In anticipation of Saturday's semifinal round of the IHSA state playoffs, here are some difference-makers on each team in Class 8A through Class 5A. In some cases these are high-profile names, while others are just key players you can't ignore come game day.
Maine South running back Fotis Kokosioulis: Kokosioulis, who is verbally committed to Northern Illinois, has been a mainstay in the Hawks offense for the past three season. Kokosioulis was held in check in the Hawks' Week 2 loss to Lincoln-Way East. I fully expect Maine South to find ways to get Kokosioulis much more involved in this rematch.
Lincoln-Way East quarterback Brendan Morrissey: Morrissey, a converted running back, has been one of the most consistent players on the Griffins this season. Morrissey, a high-honors student, is a dangerous runner who has also been very efficient when asked to throw the football this season.
Loyola Academy lineman Marty Geary: Geary, who started the season strictly as a defensive linemen for the Ramblers, has now added playing on the Loyola offensive line in the postseason due to various injuries. Geary has been an impact player on the defensive line all season and is huge for the Loyola offense to slide him over when needed on the offensive line.
Edwardsville quarterback Kendall Abdur-Rahman: Abdur-Rahman is the key to the Tigers offense and has had a big-time season. Abdur-Rahman has exceptional speed and quickness, and his open-field running ability is top notch.
Benet Academy linebacker Devin Petersen: Petersen is one of the leaders of the Redwings defense this season, a defense that has limited playoff opponents to just over a touchdown a game. Petersen, who has 50 solo tackles and counting, is a big-time finisher and tone-setter for the Redwings.
Batavia quarterback Riley Cooper: Cooper, who split playing time as a junior in 2016, has taken full advantage of his senior season and has provided a passing threat to go along with an already solid Bulldogs run game. Cooper, who has thrown for 1,885 yards and 24 touchdowns this season, will be asked again to step up big against Benet Academy.
Mount Carmel lineman Jeremy Cooper: Cooper, who is verbally committed to Cincinnati, is a rare two-way starter for the Caravan. Cooper is a force on both sides of the football and must be accounted for in any game plan.
Lake Zurich running back/linebacker Joey Stutzman: Stutzman is a speedy, 110-percent effort guy who just never slows down on either side of the football. Stutzman is a great mix of speed and power carrying the football for the Bears offense and is a sure tackler and defender for the Lake Zurich defense.
Prairie Ridge lineman Jeff Jenkins: Jenkins, an Iowa commit, has played both ways all season long. Jenkins is key upfront in opening holes for the Wolves' running game while also acting as a run-stuffer on the Wolves' defensive line.
Hoffman Estates wide receiver/linebacker Jaylan Alexander: Alexander, a Purdue commit, is a rare athlete who has the speed to play receiver and has the size, frame and strength to play linebacker, as well. Alexander, who is also one of the Hawks' senior leaders, seems to always be around the football whenever a big play is needed.
Nazareth Academy running back/defensive back Devin Blakely: Blakely, who is one of several underclassmen who is drawing Power Five recruiting looks, has been key on both sides of the football. Blakely has terrific speed and quickness and also has good strength and toughness as an inside-the-tackles runner while also being a lock-down defender.
Providence Catholic running back De'Shon Gavin: Gavin, a Western Illinois commit who played defensive back a season ago, made the adjustment to running back quite well this fall. Gavin has good speed and power and has been a reliable, consistent 100-yard rusher for the Celtics offense.
Phillips running back/linebacker Craig Elmore: Elmore, who started last season at linebacker and some running back, has taken on full-time duty at both positions this fall. Elmore is a gritty, hard-nosed inside power back while also being one of several top-notch hitters on the Wildcats defense.
Sterling lineman Tyler Willman: Willman, who is also slated to play baseball in college, is the lifeblood on both lines for the Golden Warriors. Willman has terrific speed and athleticism and will be asked to lead the Warriors again on Saturday.
Dunlap tight end/linebacker Charlie Mangieri: Mangieri, who is verbally committed to Northwestern, has been key for the Eagles over the past few seasons. Mangieri has been a devastating blocker on the offensive side of the football while also a leader on the top-notch Dunlap defense.
Washington running back Sam Walters: The Panthers feature several backs in their power running game, but Walters is capable of breaking a big play on every touch. Walters, who also plays defensive back for Washington, will be needed in a big way on Saturday.