ESPNChicago.com will review some of top the prep storylines of 2010 over the next week. Here are the top 10 high school football stories.
1. Taking their place in history: Wheaton Warrenville South was dominant from the 2010 season’s opening kickoff to its final seconds. The Tigers began the season by knocking off Maine South on ESPN, followed that up by rolling through one of the toughest conferences in the state, battled through a deep Class 7A field which included last year’s state runner-up Glenbard West and ultimately defeated Lake Zurich and its stellar defense for their second consecutive state championship. They finished No. 1 in ESPNChicago.com’s area poll and No. 13 nationally in ESPN RISE’s poll.
2. East St. Louis’ dismissal : If anyone was going to give Wheaton Warrenville South competition, East St. Louis was the team. The Flyers were also nationally ranked and full of college prospects. Just before the playoffs began, the IHSA ruled East St. Louis would be removed from the Class 7A playoff field because they used an ineligible player. The Flyers appealed the IHSA’s judgment, were granted a temporary restraining order and won their first-round playoff game before the IHSA finally ruled again and East St. Louis was removed from the playoffs for good.
3. The unlikely 3-peat: Maine South’s chances of winning its third consecutive state championship looked much in doubt when the Hawks opened the season with back-to-back losses, including a 44-7 one to Wheaton Warrenville South on national television. Maine South never lost faith, though. The young Hawks got better and better each week, and when it was all said and done, they were on top again. They defeated another historic program, Mount Carmel, in the Class 8A state championship.
4. The best by far: Wheaton Warrenville South senior quarterback Reilly O'Toole ran away with the ESPNChicago.com High School Football Player of the Year award. While leading the Tigers to their second consecutive state championship, he completed 186-of-252 passes for 3,187 yards, 42 touchdowns and three interceptions. An Illinois recruite, he could give the Illini’s young quarterbacks a run for their money sooner rather than later.
5. Bibbs’ day: The question Kapri Bibbs received more than any other this season was whether his commitment to Colorado State was still firm. The reason everyone asked that was because they assumed bigger schools would come calling for him after the Plainfield North running back rushed all over the competition this season. His biggest game was when he ran for a state-record 520 yards against Oswego in Week 6. He also added seven touchdowns in the win. To his credit, Bibbs is loyal and will be playing for the Rams. He was the ESPNChicago.com Offensive Player of the Year.
6. Hiben’s day : Glenbard West isn’t known for its passing game. The Hilltoppers like to run the ball as much as possible. But in the second round of the Class 7A playoffs, Glenbard West senior wide receiver Mark Hiben put his team’s passing game in the record books. Hiben caught 12 passes for a state-record 319 yards in the Hilltoppers’ 42-28 win over Lincoln-Way East.
7. Simeon says: The Public League has never won a state title. Simeon nearly changed that this season. Powered by the state’s most explosive offense, the Wolverines defeated Mount Carmel to open the season, went undefeated throughout the regular season, won their first two Class 7A playoff games and lost to Lake Zurich 17-14 in the quarterfinals. With quarterback Robert Gregory returning, Simeon should again be a threat to go all the way next season.
8. The greatest show in Vernon Hills: The state of Illinois possessed two ESPNU Top 150 players this season, and they both happened to belong to the same team. Vernon Hills was blessed with two of the state’s most dynamic players in DaVaris Daniels and Evan Spencer. Daniels, a Notre Dame recruit, had 23 catches for 513 yards and five touchdowns, threw for 173 yards and a touchdown, rushed for 637 yards and 10 touchdowns, returned two punts for touchdowns, intercepted six passes and scored one defensive touchdown. Spencer, a Ohio State recruit, had 23 catches for 410 yards and six touchdowns, rushed for 266 yards and eight touchdowns, returned two punts and one kickoff for touchdowns, intercepted two passes and had two defensive touchdowns.
9. Catholic League trio: Before the season, the Catholic League title was thought to be a race between Loyola, Mount Carmel and St. Rita. While it was expected to be close in the end, no one could have imagined that all three would share the title. Loyola defeated St. Rita, St. Rita defeated Mount Carmel, Mount Carmel defeated Loyola, and they all tied for first place.
10. The turnaround : Craig Buzea took over a Homewood-Flossmoor program that a season ago was one of the worst in the area, going 1-8. In just a year’s time, Buzea transformed the Vikings’ culture and their record. Homewood-Flossmoor went 10-3 this season and fell just short of reaching the Class 8A title game, losing 28-21 to Mount Carmel in the semifinals. With quarterback Tim Williams returning and Buzea still making strides to improve the program, watch out for the Vikings down the road.