High School: DaVaris Daniels
1. The season likely won’t end with an undefeated team. Neuqua Valley and Thornton recently left the ranks of the unbeatens, leaving just Benet and Simeon. Benet’s schedule still includes three highly-ranked teams in Glenbard East, Notre Dame and Simeon. Simeon still has to face Benet, Morgan Park and Whitney Young. It’s unlikely either of those teams will come out unscathed when it’s all said and done.
2. It’s hard to figure out how good the Public League is this season. Sure, Simeon, Morgan Park, Whitney Young and Brooks are all implanted into the rankings. But what about Crane, Curie, Farragut, Hyde Park, Marshall, North Lawndale and Orr? Where do they all fit in with the rest of the top 20 teams? In just the past few weeks, here are some of the confusing results -- Farragut and North Lawndale beat Hyde Park; Hyde Park defeated Orr; Farragut defeated Crane twice, but lost to Orr; Crane and Marshall beat Orr and Marshall defeated North Lawndale. And then on Sunday, North Lawndale knocked off No. 3 Thornton, a non-Public League team that had been unbeaten. The Public League could end up with a lot more ranked teams, but too many of them are beating up each other to figure it all out for now.
3. Mundelein is a team to keep an eye on. The Mustangs haven’t entered the rankings yet, but they’re getting close. With their 75-68 overtime win over Zion-Benton on Saturday, their winning streak reached 12 games and they improved to 18-2. Ryan Sawvell and Robert Knar make for a tough 1-2 combo. Against Zion-Benton, Sawvell had 26 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks, and Knarr finished with 25 points, four 3-pointers and nine rebounds. Mundelein’s biggest challenge ahead will be Warren on Jan. 29.
4. De La Salle’s loss to Fenwick on Friday makes it difficult to believe De La Salle is a state contender at the moment. Not that Fenwick is awful, but the Meteors shouldn’t have any trouble with a team like the Friars if they’re going to compete for a state championship. It didn’t help that Fenwick lost the following day to Ridgewood. De La Salle has talent, but it needs to be more consistent.
5. Everyone knows about Vernon Hills senior DaVaris Daniels’ football ability, but he’s got a basketball game, too. Despite still juggling football duties -- he recently played in the Under Armour All-American Game -- Daniels has been scoring 20-plus points on a consistent basis for the Cougars. He had 27 points in his latest game on Saturday. When Daniels’ father, Washington Redskins defensive end Phillip Daniels, was asked Monday if his son could play basketball at Notre Dame as well, Phillip said he thought with Daniels’ shooting ability and hops it was a possibility.
6. St. Charles East sophomore guard Kendall Stephens is a hot recruiting commodity. Northwestern was the first to offer him a scholarship. Wisconsin followed in late December. Lately, even more schools are checking him out. Purdue coach Matt Painter was at his game last week. It isn’t surprising the Boilermakers are interested in the 6-4 Stephens. His father, Everette Stephens, starred for Purdue before playing in the NBA.
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.
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.
"We came up clutch," said Callaghan, who had five catches for 42 yards. "It seemed like whenever we needed a play we came up clutch and made it. We never say die."
Vernon Hills star DaVaris Daniels finished with 97 yards rushing and 69 yards receiving, including a 49-yard touchdown reception from Chris Argianas for the game's first score in the second quarter.
Top-seeded Kaneland (12-0) will play host to No. 6 Montini in a Class 5A semifinal.
"This is just something that we've preached all year long, to just keep playing," Kaneland coach Tom Fedderly said. "Forget about the last play, try to win the next play and these kids just kept battling."
Player of the game:Kaneland quarterback Joe Camiliere: 25 of 40 for 317 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions
Stat of the game: All seven combined touchdowns were scored by different players.
It was over when:Camiliere found Callaghan on a 10-yard touchdown pass with 9.8 seconds remaining in the game, and the Knights recovered the ensuing kickoff.
Quote of the day:"All we want to do is just get the ball to our receivers and move the chains. When we catch a few passes in a row, we're hard to stop, and that was just a clutch performance by our quarterback." -- Kaneland coach Tom Fedderly.
ESPNChicago.com’s Player of the Year race is heating up. It’s down to six players. It’s still Reilly O’Toole’s award to lose, but the opening few playoff rounds could decide it all.
1. Reilly O’Toole, SR, QB, Wheaton Warrrenville South (previously ranked No. 1)
Last week: O’Toole closed out an impressive regular season by completing 13-of-16 passes for 221 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 71 yards on six carries in a 42-6 win over West Aurora. Wheaton Warrenville South improved to 9-0.
Season: 106-of-145 passing for 1,946 yards, 29 touchdowns and one interception; two rushing touchdowns.
2. Kapri Bibbs, SR, RB, Plainfield North (2)
Last week: Bibbs had another remarkable week to keep himself near O’Toole. Bibbs rushed for 395 yards and five touchdowns on 56 carries in Plainfield North’s 43-35 win over Plainfield South. Plainfield North improved to 7-2.
Season: 2,519 rushing yards and 37 touchdowns on 280 carries.
3. Nick Meyer, SR, QB, Elk Grove (3)
Last week: Anyone outside of Bibbs and O’Toole are likely a long shot at this point, but Meyer kept himself in consideration this past week. He was 15-for-24 passing for 257 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also rushed for 58 yards and one touchdown in a 35-21 win over Rolling Meadows. Elk Grove improved to 7-2.
Season: 159-of-258 passing for 2,092 yards and 19 touchdowns; 885 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.
4. DaVaris Daniels, SR, WR, Vernon Hills (2)
Last week: Daniels rushed for 68 yards and one touchdown on three carries, completed 2-of-3 passes for 29 yards and caught two passes for 51 yards in Vernon Hills’ 55-6 win over North Chicago. Vernon Hills improved to 8-1.
Season: 9-of-20 passing for 141 yards and one touchdown; 13 receptions for 341 yards and four touchdowns; 431 rushing yards and seven touchdowns; two punt return touchdowns; three interceptions and two defensive touchdowns.
5. Robert Gregory, JR, QB, Simeon (5)
Last week: Gregory’s numbers don’t compare to the others, but it’s not his fault. Simeon has been rolling through opponents, and he’s not needed much. In last week’s 48-14 win over Brooks, he completed 2-of-2 passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for one yard and one touchdown on one carry. Simeon improved to 9-0.
Season: 46-of-77 passing for 971 yards and 14 touchdowns; 777 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.
6. Josh Ferguson, SR, RB, Joliet Catholic (6)
Last week: Ferguson ran for 179 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries in Joliet Catholic’s 45-0 win over Benet. The Hilltoppers improved to 8-1.
Season: 1,362 yards and 20 touchdowns on 104 carries.
Read the entire story.
With only a few games remaining, the ESPNChicago.com High School Football Player of the Year award is O’Toole’s to lose. Either he’ll need to have a really poor game or someone will need a really great one for that to change.
The number of candidates was cut down to 11 this week.
1. Wheaton Warrrenville South senior quarterback Reilly O’Toole (previously ranked No. 1)
Last week: O’Toole only needed to play one half in Wheaton Warrenville South’s 56-0 win over West Chicago. He completed 8-of-9 passes for 145 yards and four touchdowns. Wheaton Warrenville South improved to 7-0.
Season: 79-of-107 passing for 1,518 yards, 23 touchdowns and one interception; two rushing touchdowns.
2. Vernon Hills senior wide receiver DaVaris Daniels (3)
Last week: Daniels’ 86-yard punt-return touchdown against Grant was one of the more electrifying plays of his season. According to Vernon Hills coach Tony Monken, Daniels made 10 or 11 guys miss, and a couple of those missed a few times. Daniels also had four tackles, one forced fumble, one reception for 13 yards and 12 rushing yards on three carries.
Season: 4-of-6 passing for 71 yards and one touchdown; 11 receptions for 290 yards and four touchdowns; 258 rushing yards and six touchdowns; two punt return touchdowns; three interceptions and two defensive touchdowns.
3. Plainfield North senior running back Kapri Bibbs (2)
Last week: Bibbs was slowed down -- at least for his standards -- in Plainfield North’s 35-34 loss to Minooka. He rushed for 198 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries. Plainfield North fell to 5-2.
Season: 1,887 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns on 190 carries.
4. Elk Grove senior quarterback Nick Meyer (5)
Last week: Meyer was 18-of-20 for 225 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 71 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries in Elk Grove’s 28-13 win over Hersey. The Grenadiers improved to 6-1.
Season: 118-of-193 passing for 1,553 yards and 15 touchdowns; 679 yards and 11 touchdowns on 114 carries.
5. Naperville North senior linebacker Nick Lifka (4)
Last week: Lifka was his usual defensive beast in Naperville North’s 49-21 win over Glenbard East on Friday. Lifka had 11 tackles to lead the Huskies. Naperville North improved to 5-2.
Season: 88 tackles, eight tackles for a loss, three sacks, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
6. Simeon junior quarterback Robert Gregory (6)
Last week: Gregory was very efficient in Simeon’s 55-6 win over Lincoln Park on Saturday. He completed 2-of-2 passes for 79 yards and ran for 63 yards and three touchdowns on seven carries. The Wolverines improved to 7-0.
Season: 41-of-71 passing for 787 yards and 10 touchdowns; 674 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns.
7. Schaumburg senior running back Shepard Little (7)
Last week: Little, the ESPNChicago.com Prep Athlete of the Week, rushed for 99 yards and four touchdowns on 12 carries in Schaumburg’s 42-21 win over Conant. The Saxons improved to 5-2.
Season: 1,274 yards and 16 touchdowns on 155 carries; two receiving touchdowns.
8. Joliet Catholic senior running back Josh Ferguson (10)
Last week: Ferguson ran wild again. He scored three touchdowns, including an 80-yarder, in the Hilltoppers’ 73-27 win over St. Patrick. Joliet Catholic improved to 6-1.
Season: 929 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on 74 carries.
9. Lake Zurich senior running back Jacob Brinlee (9)
Last week: Brinlee scored one of his team’s two touchdowns in a 14-0 win over Warren on Saturday. He finished with 114 rushing yards and one touchdown on 14 carries. Lake Zurich improved to 6-1.
Season: 949 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 90 carries; one receiving touchdown.
10. Loyola junior quarterback Malcolm Weaver (12)
Last week: Weaver completed 13-of-22 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns in Loyola’s 45-7 win over Fenwick. The Ramblers improved to 6-1.
Season: 97-of-172 passing for 1,513 yards and 22 touchdowns.
11. St. Rita senior running back Jahwon Akui (13)
Last week: Akui rushed for 195 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries in St. Rita’s 31-19 win over Providence. The Mustangs improved to 7-0.
Season: 917 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 186 carries.
The story: York has been one of the year’s more surprising teams. After going 4-5 last year, the Dukes are off to their best start in school history and are coming off a big win over previously unbeaten Lyons. Despite their success, Glenbard West will still be a grand challenge. The Hilltoppers have been ranked in the top 5 all season and are dominant on both sides of the ball. York should benefit from being at home. ESPN 1000 will be in attendance.
Glenbard West player to watch: Nick Burrello is in the running for the ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year award. He’s dangerous in the running, passing and return game.
York player to watch: Running back Ryan Kent leads York’s offense. He ran for 180 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries in last week’s win.
Quotes: “[Nick Burrello] has always had great speed, but now he has the vision to go along with it. He’s played really confident and has had over 1,500 all-purpose yards.” -- Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet
“Ryan Kent is a kid who works hard, and he’ s really matured over the years he has been at York. I think there is a solid cohesiveness within this group that makes them special.” -- York coach Bill Lech
Prediction: Glenbard West 34, York 21
No. 12 Vernon Hills (6-0) at Grant (3-3) on Friday
The story: Vernon Hills has outscored its opponents 290-0. The 290 points scored was expected. The zero points allowed was not. The Cougars look to extend their unlikely shutout streak against Grant in a North Suburban Prairie game. The Bulldogs have put some points up this season. They’ve scored more than 40 twice and have 178 points on the season.
Vernon Hills player to watch: DaVaris Daniels, who is committed to Notre Dame, is among the front-runners for the ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year award. He does a lot of everything for Vernon Hills.
Grant player to watch: Fullback Steven Niewiedzial has been racking up yards and touchdowns all year. He ran for 244 yards and three touchdowns in a win two weeks ago.
Quote: “Over the years our two programs have been the most consistent in the Prairie and [it] has kind of become our rivalry game. Everyone knows to win the Prairie you have to beat two teams, Grant and Vernon Hills. Two years ago, we beat them in the regular season and then they knocked us out in the playoffs in double overtime. We expect it to be a hard-hitting rivalry game Friday night with a playoff-type atmosphere.” -- Vernon Hills coach Tony Monken
Prediction: Vernon Hills 38, Grant 10
Waubonsie Valley (5-1) vs. Neuqua Valley (4-2) at North Central College on Friday
The story: This is a key game in the Upstate Eight Valley. Waubonsie Valley is still undefeated in the conference, and Neuqua Valley is only a game back. Waubonsie Valley has been faced with a handful of injuries and illnesses over the past few weeks and have handled them well. Quarterback Matt Schapen has filled in for Tom Kolzow (concussion) the past three weeks and has kept the Warriors afloat. Neuqua Valley lost to South Elgin two weeks ago, but bounced back with a 42-0 win over Metea Valley last week. Both teams have quality defenses.
Waubonsie Valley player to watch: Sophomore linebacker Austin Lacke is one to watch for the future. He’s been among the Warriors’ top defensive players this season.
Neuqua Valley player to watch: Safety Sami Khalil is among the Wildcats’ best defensive players. He had two interceptions, including one for a touchdown, in last week’s win.
Quote: “Our defense is averaging three turnovers per game. When they give the offense great field position, it is a lot easier to score. Our offense has also been able to get big plays during the games as well. So we basically can score from anywhere on the field, which makes it harder for the defenses to defend us.” -- Waubonsie Valley coach Paul Murphy
“We have been playing well in all aspects of the game. Our defense has shown the ability to stop the run, and our offense has had success running the ball. When a team is able to do both of those things, it will have success.” -- Neuqua Valley coach Bryan Wells
Prediction: Waubonsie Valley 24, Neuqua Valley 21
Bolingbrook (4-2) at No. 9 Lincoln-Way East (5-1) on Friday
The story: The Southwest Suburban Blue will likely be decided by this game. Lincoln-Way East has a one-game lead on Bolingbrook and Homewood-Flossmoor. The Griffins have already defeated Homewood-Flossmoor and will now host Bolingbrook. The Raiders will again be without quarterback Aaron Bailey, who also missed last week’s loss to Homewood-Flossmoor with an ankle injury. Lincoln-Way East junior Blake Winkler is quickly becoming one of the area’s better quarterbacks.
Bolingbrook player to watch: Quarterback DJ Pruitt has been making strides since taking over for Bailey. He’ll look to take another step in his progress against Lincoln-Way East.
Lincoln-Way East player to watch: Wide receiver J.J. Robertson had two touchdown catches of 50-plus yards last week. He’s one of the area’s top wide receivers.
Quotes: “Quarterback Blake Winkler has shown tremendous progress. He has stepped up time and time again in crucial situations and made the big plays. Most impressive is the way he responds to adversity or a negative play. He lets it go and usually makes a very positive play soon after.” -- Lincoln-Way East coach Rob Zvonar
“No turnovers and being able to run the ball are the keys to the game.” -- Bolingbrook coach John Ivlow
Prediction: Lincoln-Way East 31, Bolingbrook 17
Minooka (5-1) at Plainfield North (5-1) on Friday
The story: Two of the state’s best running games will be on display in this Southwest Prairie matchup. Plainfield North running back Kapri Bibbs has ran for nearly 2,000 yards despite missing the season’s first game and is coming off a state-record 520-yard performance. No one has been able to stop him this season. Minooka has a number of players capable of carrying the ball. Running backs Kalvin Hill and Kyle Banks and quarterback Mitch Brozovich have all been dangerous. Minooka’s only loss was to undefeated Plainfield South. Plainfield North lost in its season-opener against West Chicago without Bibbs.
Minooka player to watch: Indians running back Kalvin Hill rushed for 217 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s win over Oswego East.
Plainfield North player to watch: Kapri Bibbs is putting together an incredible season. He’ll be playing at Colorado State next season.
Quotes: “We won't stop Kapri, but we do hope to limit his touches. We also hope to limit his long plays. Our offense must put long scoring drives together that eats up clock. Special teams must play well. We are a much better football team than we have shown. We are still waiting to throw the ball consistently and kick the ball consistently. We need to improve our third-down defense and reduce the number of big plays on defense." -- Minooka coach Bert Kooi
“We need to find a way to stop their powerful running game. They have four very good weapons in the backfield. Their quarterback does an outstanding job faking and running the ball. Obviously, Minooka will be very aware of Kapri and have a game plan to stop him. We will need to make necessary in-game adjustments to be able to move the ball.” -- Plainfield North coach Tim Kane
Prediction: Plainfield North 55, Minooka 49
No. 4 Carmel (6-0) at Marian Catholic (5-1) on Friday
The story: Carmel faces another difficult test as it travels to face Marian Catholic in the East Suburban Catholic matchup. Carmel is undefeated with a combination of strong offense and defense. The Corsairs lead the conference with 243 points scored and 78 points allowed. Marian Catholic enters the game on a five-game winning streak after losing to Homewood-Flossmoor in Week 1. Spartans coach Dave Mattio has been pleased with his team’s effort, but said it has yet to put together a “signature” win, which he described as a “contest played with 48 minutes of intensity if all three phases of the game.”
Carmel player to watch: Running back Jordan Kos has been a nightmare for defenses for much of the season. He had 168 yards and two touchdowns last week.
Marian Catholic player to watch: Junior running back Jeruel Taylor has a big reason for the Spartans’ success. He had 221 yards in last week’s 31-27 win over Crete-Monee.
Quotes: “We need to run the ball well and prevent Marian from having big plays. We need to be sure their skilled backs do not have 20-yard-or-more plays. -- Carmel coach Andy Bitto
“Carmel plays with a great deal of energy and confidence. It is important for Marian Catholic to play with the same two attributes from the start of the contest. There have been a number of contests this year where the Spartans have shown a resiliency to come back from a deficit or to make big plays to change momentum of a contest.” -- Marian Catholic coach Dave Mattio
Prediction: Carmel 35, Marian Catholic 20
An elite group of 20 players have put themselves in the running for ESPNChicago.com High School Football Player of the Year award after five weeks of play.
As of right now, Wheaton Warrenville South quarterback Reilly O’Toole is leading the pack. Over the coming weeks, check back at ESPNChicago.com to see how that changes as this list will be updated weekly with additions and subtractions and ultimately trimmed down to one player with the announcement coming at the end of the season.
Coming off a junior season where he helped the Tigers to a Class 7A state championship, O’Toole has taken his game to another level this year. He has the ability to throw short and long and remains accurate either way for the No .1-ranked Tigers. He’s committed to Illinois.
Last week: Completed 11-of-18 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-13 win over Naperville North. Wheaton Warrenville South improved to 5-0.
Season: 57-of-83 passing for 1,082 yards, 15 touchdowns and one interception; two rushing touchdowns.
2. Vernon Hills senior wide receiver DaVaris Daniels
Daniels’ future may be at wide receiver, but he does everything at the high school level. He passes, runs, catches, returns kicks and defends for the undefeated Cougars. He’s the state’s highest-rated college football prospect and just recently committed to Notre Dame.
Last week: Rushed for 27 yards and one touchdown, caught four passes for 70 yards and one touchdown, completed one pass for 13 yards and intercepted one pass in a 34-0 win over Antioch. Vernon Hills improved to 5-0.
Season: 4-of-6 passing for 71 yards and one touchdown; 10 receptions for 277 yards and four touchdowns; 203 rushing yards and five touchdowns; one punt return touchdown; three interceptions and one defensive touchdown.
3. Plainfield North senior running back Kapri Bibbs
Bibbs has been one of the season’s biggest surprises. A mixture of power and speed, Bibbs has been nearly unstoppable. He’s put up massive numbers despite missing the season’s first game. He’s committed to Colorado State.
Last week: Rushed for 340 yards and four touchdowns on 28 carries in 28-0 win over Romeoville. Plainfield North improved to 4-1.
Season: Rushed for 1,169 yards and 19 touchdowns on 119 carries.
Lifka is the Brian Urlacher of Illinois high school football. A combination of strength and mobility, Lifka finds a way to be around the ball wherever it may be. Against Glenbard North earlier this season, he made 18 tackles. He’s committed to Boston College.
Last week: Made 11 tackles, including one for a loss, in a 41-13 loss to top-ranked Wheaton Warrenville South. Naperville North fell to 3-2.
Season: 66 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, three sacks, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery.
5. Elk Grove senior quarterback Nick Meyer
Few players mean as much to their team as Meyer does to Elk Grove. He does it in the air and on the ground as the Grenadiers’ quarterback, but he also is a starting defensive back. He rarely gets off the field, and his game doesn’t suffer for it. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Rushed for 144 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries and was 10-of-17 passing for 116 yards and one interception in a 23-7 win over Buffalo Grove. Elk Grove improved to 4-1.
Season: 76-of-132 passing for 986 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions; 603 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 81 carries.
6. Lake Zurich senior running back Jacob Brinlee
Brinlee is a threat to break one whenever he touches the ball. There’s no running back in the state that needs as few carries as he does to pile up yards. His vision puts him into that elite category. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Rushed for a school-record 281 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries in a 44-22 win over Libertyville. Lake Zurich improved to 5-0.
Season: 734 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 57 carries; one receiving touchdown.
7. Schaumburg senior running back Shepard Little
Little sat out last season, but he’s making up for it this year. The Saxons have become a state contender thanks to the speed and vision of Little. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Rushed for 174 yards and one touchdown on 29 carries and caught two passes for 24 yards in a 17-14 win over Fremd. Schaumburg improved to 4-1.
Season: 991 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 120 carries; 10 receptions for 183 yards and two touchdowns.
8. Simeon junior quarterback Robert Gregory
Gregory showed signs last season that he could be a star quarterback. He opened the 2010 season with a bang throwing for three touchdowns and running for three more in an upset win over Simeon. Ever since, he and the Wolverine have been on a roll. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Ran for 59 yards and three touchdowns and completed 1-of-8 passes for 10 yards in a 42-0 win over Curie. Simeon improved to 5-0.
Season: 34-of-61 passing for 530 yards and seven touchdowns; 497 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
Akui made a push for the Player of the Year award as a junior after rushing for 1,870 yards and 31 touchdowns. He did all that despite suffering a couple of injuries. Also a state wrestling champion, Akui can run with power and speed despite his 5-6, 195-pound frame. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Rushed for 146 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-21 win over Bishop McNamara. St. Rita improved to 5-0.
Season: 652 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 132 carries.
10. Joliet Catholic senior running back Josh Ferguson
Ferguson has all eyes on him much like Wheaton Warrenville South’s Reilly O’Toole because he’s committed to Illinois. Ferguson has a knack for finding a hole and getting to the outside. He’s already broken a handful of runs this season.
Last week: Rushed for 243 yards and four touchdowns in a 57-0 win over Nazareth. Joliet Catholic improved to 4-1.
Season: 594 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 57 carries.
11. Wheaton North senior quarterback Reece Butler
Butler was an emergency quarterback for Wheaton North last year and steadily improved while leading the Falcons on an unlikely playoff run. This season, he’s emerged as one of the state’s top quarterbacks. He excels because he knows his strengths and weaknesses. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Completed 11-of-18 passes for 153 yards and rushed for 82 yards and one touchdown in a 21-13 win over West Aurora. Wheaton North improved to 5-0.
Season: 86-of-116 passing for 1,076 yards, 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions; 208 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
12. Glenbard West senior running back Nick Burrello
Opponents have to account for Nick Burrello in so many ways. He’s equally as good of a running back, wide receiver and kicker returner. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Caught a 51-yard touchdown pass and returned a punt for a 60-yard touchdown in a 41-15 win over Proviso West. Glenbard West improved to 5-0.
Season: 542 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 58 carries; 12 receptions for 284 yards and one touchdown; 562 punt and kick return yards and two touchdowns.
13. Wheaton Warrenville South senior wide receiver Titus Davis
Davis has become one of the state’s top wide receivers after barely playing a season ago. With added confidence this season, Davis has become quarterback Reilly O’Toole’s favorite long-ball target. The two have hooked up for six touchdowns of 40-plus yards. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Caught four passes for 86 yards and one touchdown in a 41-13 win over Naperville North. Wheaton Warrenville South improved to 5-0.
Season: 20 receptions for 507 yards and nine touchdowns.
14. Carmel junior running back Jordan Kos
Kos has had to share carries with Carmel’s other running backs for most of the season, but he has especially stepped up the last few weeks in the team’s narrow victories over Joliet Catholic and Marist. Kos has breakaway speed and has torched defenses with it this season. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Rushed for 213 yards and one touchdown in a 20-16 win over Marist. Carmel improved to 5-0.
Season: 674 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 76 carries.
15. Barrington junior running back Chase Murdock
Murdock is the type of back that just wears down defenses. Barrington gives him the ball time after time, and he picks up yards time after time. Murdock, who is 6-1 and 205 pounds, is uncommitted.
Last week: Rushed for 217 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries in a 38-21 win over Conant. Barrington improved to 5-0.
Season: 740 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 132 carries.
16. Stevenson senior running back Joe Cassata
Cassata has taken the lead in Stevenson’s running game. Also a linebacker, Cassata, who is 5-11 and 200 pounds, is a combination of speed and power. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries in a 41-20 win over Lake Forest. Stevenson improved to 5-0.
Season: 594 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 69 carries; six receptions for 84 yards and one touchdown.
No. 17 Crystal Lake South senior quarterback Drew Ormseth
Ormseth entered the season with high expectations and has lived up to them. Ormseth has shown off his ability to pass and run while helping the Gators to an undefeated record. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Completed 5-of-8 passes for 156 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions and rushed for one touchdown in a 40-0 win over Dundee-Crown. Crystal Lake South improved to 5-0.
Season: 27-of-52 passing for 604 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception; 312 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
18. Mount Carmel senior running back Michael Banks
Banks has bounced around positions at Mount Carmel, but now has found a home at running back. With incredible speed, Banks is a defensive nightmare whenever he tries to get outside. He missed the Caravan’s last game. He is uncommitted.
Last week: Sat out a 35-14 win over De La Salle due to an injury. Mount Carmel improved to 4-1.
Season: 527 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 35 carries.
19. Loyola junior quarterback Malcolm Weaver
Weaver stepped in Loyola’s quarterback position this season and has taken off with it. He’s thrown for 200-plus yards in four games and has the Ramblers again competing for the Catholic League title. He’s uncommitted.
Last week: Completed 14-of-20 passes for 216 touchdowns and four touchdowns in a 35-0 win over St. Ignatius. Loyola improved to 4-1.
Season: 66-of-121 passing for 992 yards and 14 touchdowns.
20. Thornridge senior running back Mik’ail McCall
Thornridge isn’t having the season it hoped, but McCall is. McCall has shown game after game why he’s headed to play for Michigan State next season.
Last week: Rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-19 loss to Bradley. Thornridge fell to 2-3.
Season: 791 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.