Jack Baltz, QB, Lincoln-Way East: Baltz was something of an unknown commodity for the Griffins entering the season, but he made his presence felt relatively quickly. He finished the season with 2,283 passing yards and 31 touchdown passes, numbers made all the more impressive by how many times Lincoln-Way East games got out hand early and limited the use of the aerial attack. His accuracy was on point, too, as he completed 61 percent of his passes.
Martin Bender, OL, Lincoln-Way West: At 6-foot-4, 265 pounds, Bender did his fair share of road grading for the Lincoln-Way West offense. A three-year starter for the Warriors, Bender did his best to help provide stability to a team that seemed to have a new injury cropping up nearly every week. Nonetheless, Bender helped the line control the line of scrimmage in nearly every contest they played this season.
Max Briscoe, LB/TE, Joliet Catholic: Briscoe was an extremely valuable member of the Hilltoppers title team, playing prominently on both sides of the football. He finished with 82 total tackles on the season and was a big part of the unit that stymied multiple playoff opponents on the road to the championship. He served more as a blocker on offense, latching onto one touchdown pass as a tight end.
Cade Campos, LB, Lemont: Campos was a very productive defensive player for the Indians. He finished with
116 tackles, including 51 solo tackles. He also notched seven tackles for loss and three sacks on his way to an Illinois High School Football Coaches Association All-State nod for Class 6A. An Illinois State commit, Campos will leave a void not easily filled in the middle of the Lemont defense next year.
Gus Christensen, LB, Lincoln-Way East: While Christensen only stands 5-foot-5, underestimating him on that size alone is a clear miscalculation. Christensen always seems to find himself around the football and finished the season with 78 total tackles, two sacks and two interceptions. He also was named the Southwest Suburban Conference’s defensive player of the year.
Conner Dempsay, RB/DB, Wilmington: At a school that has produced a litany of highly productive running backs, Dempsay may be one of the best the Wildcats have ever had. Dempsay had 1,328 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on offense and also stacked on 82 tackles on the defensive side of the ball. He was a two-time IHSFCA All-State pick for Class 3A, only the second Wildcat to be tabbed twice.
Kevon Dorris, WR, Joliet West: If the Tigers made a big play on offense, you’d usually find Dorris involved in the play. The standout wide receiver just found a way to get himself in position to make successful plays and finished with a very productive
30 receptions for 564 yards. The yardage total placed him among the top
three receivers in the area, and he did a lot of that damage after the catch.
Matt Fuller, LB/S, Plainfield South: Fuller is one of those players whose stats don’t crackle but without what he brings to the table a strong defense might crumble. Fuller plugged whatever hole the Cougars defense was in need of at any time and played wherever he was slotted into the defense at a very high level. Fuller is also a top-level long snapper, and his versatility will be appealing to wherever he ends up at the next level.
Keenan Hailey, RB, Joliet Catholic: It was one heck of a ride for Hailey this season. He began the season as one of the many running options for the Hilltoppers. He quickly evolved into the key offensive cog for JCA and posted one of the more productive offensive seasons in the state. Hailey finished with an incredible 2,637 yards rushing and
37 total touchdowns. An IHSFCA Class 5A All-Stater, Hailey will go down as one of JCA’s all-time greats.
Connor Hall, LB, Plainfield South: Hall was named co-defensive player of the year for the Southwest Prairie, and it is easy to see why. Plainfield South coach Bill Bicker declared Hall “one of the most instinctive players I’ve ever coached.” Those instincts allowed Hall to amass
84 total tackles including 55 solos. He also piled up 17 tackles for loss, six quarterback sacks and three forced fumbles.
Nick Iannantone, RB, Joliet Catholic: Iannantone has a tremendous season running in tandem with Keenan Hailey to give the Hilltoppers a truly formidable running game. But he saved his biggest effort for the biggest stage, the Class 5A title game. Forced into a rigorous carry load when Hailey went down with an injury, Iannantone responded with an incredible 40-carry, 318-yard, three-touchdown effort that lifted JCA to its 14th state title.
Jake Kramer, LB, Lincoln-Way East: In most cases, it would be easy to get lost in the collective strength of the defensive unit of the Griffins, Kramer made sure that didn’t happen in his case by being relentless in finding his way to the football. Kramer was the team leader in total tackles with 115, second in solo stops with 59, recorded 14 tackles for loss and five quarterback sacks.
Seth Lehr, QB, Minooka: Lehr took the reins of the Indians’ offense and ran with it to start the season. He was his team’s offensive MVP and evolved his game throughout the year. Lehr started as a pocket passer and did so very well, finishing with a
59 percent completion ratio. But as the season developed Lehr became more of a dual threat, running the ball effectively with seven rushing touchdowns.
Nate Mahoney, OL, Lincoln-Way West: Mahoney was a Class 7A IHSFCA All-State, and it is easy to see why. Mahoney absolutely provided rock solid work providing protection for the Lincoln-Way offensive line and has done so for the entire stretch of three years as a starter for the Warriors. That blend of strength and discipline should serve Mahoney well in his future, as he has earned an appointment to West Point.
Mundo Meyer, WR/DB, Joliet Catholic: Meyer was referred to by his coach as the “Swiss Army knife” of the defense, and it is easy to see why that label was placed upon him. Meyer thrived wherever he was placed, particularly on the defensive side of the ball where he was assigned the opposition’s top wide receiver of passing teams in the postseason and effectively put that player on lockdown. Meyer finished with three interceptions and 10 passed defensed.
Cam Mitchell, DB, Bolingbrook: The Northwestern-bound Mitchell was the definition of a player opposing teams simply didn’t want to mess with. Mitchell doesn’t have huge statistics on the season, but that makes a lot of sense as teams prototypically avoided trying to throw into the wide expanses of ground Mitchell covered each play. When they dared to do so, Mitchell recorded three interceptions, four pass breakups and forced two fumbles.
Dave Monnot, OL/DL, Joliet Catholic: Monnot was a huge piece on a very capable offensive line for the Hilltoppers. Monnot, a Purdue signee, shielded the outside and helped spring open holes for Joliet Catholic’s capable running backs. JCA amassed over 5,000 yards rushing this season and would have had a hard time doing so without the exceptional play of the offensive line. Monnot also chipped in 11 tackles and a sack when working double duty.
Ty O’Janovac, OL/DL, Joliet Catholic: O’Janovac evolved into one of the unsung heroes of the Hilltoppers. A three-year starter on the offensive line he could always be counted on to provide stability and skill to the Hilltoppers front. Recently committed to Western Illinois, O’Janovac could be a real find for the Leathernecks. He also recorded 20 tackles on the defensive side of the ball in limited activity on that side of the ball.
Kenny Palmer, DB, Lincoln-Way East: Palmer was the definition of a big play maker for the Griffins. He finished with seven interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery for Lincoln-Way East, and it seemed like most of them came at the best possible times. In fact, of Palmer’s three defensive touchdowns, two of them came in playoff games with scores against Glenbard West and Loyola.
Drew Parrish, OL, Lincoln-Way Central: Parrish was a physical presence and a leadership source for a young Lincoln-Way Central offensive line. Parrish was more than capable of lining up at any position on the offensive line, a versatility that was very valuable to a line that sometimes needed gap filling. Parrish never missed a snap the entire season, and he graded out the highest performance-wise on the Knights’ roster in most weeks.
Quentin Pringle, RB, Bolingbrook: Pringle was an explosive force for the Raiders as he put together an epic season. Pringle averaged a whopping 10.6 yards a carry on his way to 1,112 yards and 18 touchdowns. Pringle broke more than a his fair share of long touchdown runs and those offensive skills should be a boon for Eastern Kentucky University, his collegiate choice. Pringle was also an IHSFCA Class 8A All-Stater.
Austin Pullara, TE/LB, Coal City: Still only a junior, few players were more impactful on both sides of the football than Pullara was for the Coalers, a Class 4A quarterfinalist. He racked up 107 total tackles on the season including 72 solo stops. Pullara also had 14 tackles for loss. Switching over to the offensive side of the football, Pullara latched onto 20 passes for 333 yards and accounted for six total touchdowns.
Jake Renfro, OL, Providence Catholic: Renfro continues to mature into a line force for the Celtics. The junior completed a very strong campaign, his second as a starter, and emerged as the team’s top lineman and a Chicago Catholic Blue All-Conference pick. In addition to his strong work on the offensive line, at center or tackle, Renfro also handled all of the team’s long snapping responsibilities with excellent work in that area.
Jackson Ritter, WR/TE, Lincoln-Way East: Ritter concluded a fantastic season and career with the Griffins by leading the pass receiving corps to a level rarely seen at the school. Ritter became the school’s single season record holder in touchdown receptions with 16 touchdowns. He led the area with 977 receiving yards and was tied for the area lead in receptions with 52. Ritter hasn’t decided on his next step, but does have an Ivy League offer from Yale.
Anthony Sambucci, WR, Lemont: Sambucci was a critical cog in the Indians offense attack this season and against quality opponents he became a go-to-guy. Sambucci was only one of two area receivers to surpass 600 yards receiving this season (634 yards) and had nine touchdowns on the campaign. He was also a reliable weapon in the return game as he averaged over 20 yards a return on both punts and kicks.
Dan Scianna, LB, Lincoln-Way East: Scianna was the backbone of a very good Griffins defense. He finished with 109 total tackles, but 70 of those were solo tackles which indicates he was often the first man on the scene. He also netted 18 tackles for loss which shows his ability to find his way to the football. On a defense full of playmakers, Scianna made as many as anyone did.
Dylan Shelton, DL, Lincoln-Way East: Shelton, a Class 8A IHSFCA All-State pick, was an absolute menace to try to block. Many attempted, but few succeeded. áHe recorded 89 total tackles, 54 of which were solo stops. He finished with 20 tackles for loss, one of only three area players that finished with 20 or more. He also recorded seven quarterback sacks and forced four fumbles.
Jacob Shipla, DT, Minooka: A two-way performer that truly excelled on both sides of the ball. Shipla worked at guard on the offensive line and did top-notch work for the Indians, but Shipla did his real damage on the defensive side of the ball. He was named Minooka’s defensive MVP for good reason, posting 84 total tackles, 10 sacks and a whopping 21 tackles for loss at defensive tackle.
Anthony Sottosanto, OL, Lincoln-Way East: Sottosanto was the catalyst for the success of the Lincoln-Way East offensive line and by succession a big part of why the Griffins offense moved so seamlessly most of the time. The Southwest Suburban Conference named Sottosanto its offensive athlete of the year, which is a high honor for any player, let alone one that usually doesn’t get that sort of acclaim.
Kurt Weis, DB, Joliet Catholic: Weis was one of the area’s “Johnny on the Spot” type of players. Weis, a Class 5A IHSFCA All-State pick, always seemed to find himself in the appropriate spot to make a play for the Hilltoppers. Weis led a very solid JCA defense with 110 tackles and also had seven interceptions to go along with five passes defended. With Weis in the secondary, teams threw at their own peril.