Warren's Edwards -- a player who, simply, has it all
North, south, east and west.
It didn't matter what direction Warren senior running back Maurice Edwards ran the football this fall -- more times than not it spelled absolute doom for the opposing defense.
Warren coach Bryan McNulty remembers the Week 9 game against Lake Forest that decided the North Suburban Conference championship. Lake Forest's defense thought they had Edwards stuffed in the backfield deep in the red zone.
"They had him in the backfield and it should have been a TFL (tackle for loss) and he broke the tackle and scored because he wanted the ball," McNulty said. "He was dead to rights, broke a tackle, and ran right through to the end zone."
The 6-foot, 195-pound Edwards ran for 1,629 yards on 177 carries (9.2 yards per carry) and scored 22 touchdowns in 11 games for a 9-2 Warren team that won the NSC title with a perfect 7-0 record and advanced to the second round of the Class 8A state playoffs.
For his accomplishments this season, Edwards, the NSC player of the year, is the Captain of the Daily Herald Lake County All-Area Football Team.
" 'Reese' is the best running back I have coached to date," McNulty said. "We have had some great ones here, but you could tell early on Reese was special. He's exceptionally tough."
If the six games Warren played in the COVID-19-induced 2021 spring season are added in, Edwards, headed to Division I Vanderbilt University, ran for 2,361 yards this calendar year on only 251 carries and scored 37 touchdowns. His 9.2 yards per carry average is a Warren single-season record, as is the 22 touchdowns scored this fall. He ran for 100 yards in all but one game (a 75-0 blowout of Waukegan where McNulty noted Edwards didn't play past the first series).
"Maurice is a very gifted athlete," Mundelein coach Vince DeFrancesco said. "He has a great combination of strength, size and speed. In addition to being a phenomenal athlete, he also has a tremendous football IQ and runs with toughness. He has a great vision for a high school running back and that is something that is going to be a huge resource to him at the next level. I am certainly not going to miss playing against No. 6 next year."
Dave Inserra, coach of Class 8A state runner-up Maine South, got a front-row seat to Edwards in a 10-2 Week 2 victory over Warren, in a battle of two of the state's highly touted teams.
"Maurice was extremely hard-nosed with tremendous skill," he said. "Our entire defensive game plan was to contain him. He was a warrior that night, carrying the brunt of the load and throughout the season. Our defense was beat up after the game because of Maurice's tough, low running style."
Lake Zurich coach Ron Planz added: "What made Maurice such a threat was that he was able to run hard between the tackles and get the tough yards, while also having the ability to take one the distance with his speed on the edge. That is tough to defend when a back can do both things very well."
McNulty brought up that same toughness word DeFrancesco used in describing Edwards' best attributes, while adding in consistency.
"He's as good as they come," McNulty said. "With Reese, it's a combination of things. Athletically, he's superior. He's a 195-pound kid that doesn't look like he weighs 195. He runs a legitimate 4.4 (40-yard dash). He'll go edge and up the middle. He doesn't care."
Edwards transferred to Warren from Grayslake Central and hasn't missed a beat in his two seasons in Gurnee.
"I got better this season with my second-level vision," he said. "At the beginning of the season I kind of struggled finding creases in that second level. As the season went on, I definitely improved on that."
Edwards indeed doesn't care where the handoff takes him, as long as there is positive yardage involved.
"North and south is how you get yards," said Edwards, who lived in Atlanta and Ft. Worth, Texas prior to coming to Illinois (his father, Maurice III, a big role model for Edwards, retired after 22 years as a Naval officer).
"I like running the ball anywhere. The best part of the game is finishing runs by breaking difficult tackles. One of my strengths is if there are a lot of people in the box, getting through them. I definitely liked that challenge when teams stacked the box and called out my number. I was ready."
Warren senior quarterback Aidan Lucero said Edwards is able to excel because of the way he keeps the emotional part of the game in check.
"He is the player he is because he doesn't have any emotion when he's on the field and is able to keep a cool head, no matter the situation," Lucero said. "I have also never played with someone who understands the game as well as he does. He knows what is going to happen before it even happens, and at times he would even help me out as the quarterback."
Blue Devils junior Cassius Callahan was wowed by Edwards' strength this season.
"He's strong -- very strong," he said. "I have seen Reese run through a whole team and power-clean 315 pounds. One of our strongest linemen does that. He benches 315 with ease. Reese has a different kind of strength. I'm working my way toward that, but Reese is one of the strongest guys on the team, including all the strong linemen we had. He was a key part of our offense -- most valuable player in my eyes. I feel this way because when Reese had a game, the whole offense had a game. He was a big game changer and has the ability to take over a whole game by himself."
Edwards tried to downplay the strength aspect of his game.
"I don't even know," he said. "I really haven't lifted weights since I was a junior in high school."
Edwards' next challenge is one he is really looking forward to: Division I football in the Southeastern Conference East Division at Vanderbilt.
"I liked Nashville and it's also a high academic school, which is something I was looking for," he said. "The coaching staff is there. I believe in their vision for turning around the program. I always have wanted to play Division I and play in the NFL. That is still my dream today."
Edwards will enroll at Vandy in January. "I am looking forward to enrolling early, getting in the weight room, learning as much as a I can and compete and try to get a starting spot as a true freshman," he said.
McNulty has zero doubt Edwards will be successful at the next level.
"When he came here, he made the jump from Class 6A to Class 8A football and did that pretty well," he said. "High school to college is a much bigger jump, but believe it or not Reese is still fairly raw. Right now, he's just scratching the surface. He was good early in the spring season and got better and better right up until he ran for 300 yards against Libertyville in the last game. This season he got better every week and didn't have an off week, even when teams were keying on him. With college coaches and a college strength program, he is going to be very good."
LAKE COUNTY ALL-AREA TEAM
Name School Pos. Yr.
Nathan Atwell Grayslake North WR-DB Sr.
Vince Bennett Wauconda QB Sr.
Andy Bowles Antioch RB/DB Sr.
Jon Buckley Carmel WR Sr.
Cristian Castro Round Lake QB Sr.
Tyson Dewey Lakes WR/DB Jr.
Jailen Duffe Warren CB/WR Sr.
* Maurice Edwards Warren RB Sr.
Tyler Erkman Lake Zurich WR/DB Jr.
Alex Gil Vernon Hills LB/SS Sr.
Jailen Handford Warren LB Sr.
Kurt Heerdegen Grayslake Central TE Sr.
Jake Herstowski Antioch OL/DL Sr.
Kevin Huels Lake Zurich C Sr.
Mark Hunter Lakes RB Sr.
Colin Husko Wauconda RB/DB Sr.
Kaiden Miller Grayslake Central WR/KR Jr.
Joe Neumann Antioch WR/OLB Jr.
Darryl Overstreet Grayslake Central QB Sr.
Jake Pieper Vernon Hills QB/SS Sr.
Sam Pinsel Libertyville DL Sr.
Omari Rhinehart Mundelein RB Sr.
Ryan Stephans Wauconda DL/OL Sr.
Jacob Whiting Stevenson OL/DL Sr.
* -- Team Captain
Honorable mentionMax Accettura, Vernon Hills, OL/DL, Jr., Alex Art, Grant, MLB/WR, Sr., Nick Bennett, Wauconda, LB, Sr., Bradley Berg, Grant, Sr., Eric Boehmer, Vernon Hills, OLB, Jr., Nick Blencoe, Grant, DB, Sr., Jamariel Brown, Round Lake, RB/DB/KR, Sr., Collin , Chershier, Wauconda, LB, Sr., Ben Choi, Vernon Hills, RB, Jr., Blake Cook, Grant, Sr., OL, Ben Cooper, Lake Zurich, RB, Sr., Connor Dickson, Libertyville, QB, Sr., Jake Donohue, Grayslake North, QB, Jr., Thomas Elster, Vernon Hills, OL, Jr., Austin Fink, Wauconda, K, Sr., Alex Gomez, Grant, Sr., DL, Ashton Gondeck, Carmel, WR, Jr., Jason Hicks, Stevenson, C/LS, Sr., Ryan Hynes, Stevenson, LB. FB, Sr., Chase James, Grayslake , Central, OT, Sr., Tommy Latka, Libertyville, RB, Sr., Marco Jimenez, Round Lake, RB/MLB, Sr., Camren Lang, Carmel, LB, Soph., Aidan Lucero, Warren, QB, Sr., Gabe Lynch, Carmel, RB, Sr., Luca Maravola, Grayslake Central, RB/LB, Sr., Kamrin Martin, Vernon Hills, DB/WR, Sr., Cooper Perhacs, Grayslake North, K, Sr., Jake Prejna, Mundelein, OG, Sr., Bryton Reybolds, Grant, Sr., WR, Josh Sears, Libertyville, OL, Sr., Kam Shaw, Warren, DT/FB, Sr., Jordan Skolmar, Stevenson, RB/Slot/Athl., Sr., Travis Standerski, Grayslake North, DL, Sr., JP Sullivan, Lakes, OL/DL, Sr., Ryan Vastine, Warren, DL/OL, Sr., Danny Vuckovic, Lake Zurich, K/P, Jr., Jeremy Walton, Warren, DL, Sr., Kole Weinberg, Warren, OL, Jr., Alex Zhekov, Stevenson, MLB, Sr., Matthew Ziemke, Grayslake Central, OG, Sr.