Jesse Balluff, Kaneland
If the best thing about juniors is they grow into seniors, one of the best things about 5-foot-10, 190-pound Jesse Balluff is he's got another season at Kaneland. Invited for visits to Notre Dame and Penn State with interest from Missouri and Northern Illinois, Balluff is a two-time all-Northern Illinois Big 12 East running back who this fall gained 958 yards with 13 touchdowns. He also caught 14 passes for 245 yards and 3 touchdowns. At midseason Balluff began starting at safety, adding 31 tackles, a forced fumble and an interception. Balluff was Coaches Association Class 5A Academic All-State and honorable-mention All-State on the field. "He just played hard no matter where we put him," said coach Tom Fedderly.
Chad Beebe, Aurora Christian
We can only guess what numbers the 5-foot-9, 160-pound receiver would have compiled had he not missed five games with a broken arm. The Coaches Association Class 3A All-State pick set Aurora Christian records for catches in a game (16), season (65) and career (156), along with records for touchdown catches in a game (4) and career receiving yards (2,475). Selecting Northern Illinois from eight scholarship offers, the three-year starter earned Academic All-State and all-Suburban Christian Blue honors. Unequaled at creating separation from coverage using explosive power out of cuts in precise routes, Beebe caught passes in traffic and could not be handled one-on-one. "He faced adversity as well as I've ever seen in a young man," said his father, Eagles coach Don Beebe.
Joel Bouagnon, Aurora Christian
When the 6-foot-2, 226-pounder ran the football he often looked like a man among boys. "He hits objects and they move," said Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe. Bouagnon transferred to Aurora Christian from Burlington Central off a 2011 honorable-mention all-state honor and added all-Suburban Christian Blue honors. Unveiling his running ability for the Eagles with 207 yards against St. Francis, Bouagnon ran for 208 against Winnebago and finished with 1,475 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns, 2 in the Class 3A title win. At middle linebacker Bouagnon made a team-high 133 tackles with 11.5 for loss, 3 interceptions and 2 defensive touchdowns. He's headed to Northern Illinois. Though Beebe said Bouagnon's greatest attribute is humility, the coach noted: "There were some kids that were flat-out scared of him."
Blake Bradford, Kaneland
Listed as a linebacker, Blake Bradford used his combination of intelligence, toughness and tackling ability to play on the outside as a strong safety. He finished second to Gary Koehring on Kaneland in tackles, with 82, and made 12 tackles for loss with a sack and 3 fumble recoveries. A two-time all-conference selection in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East, the physical senior excelled in making defensive tackles in space. And when the tough 5-foot-10, 185-pounder was asked to jam a receiver on the line, that receiver was truly jammed. A coach on the field, Knights coach Tom Fedderly said Bradford was among the smartest players he's had. Fedderly said: "He knew his stuff and he knew what everybody else was supposed to do, too."
Sam Breen, Marmion
This 5-foot-10, 160-pound junior did not even make Marmion coach Dan Thorpe's preseason list of "top newcomers." By the time the season was over, however, the linebacker led the Cadets in tackles with 64. He played strong safety as a freshman and sophomore and filled the linebacker spot due to injury because, as Thorpe said, "we had to move someone aggressive and fearless to play inside." Voted by teammates as Marmion's outstanding defensive player and most valuable defensive back/linebacker, Breen made 2 interceptions, 4 tackles for loss, knocked down 3 passes, recovered a fumble and made 1 sack. He did it with instinct, toughness and certainly not size. "He's not big, he just gets you to the ground," Thorpe said.
Connor Chapman, Geneva
When Geneva needed a tough yard or two, the play was called to follow this 6-foot-4, 260-pound senior right tackle. The three-year starting offensive lineman was voted the Vikings' most valuable offensive lineman and earned his second straight all-Upstate Eight River honor. Chapman improved in the mental aspect of the game, and was the rare right tackle who made the assignment calls at the line of scrimmage. He picked up blocks on the second and third levels and blocked to "the echo of the whistle," Vikings coach Rob Wicinski said. Colleges are interested in this go-to- lineman with agility and room to grow. "You can't teach size and you can't teach feet, and he's got both of those," Wicinski said.
Micah Coffey, Batavia
This 6-foot-2, 185-pound junior won a preseason quarterback competition but it was clear from Week 1 -- when he completed 21 of 32 passes for 301 yards and 4 touchdowns, and ran for a score against Class 8A runner-up Glenbard North -- he had starting moxie and talent. All-Conference in the Upstate Eight River and 7A Academic All-State, the selfless Coffey smashed expectations executing Batavia's intricate offense. He was voted one of Batavia's 2013 captains after completing 134 of 225 passes (60 percent) for 1,732 yards and 18 touchdowns with just 5 interceptions. Coffey also ran for 152 yards and 3 TDs. "I'd argue going into next season he is one of the best quarterbacks in the state of Illinois," said Batavia coach Dennis Piron.
Reece Conroyd, St. Charles North
According to St. Charles North's football website this 5-foot-11, 200-pound junior linebacker will enter 2013 only 27 tackles away from establishing a program record. All-Conference in the Upstate Eight River in his second year as a starter, Conroyd's 131 tackles this season were 11 off the North Stars' season mark; he made 101 as a sophomore. St. Charles North's defensive MVP and "Hard Hat" winner for toughness, Conroyd used honor-roll intelligence and film study to know where he had to be. He made 14 tackles in a half against Elgin and in a goal-line stand against Geneva made "probably the biggest tackle of the year," Mark Gould called. "If he got blocked once," Gould said, "he made sure it wasn't going to happen again."
Bobby Hess, Geneva
It's kind of hard to believe Vikings tailback Bobby Hess earned only a Coaches Association Class 7A honorable-mention all-state nod. The 5-foot-10 senior carried the ball 213 times for 1,496 yards and 22 touchdowns and added 2 more TDs on a 93-yard kickoff return against St. Charles East and a 60-yard catch against Metea Valley -- a game in which he ran for 250 yards and 4 TDs. The Academic All-State honoree exceeded 200 yards rushing three times and scored 144 points, over half Geneva's total. Using 4.48 speed, Geneva's MVP and all-Upstate Eight River selection chose his hole, exploded through it and could pack a wallop. "He's 170 pounds. You might not think of him as a physical back," Wicinski said, "but he finished his runs."
Joe Hosheit, St. Charles East
St. Charles East coach Mike Fields said the same thing every week: "We go as Joe goes." A Northwestern baseball recruit, Hoscheit started for a third year at linebacker and second season at fullback, earning team MVP and a Black-and-Orange Pride award, the latter for a third straight year. The 6-foot, 215-pound senior made 94 tackles with 5 sacks, and ran for 318 yards and 9 touchdowns, adding 12 catches for 219 yards and a touchdown. This team player -- respectful of the game, his coaches, his teammates and opponents alike -- was a Coaches Association Class 7A All-State pick, the Upstate Eight River defensive MVP and Academic All-Conference. Fields said Hoscheit "will be referenced for years as to what a Fighting Saint should strive to be."
Marquise Jenkins, Batavia
Other Bulldogs had more tackles than this 6-foot-3, 215-pound defensive end, but none had greater impact. Ask Geneva -- Jenkins ended quarterback Daniel Santacaterina's season on clean hit in Week 3. The fastest athlete at West Aurora's summer lineman's challenge brought explosion and speed off edge to make 43 tackles with team-highs of 9.5 sacks and 14 quarterback hurries. A track athlete with the leaping ability to dunk a basketball, Jenkins had visits scheduled at Winona State and Illinois State. An All-Upstate Eight River selection who played on energy and passion, teams ran away from Jenkins and shortened their quarterback drops to counter his ability to get into the backfield. "We felt he was a bit of a game-changer," said Bulldogs coach Dennis Piron.
Gary Koehring, Kaneland
A 6-foot-1, 210-pound linebacker, already a two-year starter as a junior, Gary Koehring was the Knights defense's man in the middle. He didn't stay there long, though, though. Koehring read his keys to plug gaps in the interior line, shoot through the line to make one of his 17 tackles for loss or 2 sacks; or he could run people down from sideline to sideline. Kaneland coach Tom Fedderly remembers Koehring flying out to tackle DeKalb Division I recruit Dre Brown on a swing pass, and that was not uncommon. Koehring led the Knights with 100 tackles, was voted all-conference in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East, and earned Coaches Association Class 5A Academic All-State honor. "I thought Gary could do it all," Fedderly said.
Josh Kok, Aurora Christian
As Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe said after coaches unanimously voted the 6-foot-4, 258-pound senior as Suburban Christian Blue lineman of the year, "that's saying something." A Coaches Association Class 3A Academic All-State choice, Kok (pronounced "cook") started at both offensive and defensive tackle a second straight season. He made 70 tackles, 11 for loss, with 6 sacks. Offensively Kok manned the left side using great hands, quick feet, toughness and focus. Indiana State, South Dakota State and New Hampshire are among interested colleges. Beebe said the team co-captain's top game came in the title win over Unity, which also says something. "I can honestly say there wasn't one minute where I was disappointed in his play, his attitude or his work ethic," Beebe said.
Brandon Mayes, Aurora Christian
The captain of the 2012 Daily Herald Tri-Cities All-Area Football Team, this 5-foot-11, 182-pound senior is headed to Northern Illinois after three years as a starter for a back-to-back state champion. A team captain who moved to linebacker from safety and also started at tailback this season, Mayes ran for 863 yards, 7 touchdowns, and caught 30 passes for 451 yards, 3 touchdowns. The Coaches Association Class 3A All-State and two-time all-Suburban Christian Blue selection added 123 tackles with team highs of 17.5 tackles for loss and 7 pass breakups. In the title win over Unity, Mayes returned a kickoff 70 yards to set up his own touchdown run; and returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown. "This kid was all-everything," said Eagles coach Don Beebe.
Ryan McQuade, Aurora Christian
For a former outside linebacker who threw 4 passes as a junior backup quarterback, Ryan McQuade's senior year was phenomenal. He earned the quarterback role with his leadership, and despite top receiver Chad Beebe out injured 5 games the 6-foot-4, 196-pound senior still completed 200 of 347 passes (58 percent) for 3,008 yards. McQuade's perfect 28-yard touchdown pass in the Eagles' Class 3A title victory was his 43rd of the season, tying him for ninth all-time on Illinois High School Association records. Academic All-State and all-Suburban Christian Blue, McQuade was among Aurora Christian's toughest players mentally or physically. "I've never seen Ryan McQuade rattled from a mental standpoint," said coach Don Beebe. "He is a competitor."
Izzy Rosa, Aurora Central Catholic
This 6-foot-2, 215-pound two-way lineman became the first Charger in eight years to earn Coaches Association All-State honors. A three-year starter, at defensive tackle Rosa made 18 tackles in ACC's Class 3A playoff loss to St. Joseph-Ogden. Helping take the Chargers to the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, he made 86 tackles, a whopping 27 of them for loss, with 4.5 sacks. Offensively, Rosa's 24 pancake blocks helped set a school-record 2,624 rushing yards; he made 13 blocks that led to touchdowns. Rosa was the Suburban Christian Gold defensive player of the year and earned his teammates' vote as MVP and lineman of the year. Chargers coach Brian Casey said: "Even the guys on the chains turned and said, 'That guy's a beast.'"
Anthony Scaccia, Batavia
Batavia coach Dennis Piron pulled out a Barry Sanders comparison in regards to this 5-foot-7, 150-pound running back. Scaccia stopped, started, reversed field, dipped, spun and jitterbugged his way to 1,279 yards and 11 touchdowns. He kept the legs moving for 8.3 yards a carry and also came out of the backfield for 24 receptions, 249 yards and a touchdown. Against Plainfield East he ran for 183 yards with 7 catches for 109 yards receiving. Scaccia was an all-Upstate Eight River pick and teammates voted him their offensive MVP, which looks even better considering he's a junior. Unable to be tackled one-on-one, Scaccia's shiftiness inspired awe. "In film sessions you'd think we were watching a Fourth of July fireworks show," Piron said.
Zach Strittmatter, Batavia
As smooth off the field as on it, the 6-foot-4, 195-pound receiver is No. 1 academically in Batavia's senior class, a Coaches Association Class 7A All-State pick as well as Academic All-State. Strittmatter's 13 touchdown receptions this season set a program record. A three-year starter, he finished the year with 52 catches for 798 yards and earned the Upstate Eight River coaches' vote as offensive MVP in his second season as an all-conference selection. He's being recruited by Ivy League, Patriot League and Mid-American Conference colleges. A team captain and three-sport athlete, Strittmatter excelled against whatever defensive ploy opponents tried -- and they really tried. "He was always the point of emphasis for your defense," said Bulldogs coach Dennis Piron.
Zach Theis, Kaneland
In all the years Tom Fedderly has been either head coach or an assistant at Kaneland, an offensive lineman has never been named the league's most valuable offensive player -- until this season when 6-foot-3, 280-pound Zach Theis won the award in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East. The left tackle and two-year starting lineman was named to the Coaches Association Class 5A All-State Team and has college interest from Northern Illinois and Eastern Illinois, among others. He graded out at 93 percent execution on the season and made more than 50 pancake blocks, 14 of them against Rochelle. Theis could pass block, run block and had tenacity and a little nasty edge to him required to polish people off. "He was a mauler," Fedderly said.
"The epitome of what we need," West Aurora coach Nate Eimer said about this 6-foot-1, 210-pound middle linebacker. A returning starter, the all-DuPage Valley selection bulked up from 180 pounds over the offseason, the better to fill holes for team highs of 67 tackles and 9 tackles for loss. Voted by teammates as the Blackhawks' MVP and a three-time captain, Williams returned an interception 21 yards for a touchdown against West Chicago and made 12 tackles against both the Wildcats and St. Charles East. Defensive coordinator Tony Melchiori, 18 years in the program, called Williams one of the best linebackers he's had. Great work ethic, great practice player. "He's my favorite kid I've coached," Eimer said. "He just brought it every day."
2012 Football All-Area roster
Player School Pos. Yr.
Jesse Balluff Kaneland RB-DB Jr.
Chad Beebe Aurora Christian WR Sr.
Joel Bouagnon Aurora Christian RB-LB Sr.
Blake Bradford Kaneland LB Sr.
Sam Breen Marmion LB Jr.
Connor Chapman Geneva OL Sr.
Micah Coffey Batavia QB Jr.
Reece Conroyd St. Charles North LB Jr.
Bobby Hess Geneva RB Sr.
Joe Hoscheit St. Charles East RB-LB Sr.
Marquise Jenkins Batavia DL Sr.
Gary Koehring Kaneland LB Jr.
Josh Kok Aurora Christian OL-DL Sr.
Brandon Mayes Aurora Christian RB-LB Sr.
Ryan McQuade Aurora Christian QB Sr.
Izzy Rosa Aurora Central OL-DL Sr.
Anthony Scaccia Batavia RB Jr.
Zach Strittmatter Batavia WR Sr.
Zach Theis Kaneland OL Sr.
Matt Williams West Aurora LB Sr.
Steven Amoni (Aurora Central, Sr., RB), Brannon Barry (St. Charles East, Jr., WR), Drew David (Kaneland, Jr., QB), George Edlund (St. Charles North, Sr., RB), Colin Griffin (Geneva, Sr., LB), Adam Hunger (Batavia, Sr., OL), Zack Martinelli (Kaneland, Sr., WR), Andrew Szyman (St. Charles East, Sr., DL), Mickey Watson (Batavia, Sr., LB), Cory Windle (Aurora Christian, Sr., WR).
Steve Belovich (Aurora Central, Sr., LB), Robbie Bowman (Batavia, Sr., WR-DB), Kyle Brown (Geneva, Jr., WR), Michael Candre (St. Charles East, Jr., LB), Cole Childs (West Aurora, Sr., WR), Joe Cisneros (Aurora Central, Sr., OL), Alec Datoli (St. Charles North, Sr., LB), Justin Diddell (Kaneland, J, DL), Cody Ekstrom (Aurora Central, Jr., LB), Charlie Faunce (Marmion, Sr., QB-DB), Mike Gates (Batavia, Sr., DL), Chase Gianacakos (St. Charles North, Jr., OL), Jordan Glasgow (Marmion, So., RB), Kory Harner (Kaneland, Sr., DB), Quintez Jones (West Aurora, Jr., QB), Paul Larson (Geneva, Sr., DL), Ryan Lawrence (Kaneland, Sr., LB), Ben Link (Batavia, Sr., OL), Jake McCarthy (Aurora Central, Sr., TE-DL), Nick McCullough (St. Charles North, Sr., DB), Mitch Munroe (St. Charles East, Jr., DB), Cody Murphy (Geneva, Sr., LB), Tyler Nelson (Aurora Central, Sr., DB), Wes Pasholk (St. Charles North, Sr., OL-DL), Jaumaureo Phillips (Kaneland, Jr., DL), Cullin Rokos (Batavia, Sr., LB), Booker Ross (West Aurora, Sr., RB), Jake Ruddy (Marmion, Sr., RB-DB), Anthony Sciarrino (St. Charles East, Sr., DB), Peter Shares (Marmion, Sr., OL), Nick Sharp (Kaneland, Sr., OL), Ben Smith (St. Charles East, Jr., OL), Matt Smith (Marmion, Sr., OL-DL), Alex Snyder (Kaneland, Jr., OL-DL), Ryan Suttle (Aurora Christian, Sr., TE-LB), Anthony Thielk (Batavia, Jr., RB-LB), Spencer Thomas (West Aurora, Sr., TE-LB), Sebastian Vermaas (Batavia, Sr., OL), Jonah Walker (Aurora Christian, Jr., OL-DL), Trevon Williams (West Aurora, Sr., DL).
Aurora Central, Batavia, Kaneland
Teams to watch in 2013
Aurora Christian, Batavia, Kaneland, St. Charles North
-- All-area selections and capsules by Dave Oberhelman