All-Area Football Team, Northwest
Connor Adams Buffalo GroveWith the Bison struggling with key injuries, Adams stepped up this season to throw for 1,148 yards and 9 touchdowns while leading his team to its second consecutive playoff appearance, "Although his stats did not match up to what they were last year, Connor was the one who kept us afloat", Buffalo Grove coach Jeff Vlk said." I am not sure of any other quarterback in the area that could lose seven starters from their side of the ball, still make the playoffs and come within one point of beating an undefeated Rockton Hononegah team on the road." Adams has had great success leading the Bison the past three years as their starting quarterback. He was Daily Herald honorable mention last season and special mention in his junior year while leading the Bison to 17 wins during that span. Adams, who was a two-time all-conference selection, also became the all- time passing leader for Buffalo Grove with 5,322 passing yards, 637 rushing yards and 45 total touchdowns. "Connor was a great leader for us," Vlk said. "We will miss him and his contribution to help turning this Bison program around."
Jake Bellizzi Maine WestThe Daily Herald All-Area Team Captain for the Northwest Suburbs, Bellizzi just kept getting better and better as the season wore on, culminating with a 312-yard, 4-tiouchdown game against Deerfield. That performance earned him recognition from the Chicago Bears as their High School Player of the Week. Bellizzi gained an area-best 1,538 yards and scored 26 touchdowns while leading Maine West to its best season in school history. A two-way player, Bellizzi was also the leader on the defense with 64 tackles, including 11 for loss. He also had 4 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries and an interception that he returned for a touchdown. "Jake is a throwback-type football player," Maine West coach Jason Kradman said. "He is as tough as it comes and he never comes off the field." Bellzzi was named the most valuable offensive player in the Central Suburban North this season. That comes on the heels of being named the most valuable defensive player in the conference last season. "He is dependable no matter what he does," Kradman said. "When we needed yards or a big stop, Jake was there to get it done for us." Bellizzi, who is 6-foot-2, and 225 pounds, played on the Maine West varsity for 4 seasons and was a starting linebacker beginning in Week 8 of his freshman year. He is a two-time All-Area player for the Daily Herald.
Michael Best WheelingThe Wheeling quarterback had a game for the ages. In Week 4, Best rallied his team to a 45-42 win over Vernon Hills. The senior was 32-of-56 passing for 374 yards and 5 touchdowns. He also rushed for 42 yards and kicked a field goal of 39 yards. Of the 204 plays in the game, Best, who also plays defensive back, was on the field for 192 of them. That performance earned him recognition from the Chicago Bears as their High School Player of the week. Best was not a just a one-game star. He passed for 1,343 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushed for another 280 yards. He also had 36 tackles, was 13-of-15 on extra points and averaged 34 yards on his punts. "Michael Best is the most complete football player I have ever coached," Wheeling coach Brian Hauck said. "On the field, off the field, he is the model of how to excel as a student-athlete for all future Wildcats. Michael's high character, athletic ability, and academic success are ingredients for a very successful future." Best was special mention for football last season, but is also an all-area basketball player.
Luke Bilek FremdBilek was the leader of the Viking defense. That defense was instrumental in a turnaround that saw the Vikings win 5 of their last 6 regular season games, allowing an average of 10 points per game. Bilek, who is 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, ranks among the top defenders in Fremd history. He had 115 tackles this season, which ranks him in the top 10 in school history. He is second all-time in tackles with 218 and in the top 10 and he also ranks in the top 5 for tackles in a game with 19. Bilek also came up with 2 interceptions for the Vikings. Bilek was named co-defensive player for the year in the MSL West and was named honorable mention last season for the Daily Herald. He showed his versatility and value to Fremd when he bounced over to the other side of the ball to play offensive line for the Vikings. "Luke has exactly what you want in the leader of your program," Fremd coach Lou Sponsel said. "He is the personification of 'Iron Will'. He is the best linebacker I have ever coached. Our defense was as tough as it was because Luke was in the middle."
Eric Darlington Jr. BarringtonDarlington was dangerous anytime he got the ball in his hands. Just ask Maine South. They watched as Darlington ran a kickoff back for a touchdown and threw a long touchdown pass on an option play near the end of the game as the Broncos rallied for a victory. "Eric was a difference-maker for us this season on offense and on special teams as a returner," Barrington coach Joe Sanchez said. "Whenever we needed a big play in the game you knew you could count on EJ. His breakout game came against perennial power Maine South where he helped us win the game with a big kickoff return for a touchdown and his touchdown pass at the end of the game." Darlington was the offensive spark that the Broncos needed. He finished with 47 catches for 548 yards for an 11.7 yards-per-catch average. He also had 250 yards rushing on 19 carries with a touchdown and the kickoff return for a touchdown to give him 1,086 all-purpose yards. "He was really special for us," Sanchez said. "I look forward to seeing his continued growth for us next season."
Mark Di Iorio BarringtonThere was huge improvement in the Barrington defense from previous seasons and one of the main reasons was the play of Di Iorio. The Broncos held opponents to 14 points or less in six different games and posted one shutout. "Whenever we needed a big play Mark always seemed to be around the ball," Barrington coach Joe Sanchez said. "I am extremely proud of how much he has grown as a player both on and off the field." A two-time all-conference selection, Di Orio played much larger than his 5-10, 200 pound frame. Di Iorio had an impressive 101 tackles. He had 4 sacks and 2 quarterback hurries. He also had an interception. "Mark was our heart and soul this year on defense and on our team," Sanchez said. "He was one of our captains this year and he did a great job helping to lead us this year especially when we were struggling in the middle of the season. His leadership with the other captains helped to turn our year around get us to the second round of the (Class) 8A IHSA playoffs."
Malik Frederick ConantFrederick is just a sophomore, but his contributions to the resurgence of Conant football can't be overstated. His play at running back and strong safety enabled the Cougars to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in three seasons. Conant had a run-first type of offense that would have as many as six different players toting the football. None was better than Frederick, who led the team in rushing with 553 yards on 91 carries for 6.1 yards per carry. He also had 10 catches for 126 yards. "As a sophomore, Malik made in immediate impact on our team as a two-way starter at running back and safety," Conant coach Bryan Stortz said. "His athleticism, natural instincts, vision, and explosiveness allowed him to make big plays for us all season." Frederick showed that value in his first varsity game when he carried the ball 13 times for 80 yards and a touchdown in the Cougars 14-7 win over Addison Trail. "He is a bright and humble young man who has a great work ethic and attitude," Stortz said. "We're looking forward to seeing him continue to grow and develop in our program."
Vince Fredrickson LeydenFredrickson never wanted the ball. The junior linebacker just wanted to hit people. But after a key injury, Leyden coach Tom Cerasani went to Fredrickson to ask him to give it a shot. "Vinnie had never played running back before," Cerasani said. "We had an injury to our starting tailback. I went to Vinnie and he said he would try it. He wasn't excited at first, but he did very well for us." All Fredrickson did was rush for 14 touchdowns and gain 658 yards in just 7 games. He topped the 100-yard mark in three of those games and had a season-high 175-yard performance against Proviso East. He also had 15 receptions for 131 yards. "As the season went on he dominated," Cerasani said. "He runs violently and he doesn't have much regard for his body. " Fredrickson, who saw action last season at linebacker finished this season with 20 tackles and 6 assists and 2 sacks. "He is a pretty good linebacker," Cerasani said. "Running the ball really took a toll on his body. He never came off the field and was spent after this season." Frederickson was also named all-conference in the West Suburban Gold.
Jordan Hansen Hersey Hansen should be considered the top utility player in the game. He has played quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive back and linebacker for the Huskies this season. And at each position, he has been a standout. "Jordan is an explosive and physical football player who is one of those players that can play any position on the football field," Hersey coach Joe Pardun said. "Jordan played five different positions for us and was a difference maker at all of them. Whether playing offense, defense, or special teams, he has a knack for the ball and making things happen around him." Hansen rushed for 704 yards on 96 carries and scored 15 touchdowns, with most of that coming when he switched full time to running back in the last half of the season. When at quarterback, he was 5-of-8 for 158 yards and 3 touchdowns. At wide receiver, he had 19 receptions for 199 yards and 3 touchdowns. That gave him a total of 1,277 yards and 22 touchdowns. Defensively, his stats were just as impressive with 39 tackles, 9 assists and 2 interceptions. "Jordan was so valuable for us in so many ways," Pardun said. "We look forward to having him back next season."
Sean Jacobs Buffalo GroveThe Buffalo Grove defense has been a better place since Jacobs stepped on the field for the Bison three years ago. "He has been the best linebacker I have ever coached, " said Buffalo Grove head coach Jeff Vlk, who is in his third year as head coach, but spent the previous 15 seasons running the defense. "He was the leader of our defense and has a motor like nothing I have ever seen. He is 100 miles an hour from start to finish each and every day." Jacobs will finish his career as the second-leading tackler in school history. He finished with 351 tackles with 37 of those for loss. He had 2 interceptions, 6 fumble recoveries, with one of those going for a touchdown. Jacobs has been the emotional core of the Buffalo Grove defense the past two seasons, leading the Bison to two consecutive playoff appearances for the first time in 15 years. Vlk said that despite his lack in traditional linebacker size, Jacobs always played big. "Although he is 5-foot-9, he plays like he is 6-2," Vlk said. "He is the heart and soul of our team." He is a two-time Daily Herald All-Area player and was named honorable mention to the Class 7A All-State team by the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association.
Ryan Justice HerseyJustice made sure the Huskies did not skip a beat at quarterback this season. Justice, who spent all of last season as the backup quarterback, made sure that he was ready when his opportunity arose. He stepped into the job this season with very little experience and directed one of the most prolific offenses in Hersey history, which scored a stunning 471 points in a 9-2 season. "Ryan proved what patience and perseverance can accomplish," Hersey coach Joe Pardun said. "Playing the backup role the last couple of years, Ryan grew to understand what type of preparation and work ethic the QB position demands." Justice's numbers were outstanding. He led the area in passing with 2,392 yards and 26 touchdowns, completing 133 passes in 221 attempts. He also rushed for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns. For his efforts, Justice was named to the Class 7A All-State team by the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association. "Week in and week out Ryan was always poised and prepared," Pardun said. "He led our offense to breaking the school record in points scored in a season."
Kyle Krogstad Hoffman EstatesKrogstad answered all the quarterback questions for the Hawks this season. And he did it with style, running an offense that scored 298 points this season. Krogstad threw for 1,991 yards and 26 touchdowns to lead Hoffman to its third consecutive playoff appearance. "I know there were a lot of people that thought our offense was going to decline quite a bit," Hoffman Estates coach Tim Heyse said. "But people found out very quickly that he was more than capable in guiding our offense." Krogstad, who also named all-conference this year, showed that he paid plenty attention in the meetings while he was a backup last season. "It is hard to be a backup quarterback for two straight seasons, but Kyle waited patiently for his opportunity," Heyse said. "Kyle put in countless hours of defensive breakdowns and offensive study. His hard work paid off." Krogstad was named Daily Herald player of the week in Week 3 when he tied a school record with 5 touchdown passes while throwing for 287 yards He also threw a last-second touchdown pass to beat Palatine. "He never got rattled," Heyse said. "His calm, cool, and collective demeanor helped everyone around him."
Jace O'Hara Rolling MeadowsO'Hara did it all for the Mustangs this season. A Mid-Suburban League all-conference selection, O'Hara caught passes, ran the football and played a solid linebacker on defense all while leading Rolling Meadows back to reclaim the MSL East conference title and advance to the second round of the playoffs. "Jace was the MVP on a team full of good players," Rolling Meadows coach Matt Mishler said. "Jace had uncanny instincts on defense and was one of the hardest players to block that I've been around." O'Hara was all over the ball defensively for the Mustangs, making it difficult for opponents to run. He also dropped well into pass coverage and had 2 interceptions. He really stepped up things offensively for Meadows and came up with big plays for the Mustangs when they needed them most. O'Hara rushed for 941 yards, with most of the yards coming late in the season. He also caught 16 passes for 279 yards. "Jace was just as valuable on offense," Mishler said. "His ability to catch and run was a huge part of our success this year. As talented as Jace was, his best attribute may have been his leadership. He was truly one of the best leaders I have had the pleasure of coaching."
Costa Paschos Maine WestPaschos has been a fixture on the offensive line for the Warriors for the past three seasons where he has started 30 games. The 6-foot-3, 230 pound Paschos began his career as just a 175-pound lineman. He has blossomed and has played all five offensive line positions for Maine West during that span and helped the Warriors to two of the best years in school history. "Costa was the heart and soul of our team," Maine West coach Jason Kradman said. "Once he got a taste of that bond with his teammates and coach Dan Wilson, he was all-in from that point forward." Paschos was named the top offensive lineman in the CSL North as he helped Maine West average 38.5 points per game. "To compete with the top defensive linemen on our schedule, Costa had to develop his body," Kradman said. "His technique is something that he worked at constantly." Paschos, who has a 4.10 GPA, also played defense for the Warriors this season. "This year Costa earned the opportunity to start on both sides of the ball for us," Kradman said. "He became a regular in opposing team's backfields. He is a tremendous student-athlete,"
Nate Pedraza Rolling MeadowsPedraza is a two-year starter who really came into his own this season. His offseason workouts were able to get him to bulk up to very solid 245 pounds to go with his 6-foot-3 frame. "Nate knows one speed and that's full speed," Rolling Meadows coach Matt Mishler said. "He works as hard as anyone out there and his performance on Friday nights reflected that." Pedraza was difficult for opponents to block and teams had to scheme to defend him. Because of that play, he was selected by the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association as an All-State player from Class 7A as a junior. His play sparked a Rolling Meadows defense that helped lift the Mustangs to the MSL East conference title. Pedraza also bounced over to the offensive side to help in key situations and was brutish in his blocking. "Nate has been selected to the IHSFCA 7A All-State team as a junior and couldn't be more deserving," Mishler said. "Nate was a guy other teams had to game plan for, no doubt. We used Nate as an example, throughout the season, of what it looks like to go hard on every rep, every play, every day."
Nick Rattin FremdRattin has always looked to get better and is the type of player that every coach would love to have on their team. He was named Chicago Bears High School Player of the Week when he moved to quarterback and rushed for 231 yards and 2 touchdowns while throwing for another touchdown. Rattin followed that up the next week by running for a school-record 309 yards and scored 6 touchdowns, which is also a school record. For the season, Rattin was the area's third leading rusher, gaining 1,073 yards on 191 carries while running for 15 touchdowns. His toughness running the ball inside is one of the reasons that Fremd was able to turn its season around in the final 6 weeks of the season and earn a share of the MSL West title. "Nick is one of the hardest working individuals you will meet," Fremd coach Lou Sponsel said. "His drive to be perfect in everything he does is matched by his love for his teammates." Rattin, who was a three-year varsity player, also played safety for the Vikings for the last 3 years. He had an interception this season while helping the Vikings head to the playoffs for the first time in 3 years. "Nick broke a lot of long-standing records this year," Sponsel said. "He is the player that the future will look to emulate."
Michael Shafis ProspectShafis has been a 3-year starter for the Knights, playing both ways in all 3 seasons. He took on more of a linebacking role this season, sharing time at running back, where he was called upon in key situations. He still managed to rush for 555 yards on 91 carries and scored 8 touchdowns. "He was really a selfless player," Prospect coach Dan DeBeouf said. "With our new system, he didn't get as many carries as in previous years. But he never complained and did what we asked him to." And that was to key the defense for the Knights. He had 91 tackles and had an interception to help lead Prospect to its first playoff appearance since 2012. "He is really tough at linebacker," DeBeouf said. "That's where we needed him most and he came through big for our team. He is a great leader and when we look back on things a few years from now, he will be one of the guys we will point to that got us back to the right spot." Shafis, who was an All-Area player last season, is also one of the top high jumpers in the state. He has qualified for the state finals the past two years.
Kacper Rutkiewicz HerseyThe "Ghost" put a huge scare into opponents this season. No matter where he was on the field, Rutkiewicz was a danger to opponents. He led the area in receptions and yards with 70 and 1,247 yards respectively, while scoring 14 touchdowns. He also had 14 rushing attempts for 300 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also had a punt return for a touchdown. "Kacper is hands down one of the best football players I have ever coached," Hersey coach Joe Pardun said. "Kacper was our leader on and off the field. A relentless worker with a true passion for the game, Kacper was always who we turned to when we needed a play or change in momentum, and he never let us down." Rutkiewicz also played defensive back for the Huskies, where he had 8 tackles and an interception. He was the Daily Herald Week 9 offensive player of the week and was named co-offensive player of the year for the MSL East. Rutkiewicz has committed to play at Illinois State next season. "Kacper is the most prolific receiver in our school history," Pardun said. "He deserves all the accolades that he has received."
Nick Steger HerseySteger showed his leadership on both sides of the ball for the Huskies. Defensively, he was a handful at end, where he made teams account for him on every play. He finished with 58 tackles and 17 assists with an astounding 21 tackles for loss. He also had a mind-boggling 16 sacks and 5 batted balls. He forced 2 fumbles and recovered one. For that play, it earned him defensive player of the year in the MSL East. He also played tight end for the Huskies and had 16 receptions for 271 yards and 3 touchdowns. "Nick is a natural," Hersey coach Joe Pardun said. "The ease at which he can play multiple positions on the football field is amazing to watch. He can play multiple positions and not only could he play all those positions, he could control a game at those positions." Steger is two-time Daily Herald All-Area player. "Nick is an intelligent young man, who can learn in a variety of ways and is a tremendous teammate and leader," Pardun said. "On the field, Nick is a fierce competitor who plays with a lot of heart and passion."
Tim Szylak Rolling MeadowsSzylak has run over opponents for the past two seasons for the Mustangs. Szylak, who is 6-foot and 185 pounds, piled up 1,371 yards on 123 carries for an eye-popping 11.1 yards per carry this season. He was one of the main factors in Meadows' MSL East conference title and 10-1 record this season. He was named co- offensive player of the year for the MSL East. Szylak also caught 6 passes for 82 yards. Szylak was selected as Daily Herald offensive player of the week for his 277-yard, 3 touchdown performance in Week 3 against Palatine. "Tim had the unique ability to run with power, speed and quickness," Rolling Meadows coach Matt Mishler said. "He made such great, subtle cuts to get to the open field and once he did, he was gone." Szylak, who was an All-Area selection last season, gained 852 yards last season to give him 2,223 yards over the past two seasons. "It was an absolute pleasure to watch him run the ball. Tim also took some huge reps for us on the defensive side of bal," Mishler said. "Tim has great character and was also a great leader for us."
Dante Trombetta ConantDon't tell offensive lines that Trombetta could not be a force on defense for Conant. Even at 5-foot-9 and 200 pounds, Trombetta was usually towered over by the guys in the different uniforms on the other side of the ball. But it didn't matter to Trombetta, who was one of the leaders on Conant's fierce defense. "Dante Trombetta was always undersized at his D-line position," Conant coach Bryan Stortz said "Yet he consistently overwhelmed offensive linemen with his quickness, power, and sheer tenacity." Trombetta, who was just one of five returning starters in the Cougars' 3-5-3 scheme, anchored a defensive line that held five teams to under 12 points. That was a key factor to helping the Cougars to a share of the Mid-Suburban West title and the official MSL West representatives in the state playoffs. "He was a disruptive force that opposing teams had to game plan and account for," Stortz said. "Dante's motor and intensity helped elevate everyone else's play around him. "
Heze Trotter SchaumburgWherever he was on the field, Trotter was a marked man. Whether it was at wide receiver, running back, defensive back, kick returner or at punter, opponents always had to respect his speed and athletic ability." Heze made so many plays where you could not believe what he just did," Schaumburg coach Mark Stilling said. "But amazingly, at the same time, he made those same plays look so effortless." Trotter had 23 receptions for 306 yards, usually drawing double teams when he went out for a pass. Trotter showed how dangerous he can be in his game against Hoffman Estates when he drew 4 pass interference penalties. He also had 40 carries for 251 yards. Trotter was also All-Area in football last season and in basketball as well. "Heze did just about everything a player could do for his team," Stilling said. "He scored on a Pick-6, a touchdown catch, a touchdown run, a kickoff return, a punt return and completed a 2-point conversion."
Anthony Wachal ConantAll Anthony Wachal does is make plays. Wachal caught a key touchdown pass against Fremd in Week 8 to help the Cougars earn a share of the Mid-Suburban West title this season. Wachal also had an area-leading 5 interceptions for the Cougars, who were 1-8 last season to 6-4 and a playoff team this year. "Combined with his unique gifts, Anthony's hard work and desire to compete and excel have made him one of the most elite players that I have had the pleasure to coach," Conant coach Bryan Stortz said. Wachal, who was all-conference and the MSL West defensive player of the year, was honorable mention last season for the Daily Herald. He is a tough, hard-nosed player, according to Stortz. "Anthony Wachal is a throwback old-school football player that left everything he had on the field," Stortz said. "He's an unbelievably athletic, hard-nosed, versatile, and smart player that made big-time plays in big-time situations." Wachal finished with 40 receptions for 550 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also played running back for the Cougars. "Anthony is one of the most versatile, instinctive, and toughest competitors that I've had the privilege to coach," Stortz said. "Without his outstanding leadership and remarkable play in all phases of the game, our team would not made the turnaround it did. He's a true iron-man football player."
Malik Whitehead Hoffman EstatesChristmas came early for Hoffman Estates when Whitehead came to the school after moving from Bartlett. And Whitehead delivered the goods for the Hawks and was named co-offensive player of the year in the MSL West. All he did was come in and produce. He was named MSL West co-offensive player of the year. "He is one of the most coachable kids I have ever been around," Hoffman Estates coach Tim Heyse said. "His positive approach in everything he did rubbed off on a lot of our younger players. I have never seen the kid without a smile on his face." Whitehead caught 63 passes for 815 yards and 12 TD catches. And he did it with just one leg for most of the season. "He played the last six games with a hurt knee," Heyse said. "It didn't faze him. He had big game after big game." Whitehead left his mark right away when he caught the winning touchdown pass in overtime to beat Elk Grove in Week 1. "It all started in Week 1 with a great touchdown catch and continued through Week 9 with a huge touchdown vs. Conant," Heyse said. "Teams knew who we were going to in big situations and more times than not Malik came through for us."
Fernando Corona, Leyden, FB/DE, Sr., Joey Carrell, Conant, DB, Sr., Vince Carso, Hersey, WR/DB, Sr., Michael Curran, Barrington, RB, Sr., Nick DiGioia, Schaumburg, RB, Soph., Devin Dinham, Fremd, DE, Sr., Carter Gledhill, Buffalo Grove, DB, Sr., Ely Grimmer, Maine West TE/FS, Sr., Jake Gronwick, Palatine, WR, Sr., Vinni Hoffman, Buffalo Grove, RB, Sr., Will Hutchinson, Barrington, K, Sr., Will Josten, Fremd, OL/DL, Sr., Danny Kentgen, Maine West, QB, Jr., Arek Kleniuk, Rolling Meadows, QB, Sr., Jordan Lane, Hoffman Estates, WR, Sr., Jimmy Martin, Prospect, QB, Sr., Kevin Murphy, St. Viator, WR, Sr., Fermi Oginni, Hoffman Estates, OL/DL, Sr., Jeremiah Pittman, St. Viator, OL/DL, Soph., Luka Popovic, Palatine, WR, Jr., Tim Varga, Elk Grove, OL/DE, Sr., Lukas Van Ness, Barrington, DE, Jr., Jack Walsh, Fremd, OL, Soph., Luke Zardzin, Prospect, Soph., Brandon Zettek, Wheeling, WR/LB, Sr.