 against Marian Central. Also Academic All-State, "Jack can go to any high-academic school he wants," said Raiders coach Ryan Crissey.
Aidan Cruickshank, Hinsdale Central
After working his way into the lineup midway through his sophomore season, Cruickshank became a record-breaker this junior campaign. "We thought he'd be pretty good," coach Dan Hartman said, "but nowhere near what he wound up doing." The 5-foot-11, 175-pound linebacker opened with a 20-tackle performance, notched 21 the next week and then broke the program's single-game record with 23 tackles. Cruickshank's 131 tackles were nearly twice as many as the team's second-leading tackler. He recovered three fumbles and scored a touchdown. "His knack for getting to the ball is incredible," Hartman said.
Nick D'Ambra, Glenbard South
Speed, strength, energy, heart. That's 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior Nick D'Ambra. In the playoffs he broke a 54-yard touchdown run against Payton and caught a touchdown pass against Marian Central. But the three-year starter earned IHSFCA Class 5A All-State and Metro Suburban Blue defensive MVP honors with dominating linebacker play. D'Ambra made 142 tackles, 15 for loss, with 5 sacks. He stung Wheaton Academy with touchdowns on a 65-yard interception return and a 73-yard return of a blocked field goal attempt. Against IC Catholic he made 13 tackles, 3 for loss, 2 sacks. "Nick was just an absolute animal all season long," said Raiders coach Ryan Crissey.
Drake Davis, Naperville North
A Class 1A IHSFCA honorable mention all-state selection at Bureau Valley a year ago, Davis was named to the IHSFCA Class 8A all-state team this senior season with the Huskies. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound quarterback also was named Offensive Team Captain in the DuPage Valley Conference. "He works hard and makes his teammates better," coach Sean Drendel said. Davis completed 63 percent of his 314 passes for 2,724 yards and 23 touchdowns while being intercepted only six times. A dual threat signalcaller, Davis also rushed for 673 yards and 9 touchdowns. "He's a great football player and a better person," Drendel said.
Kevon Dobbins, Willowbrook
Hard to believe, but Dobbins didn't begin playing football until his freshman year. Now he's a record-breaking defensive lineman for the Warriors. "He continued to get better technically and with his football understanding," coach Nick Hildreth said. "It's still new to him, but he's already so good." The 6-foot-1, 202-pound senior end, a three-year starter, broke the program record for all-time sacks with 22 and tied the all-time record for tackles for loss with 52. Twenty of his 86 tackles were for loss this season and Dobbins had 9.5 sacks. "Because of him we never had to blitz or do anything crazy up front," Hildreth said.
Lazerick Eatman, IC Catholic Prep
Who knows the yardage Lazerick Eatman could have accumulated had he finished IC Catholic's many blowouts? The 5-foot-10, 165-pound senior running back produced 1,514 yards and 23 touchdowns rushing and 458 yards, 9 touchdowns receiving. Also a two-year starting defensive back, Eatman averaged 9 yards a carry, 27 yards per catch. All-Metro Suburban Blue and IHSFCA Class 3A All-State honorable mention, on 8 carries against Wilmington he gained 227 yards, 3 touchdowns. He ran for 237 yards and a 3A title-game record-tying 4 touchdowns against Pleasant Plains. Eatman had all the moves, plus heart. "He always busted his butt," said Knights coach Bill Krefft.
Bryce Effner, Metea Valley
Bryce Effner missed the first three games coming off mononucleosis and still earned unanimous all-DuPage Valley Conference honors as an offensive lineman. The hardworking 6-foot-5, 285-pound senior tackle, a Penn State commit and three-year starter, was Rivals' ninth-rated recruit in Illinois' Class of 2018. Twice all-DVC, twice Metea Valley offensive lineman of the year and this season voted IHSFCA Class 8A All-State honorable mention, Effner displayed a rare combination of power, strength, size and athleticism, blocking multiple defenders on the same play. "He's unique in that he's the best athlete on our team and he weighs 280 pounds," said Mustangs coach Ben Kleinhans.
Jayleen Fitzpatrick, Glenbard North
After a knee injury ruined Jayleen Fitzpatrick's junior season he bounced back magnificently as a senior. The 5-foot-11, 215-pound tailback and linebacker was an IHSFCA Class 7A All-State selection and the DuPage Valley Conference defensive team captain, a unanimous all-DVC linebacker. Glenbard North's defensive MVP made 77 tackles, 11 for loss with 3 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, 3 recovered. At Neuqua Valley he caused a fumble in the backfield and on the next play ran 16 yards for a touchdown. Fitzpatrick ran for 577 yards and a team-high 8 touchdowns. "He's one of the most explosive kids that we've ever coached," said Panthers coach Ryan Wilkens.
Connor Forrest, Waubonsie Valley
A three-year starter, the 6-foot-2, 250-pound senior captained the Warriors' offensive line. Forrest earned all-DuPage Valley Conference and Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Academic All-State. His 3.9 grade-point average has him looking at such schools as Carnegie Mellon, Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis. A solid trap-blocking guard, Forrest also played defensive tackle in short-yardage situations, causing 2 fumbles, 1 on Waubonsie's 1-yard line to clinch a victory. "He was a throwback," coach Paul Murphy said. "He was more of a mauler. He's very physical and if he got into you, if you didn't out-quick him, he could knock you on your butt."
J'Kolbi Grant, Wheaton North
There may have been bigger offensive linemen out there, but none were more tenacious than Grant. "He liked the physicality of the position," coach Joe Wardynski said. "He never slowed down at all." The 5-foot-9, 270-pound senior, brought up his sophomore year, was a two-year starter and a force at right guard. He didn't allow a quarterback sack, but his main contribution came while helping the ground game churn for 2,500 yards. The Falcons often ran right behind him, and he was especially effective pulling and delivering devastating downfield blocks. "He was really good last year and he was even better this year," Wardynski said.
Jackson Gray, Wheaton North
Gray's size, speed, quickness and athleticism allowed him to thrive in the Falcons' stellar secondary. The two-year starter was brought up late in his sophomore season and quickly developed into a defensive leader. "Just a great football player," coach Joe Wardynski said. "We trusted him back there and he got the job done." The 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior safety could cover a bunch of ground and deliver a big hit once he got to the ball. Gray notched 42.5 tackles and grabbed 5 interceptions, returning one of them for a touchdown. He averaged 23 yards on his 17 kick returns. "He was versatile," Wardynski said. "He did a lot for us."
Tyrik Henderson, Glenbard North
Tyrik Henderson was Rivals' No. 5 player among Illinois' Class of 2018 entering the season, DuPage County's highest-ranked recruit. In April the 6-foot, 180-pound cornerback committed to the University of Minnesota from among a reported 18 scholarship offers. His length, speed, flexibility, field awareness and ability to mirror receivers had opponents looking elsewhere to pass. The all-DuPage Valley Conference selection intercepted 1 pass, broke up 3 others and made 20 tackles, 2 for loss. Henderson averaged 32 yards on kickoff returns and also led Glenbard North with 24 receptions for 360 yards and 3 touchdowns. "He had a nose for the ball," said Panthers coach Ryan Wilkens.
Jack Jessen, Willowbrook
The Daily Herald DuPage County Red Grange All-Area Football Captain simply did it all for the Warriors. "He's a once-in-a-career type of kid," coach Nick Hildreth said. "I'm not sure I'll ever see another one like him." A two-way starter for three seasons, this senior year the 5-foot-11, 199-pound running back and linebacker earned IHSFCA all-state honors for a second time. Committed to wrestle at Northwestern, Jessen set five program records. This season he rushed for 2,050 yards and 24 touchdowns and led the team with 90 tackles. "He didn't think he should ever come off the field," Hildreth said. "He's always the toughest player on the field."
Jack Jopes, Naperville Central
For an athlete who could play anywhere, Jopes settled in nicely in Naperville Central's secondary. The 5-foot-9, 160-pound junior made an immense impact in his first varsity season, showing equal ability to defend the pass or the run. "The guy just knows how to make plays," coach Mike Stine said. "He has a special talent for disrupting offenses." The defensive back showed strength and quickness while leading the team with 142 tackles. Jopes forced 6 fumbles and broke up 6 passes. Not bad for someone who quarterbacked the sophomore team to a 9-0 record. "I don't think he missed a 6 a.m. off-season workout," Stine said.
Rashad Khwaja, Lake Park
Something interesting happened when Khwaja started playing on both sides of the ball midway through the season. His level of play skyrocketed. "He started to play better because he was always locked in," coach Chris Roll said. "He started making huge plays for us." The 5-foot-10, 160-pound senior was a two-year starter at cornerback but worked hard to earn his way into the offensive scheme. Explosive and physical with a lightning-quick ability to change direction, Khwaja had 61 tackles, snared 2 interceptions and broke up 11 passes. "When we went on our winning streak near the end of the year, he was the one who sparked us," Roll said.
Justin Kolzow, Hinsdale South
Kolzow split time behind center last year, but he took full control of the offense this season. "He progressed and grew as a quarterback every week," coach Mike Barry said. "He continually was able to rise to the occasion in games." The 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior showed a big arm, an ability to read defenses and Kolzow could make in-game adjustments on the fly while guiding a no-huddle attack. Kolzow threw for 2,093 yards and 18 touchdowns. In a major first-round playoff upset of Crete-Monee, Kolzow completed 64 percent of his passes for 222 yards and 2 touchdowns. "He really stepped up this year," Barry said.
Josh Krajacic, Neuqua Valley
Voted unanimously by DuPage Valley Conference coaches onto the all-conference team at defensive line, Neuqua Valley senior Josh Krajacic turned speed, strength and an unyielding motor into a powerful force at end on the Wildcats' three-man front. Able to clean 275 pounds in the weight room, the two-year starter made 35 tackles, 12 of them for loss, with 6 sacks and 2 other hurries. Two of the Division I prospect's sacks came in the opener at Metea Valley. "He runs a legit 4.6 at defensive end, and that's what makes him special," said Wildcats coach Bill Ellinghaus. "Once he gets on the edge he'll track you down."
Ryan Laurenzo, Naperville North
Laurenzo is a two-year starter, but he's also one of the area's most improved players. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound senior receiver was a perfect complement to first-year Huskies quarterback Drake Davis. "He was unbelievable at coming up with big plays," coach Sean Drendel said. "We knew if we were going to throw the ball this year, Ryan was going to be a big part of the offense." Laurenzo led the Huskies with 71 catches for 1,013 yards and 6 touchdowns. He also caught a 2-point conversion pass. "He's a dynamic player with tremendous leaping ability and body control," Drendel said. "He was able to develop great chemistry with Drake."
Brandon Loth, Willowbrook
Anything his coaches threw at him, Loth gladly handled. That meant two-way play for three seasons, including two different spots on the offensive line. "Easily the most versatile lineman I've ever coached," coach Nick Hildreth said. "He could play anywhere." He played all three years at linebacker, but the 6-foot, 215-pound senior spent his sophomore and junior seasons at center before moving to tackle on offense this year. And he thrived despite not participating in the summer due to injury. Loth made 73 tackles, including 13.5 for loss. "He was so valuable for us," Hildreth said. "We rarely took him off the field for three years."
Ricky Mysliwiec, IC Catholic Prep
"Mr. Consistency" is how IC Catholic Prep coach Bill Krefft described the 6-foot-1, 275-pound lineman, a junior who already is a two-year starter on both sides of the ball. Yet Krefft noted this smart offensive and defensive tackle is always happy yet plays physical and "nasty." All-Metro Suburban Blue and IHSFCA Class 3A All-State honorable mention, Mysliwiec generally played right offensive tackle but when required shifted to block an opponent's top defensive lineman. On defense, where the weight room leader made 41 tackles, 3 for loss, and 3 sacks, he typically faced the foe's strength. "Ricky's where it all starts. He's our core," Krefft said.
Devin Petersen, Benet
It was going to take quite an effort to break Benet's single-season record for tackles. Considering it was Petersen's record, though, no one had a better chance at it. After notching 152 tackles as a junior, the 6-foot, 220-pound senior broke the mark with 167. "His overall tenacity was incredible," coach Pat New said. "I really think that had a lot to do with how well he played." The middle linebacker dedicated himself in the weight room to become one of the team's strongest players. Petersen had 54 solo tackles and 12 tackles for loss while forcing four fumbles. "He was definitely the hardest worker on the team," New said. "A leader by example."
Alec Pierce, Glenbard West
A contributor in all three phases, Pierce garnered IHSFCA all-state honors and was named the most valuable player in the West Suburban Silver. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound senior might have been best known as a receiver, but he was also a game-changer on defense and in special teams. "He's one of the best athletes I've coached," coach Chad Hetlet said. Pierce, who holds several scholarship offers, caught 25 passes for 372 yards and 5 touchdowns. He was critical on defense, notching 3 sacks and 4 interceptions. He also returned a punt for a touchdown. "We asked him to do a lot and he always answered the call," Hetlet said.
Jayden Reed, Naperville Central
On offense, defense or special teams, Reed was a threat to score every time he touched the ball. Committed to Western Michigan, the 6-foot, 170-pound Metea Valley transfer was most explosive at wide receiver. "Just a dynamic player," coach Mike Stine said. "He was a game-changer in all three phases." The senior, named to the IHSFCA all-state team, had 59 catches for 1,179 yards and 13 touchdowns, rushed for four more and returned an interception for a score. "When you talk about explosiveness, he's right up there with all the playmakers we've had," Stine said. "He changed the game even when teams tried to avoid him."
Connor Reid, Benet
Reid didn't start as a junior due to the tremendous seniors playing in front of him, but his addition to the lineup this year ensured the Redwings' secondary remained just as strong. "He improved so much from his junior to senior year," coach Pat New said. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound safety earned IHSFCA all-state honors by grabbing 9 interceptions, putting him just shy of the program record, and returned one of them for a touchdown. Reid's physical play allowed him to make 86 tackles and recover two fumbles. "He had the ability to cover like nobody else," New said. "And he had the anticipation and nose for the ball to make a play."
Gino Romano, Lake Park
As a junior last year, Romano began the season behind other players but earned a starting spot with relentless work and film study. This year the linebacker became one of the area's top tacklers. "He's a throwback football player," coach Chris Roll said. "He worked hard and hit hard in games and in practice." The 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior helped at tight end on offense, but his main impact came on the weak side of the Lancers' defense. Romano's 124 tackles, including 13 for loss, were nearly twice as many as anyone else on the team. He nabbed an interception and forced three fumbles. "He really knew how to play around the ball," Roll said.
Khali Saunders, IC Catholic Prep
Khali Saunders was like a time bomb. Sooner or later the 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior exploded to make a game-turning play. Called "revolutionary" by Knights coach Bill Krefft, at linebacker Saunders recorded scoop-and-score touchdowns against Wheaton Academy and Wilmington. At receiver his 34-yard catch in the Class 3A semifinals at Byron set up the game's sole touchdown. All-Metro Suburban Blue, IHSFCA 3A All-State honorable mention with Northern Iowa and Central Michigan offers, Saunders caught 35 passes for 645 yards, 9 touchdowns. He compiled 96 tackles, 4 for loss, 2 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries, 1 interception, 15 passes defended. "Khali is a mismatch," Krefft said.
Kyle Schroeder, Waubonsie Valley
A Class 8A Academic All-State player, three-year starting linebacker Kyle Schroeder used intelligence, athleticism and drive to diagnose plays, sniff out the ball and make stops others might not. Starting at outside linebacker as a sophomore and moving inside the last two seasons, this fall the 6-foot, 185-pound Schroeder made 117 tackles, 14 for loss, with a sack and 11 quarterback hurries. An all-DuPage Valley Conference selection, the team captain made 17 tackles against both Glenbard North and Metea Valley. "He was Mr. Steady," said Warriors coach Paul Murphy. "I don't recall him having a bad game in the three years he was with us."
Sam Singleton, Wheaton North
Singleton became the Falcons' feature running back last year as a junior, and they relied on him even more this season. He accounted for more than half the team's total yardage. "He was a good one," coach Joe Wardynski said. "He'll be missed." There were times when the 5-foot-7, 170-pound senior ran the ball every play during long drives. The lone unanimous all-DuPage Valley Conference running back, Singleton averaged 20 carries a game and averaged 6.8 yards as a workhorse. He rushed for 1,641 yards and 18 touchdowns. "He was very good between the tackles," Wardynski said. "You wouldn't know he was undersized by the way he ran it."
Dimitrie Skakavac, Wheaton Academy
A repeat All-Area selection, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound H-back and middle linebacker was voted Wheaton Academy's MVP and earned IHSFCA Class 4A All-State honorable mention honors. A three-year defensive starter, former offensive lineman and a film study junkie, Dimitrie Skakavac scored touchdowns rushing and receiving but crushed it defensively -- 116 tackles, 6 for loss, 3 sacks and 4 passes defended. Twice all-conference in the Metro Suburban Blue, Skakavac made 20 tackles against Fenton, 18 against Riverside-Brookfield. Physical, athletic, instinctive and academic all-state, durability also was among his gifts. "He'd take a pounding physically and just keep coming," said Warriors coach Brad Thornton.
Luke Skokna, Hinsdale Central
Already a two-year starter as a junior, Skokna has a chance to break the program's all-time rushing mark next season. Part workhorse and part big-play man, the 5-foot-9, 170-pound running back used his standout wrestling ability to power the Red Devils' offense. "Despite his size he's one of the toughest kids you'll find," coach Dan Hartman said. Skokna was tough between the tackles, fast in the open field and contributed a couple of 40-carry outings. He rushed for 1,264 yards and 14 touchdowns. "It was a little tougher for him this year and he had to work a little harder," Hartman said. "But he got those extra yards."
Jalen Slater, Montini
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior defensive end and offensive tackle delivered explosive power, length, evasiveness, a 38-inch vertical leap and track sprinter speed off the edge. Grading out as "outstanding" when needed to shore up Montini's offensive line, defensively Slater made 91 tackles with 9 sacks, 6 more tackles for loss and 2 fumble recoveries. Equally disruptive playing defensive tackle, he hit Fenwick with 13 tackles and 4 sacks. Slater earned IHSFCA Class 6A All-State and co-defensive MVP in the Chicago Catholic League Green. "For four years here he's been a coach's dream. He's just a tremendous kid and a really great role model," said Broncos coach Mike Bukovsky.
Destin Talbert, Hinsdale South
One of the state's most explosive players, Talbert developed into a touchdown machine for the Hornets and the offensive player of the year in the West Suburban Gold. "He was pretty electric to watch," coach Mike Barry said. "Everyone was on the edge of their seat when he got the ball." A varsity member on the Hornets' Final Four team two years ago, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior receiver also played defense in this season's biggest games. Talbert caught 60 passes for 1,180 yards and 16 touchdowns. "We knew he had the speed," Barry said. "It was a matter of designing plays that'd match his skill set."
Trevor Tesmond, Neuqua Valley
Neuqua Valley's 6-foot, 190-pound senior free safety excelled whether playing "center field" or flying up to support against the run. Trevor Tesmond was a ball hawk, instinctive, a great tackler in space. Making Neuqua's defensive calls, he also made 68 tackles, including 17 at Wheaton North, 13 against Glenbard North. A big-play guy, Tesmond recovered 3 fumbles and scored twice off them -- a 4-yard return at Metea Valley, a 46-yard return against Waubonsie Valley. The Wildcats voted him their most influential teammate. "To me that's the most impressive award you can win as a football player, when your teammates look up to you," said Wildcats coach Bill Ellinghaus.
Dre Thomas, Glenbard West
For an offense that showed explosiveness throughout the season, victory often boiled down to Thomas churning out tough yards. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior running back was especially effective when the Hilltoppers needed him most. "He could find holes that just weren't there," coach Chad Hetlet said. "His vision between the tackles was amazing." Glenbard West's ground-heavy offense distributed carries among a few backs, but Thomas shouldered the bulk of the load while carrying the ball 159 times for 1,036 yards and 19 touchdowns. "When we really needed to move the chains, we gave the ball to Dre," Hetlet said.
Payton Thorne, Naperville Central
As soon as Thorne transferred in from Metea Valley last summer, the Redhawks became a DuPage Valley Conference contender and a threat to make a deep playoff run. With the 6-foot-2, 180-pound junior at quarterback, Naperville Central did, in fact, win the DVC title and advance to the Class 8A quarterfinals. "We like to put our trust in our quarterbacks, and we were able to do that right away with him," coach Mike Stine said. Thorne completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,294 yards and 25 touchdowns against only 6 interceptions. He also rushed for 268 yards and 5 touchdowns. "Payton's wise and mature beyond his years," Stine said.
Scott Tumilty, Willowbrook
Brought up to varsity for spot duty last season as a sophomore, Tumilty wound up grabbing an interception in a playoff win over Glenbrook North. That trend continued this junior year. "The moment he stepped on the field for the first time, he was ready to make a play," coach Nick Hildreth said. On a cornerback island on the weak side of the defense, the 5-foot-10, 166-pound leader of the secondary was athletic but also completely locked in mentally. Tumilty had 7 interceptions, 63 tackles and caught 2 touchdowns passes. "He's ultra competitive and extremely coachable," Hildreth said. "He really knew what was going on out there."
Jose Vazquez, Glenbard North
It says something about this 6-foot-3, 295-pound senior offensive guard that he was named Glenbard North's offensive MVP. Nimble and athletic, Vazquez excelled whether pulling on trap plays or straight-ahead lead blocking. A three-year starter, Vazquez also played tackle when needed and rotated in at defensive tackle as well. He was an IHSFCA Class 7A All-State honorable-mention pick, named the DuPage Valley Conference outstanding offensive lineman, and he also was an Edgy Tim All State Team Offense selection. Weighing multiple college offers, Vazquez paced a Glenbard North offense that averaged 210 yards rushing. "Everything we asked, he got it done," said Panthers coach Ryan Wilkens.
Sergio Villalobos, Downers Grove South
The two-time West Suburban Gold defensive lineman of the year earned the respect of the coaches with his selection to the IHSFCA all-state team. Villalobos, who finished third in the Class 3A wrestling tournament, blended the two sports on the Mustangs' defensive line. "Wrestlers have to have good hands, and so do defensive linemen," coach Mark Molinari said. "He was literally unblockable and relentless." The 5-foot-11, 210-pound senior, a three-year starter, had 94 tackles, including 36 for loss and 15 sacks. He knocked down the quarterback 22 additional times. "He practiced as hard as he played," Molinari said.
Nick Vogel, Naperville North
As the lone returning starter to the Naperville North's offensive line, a lot of pressure sat on Vogel's shoulders heading into this season. He responded by earning a unanimous selection to the all-DuPage Valley Conference team. "He's physical, intense and intelligent," coach Sean Drendel said. "He's pretty relentless out there." The 6-foot, 260-pound senior played tremendously at right guard for the Huskies, using his technical ability and attitude to gain an upper hand in the trenches. Playing with leverage was Vogel's strength. "He learned from last year's seniors," Drendel said. "He valued his leadership position this season."
C.J. West, IC Catholic Prep
IC Catholic Prep quarterback C.J. West wrote one of the season's best stories. An injury replacement, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound senior emerged from receiver-slash-third-string quarterback to Metro Suburban Blue offensive MVP and IHSFCA Class 3A All-State honorable mention, directing ICCP's second straight state title. His game-winning 12-yard touchdown run with 23 seconds left at Byron will live in Knights lore. West completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,941 yards, 24 touchdowns, and he ran for 389 yards, 8 touchdowns. He averaged 37 yards punting, placing 13 inside the 20. "An IC man to the core because he embraced the role," said Knights coach Bill Krefft.
Nate Ashford (Waubonsie Valley, sr., RB), Jackson Behles (Lake Park, sr., QB), Nick Biancalana (Hinsdale Central, sr., DB), Sean Blum (Wheaton Academy, sr., OL-DL), Tyquan Cox (Glenbard West, jr., RB), Blake Davis (Downers Grove North, sr., LB), A.J. Deinhart (Naperville Central, sr., RB), Jack Domek (Addison Trail, sr., OL-DL), Jacob Entwistle (Willowbrook, sr., DB-WR), Jack Eschenbach (Benet, sr., WR), Jake Eskoff (Neuqua Valley, sr., QB), Josh Flowers (Glenbard North, sr., WR-DB), Luke Hallstrom (Naperville Central, jr., OL), Adam Haushahn (Glenbard South, sr., RB-DL), Trenton Hegranes (Wheaton North, sr., DB), Zane Heemsoth (York, jr., LB), Jahleel Humphrey (West Chicago, sr., WR), Brian Jackson (Montini, sr., OL), Jeff Marach (Lisle, sr., OL-DL), Ryan Marrano (Naperville North, sr., LB), Carlos Mercado (Fenton, sr., WR-DB), Chris Mosley (Hinsdale South, sr., OL-DL), Bo Neidballa (Wheaton North, sr., LB), Adam Nicodemus (Metea Valley, sr., WR-DB), Keonta Nixon (Lake Park, sr., WR), Garrett Oakey (Hinsdale Central, sr., WR-RB), Aidan O'Keefe (Glenbard West, sr., DL), Nick Orlando (Montini, sr., QB-DB), Dylan Packer (IC Catholic, sr., OL-DL), Patrick Panasiuk (Lake Park, jr., OL), Randall Petrbok (Addison Trail, sr., OL-DL), Ben Pham (Glenbard East, jr., OL), Tanner Plowman (Westmont, sr., OL-LB), Matt Quaglia (Montini, sr., WR-DB), Edgar Quintas (Willowbrook, sr., OL), De'Quan Ramsey (Wheaton North, sr., DL), Cameron Raupach (Neuqua Valley, sr., RB), Kemon Reese (IC Catholic, jr., OL-LB), Nico Rendina (St. Francis, sr., RB-LB), Rod Rivera (Glenbard South, sr., DB), Charles Robinson (Waubonsie Valley, sr., TE-DB), Nick Sabatino (Willowbrook, sr., DB-WR), Khalil Saunders (IC Catholic, jr., WR-DB), Drew Shelly (Downers Grove North, sr., RB), Cameron Stitt (Lisle, TE-LB), John Taylor (Willowbrook, sr., QB), Mike Wellman (Glenbard North, jr., TE-LB), Tanner Westwood (Waubonsie Valley, sr., QB), Ryan Wheeler (Neuqua Valley, sr., DB), Ryan Young (Wheaton Warrenville South, sr., RB).
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