Preps Talk

Every team's biggest difference-maker in the semifinal round of the IHSA football playoffs

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Every team's biggest difference-maker in the semifinal round of the IHSA football playoffs

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.

Class 8A

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.

Class 7A

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.

Class 6A

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.

Class 5A

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.

Five unranked boys basketball teams to watch for

Five unranked boys basketball teams to watch for

The first week of the preseason Preps Power Rankings is always difficult to assess. There are plenty of teams who just missed the cut of the initial top 25. Below are a group of talented teams who should do enough to make their way into the Power Rankings at some point during the season.

Most of these teams have experience and star power, so watch for them in the next few weeks to see if they have strong starts to the season. 

DePaul Prep -- The Rams remain one of the major threats in the Catholic League this season as they return plenty of talent from a sectional finals team. Junior guard Perry Cowan and junior big man Pavle Pantovic make up a very solid one-two punch and sophomore guard Lance Mosley had some flashes of strong play during the summer. Seniors Spencer Cody and Anthony Papaioanou are steady contributors as well. The move up to Class 3A will be something to watch for with this team. Since the local Class 2A draw features Orr and Uplift, DePaul Prep might actually have an easier state tournament draw in the higher class.

St. Joseph -- There isn't one true star for the Chargers this season. Head coach Gene Pingatore has a lot of balance and experience but finding a go-to player could be the difference for St. Joseph this season. Senior Ahmad Muhammad will be asked to do a lot with the ball. Other returning seniors like Jalen and Jordan Boyd and Joffari Brown also have plenty of varsity experience. Losing junior point guard Marquise Walker to Curie definitely hurts. But not many teams in the state have four seniors who have already played in Peoria.

Geneva -- It was tough to leave the Vikings out of the preseason Power Rankings as they once again look like a major factor in the Upstate Eight River this season. New head coach Scott Hennig, a former assistant at Geneva, takes over for Phil Ralston (Glenbrook South) as he inherits a solid group of talent. Junior point guard Jack McDonald is an All-Area threat after a standout sophomore season. Another junior, guard Mitch Mascari, was one of the area's best three-point shooters last season. And Geneva also returns plenty of size, including 6-foot-6 senior Will Courter and promising 6-foot-7 sophomore Nate Santos. With the right blend of size and perimeter firepower, Geneva is a team to keep an eye on.

St. Viator -- Making the leap up to Class 4A this season, the Lions return some talented players from a team that made a surprising postseason run last season. St. Viator returns a Division I prospect in talented junior forward Jeremiah Hernandez while senior forward Peter Lambesis is also back. Finding stability at point guard could be the key to this season for the Lions as they have to replace J.R. Cison, who transferred to Lake Zurich. If junior Trey Calvin can step up, then St. Viator shouldn't miss much of a beat. The Lions already started the season with a solid win over Libertyville.

New Trier -- The most intriguing part about New Trier this season is the size on the interior as two junior big men have college aspirations. Ciaran Brayboy, a 6-foot-9 big man and Spencer Boehm a 6-foot-7 forward create one of the area's more talented frontcourts for the Trevians. The frontcourt is a plus and the backcourt, a senior-laden group, is also better and more experienced than last season. New Trier should crack the top 25 at some point this season. 

The top players to watch during the IHSA State Football championships

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The top players to watch during the IHSA State Football championships

Below is a listing of several prospects and recruit names to watch this coming weekend for the IHSA State Football championships.

Class 1A

Tuscola

2018 OT Hunter Woodard (Oklahoma State) 6-foot-5, 285 pounds

2018 TE Cal Sementi 6-foot-6, 202 pounds

2019 QB Luke Sluder 6-foot-2, 195 pounds

2019 OL CJ Piczao 6-foot-3, 271 pounds

2019 OL/DL Brayden Vonlanken 6-foot-2, 244 pounds

Lena Winslow

2020 TE/DE Isaiah Bruce 6-foot-3, 238 pounds

2020 RB/LB Sean Ormistron 6-foot-0, 191 pounds

2019 TE/DE Parker Magee 6-foot-3, 206 pounds

2019 OL/DL Ian Kuehl 6-foot-2, 260 pounds

Class 2A

GCMS

2019 WR Ryland Holt 6-foot-4, 190 pounds

2019 S Lane Short 6-foot-2, 180 pounds

2019 QB/DB Nathan Garard 5-foot-11,185 pounds

Maroa Forsyth

2020 QB Ian Benner 6-foot-2, 165 pounds

2019 DL Lane Ohlemeyer 6-foot-1, 275 pounds

2019 WR Max Davenport 6-foot-1, 190 pounds

Class 3A

Immaculate Conception

2019 OL/DL Ricky Mysliwiec 6-foot-1, 275 pounds

2019 LB Khali Saunders 6-foot-4, 215 pounds

2019 WR Khalil Saunders 5-foot-11, 185 pounds

Pleasant Plains

2019 TE/LB Tristen Tewes 6-foot-3, 220 pounds

2019 OL Deven Burns 6-foot-3, 250 pounds

Class 4A

Morris

2018 OL Nathan Korte 6-foot-6, 298 pounds

2018 TE/DE Tyler Spiezio 6-foot-5, 210 pounds

2018 OL Nolan Feeney 6-foot-3, 282 pounds

2019 TE Nathan Little 6-foot-4, 259 pounds

Rochester

2018 QB Nik Baker 5-foot-9, 185 pounds

2018 OL/DL Sean Brewer 6-foot-4, 245 pounds

2018 OL/DL Clay Johnson 6-foot-1, 290 pounds

2018 DL Mike McNicholas 6-foot-1, 215 pounds

2018 DB Tyler Caruso 5-foot-9, 180 pounds

2018 RB Nick Capriotti 5-foot-11, 190 pounds

Class 5A

Phillips

2018 DT Queneil Morrisson (NIU commit)

2018 QB J'Bore Gibbs (South Dakota State commit)

2018 DE Terrance Taylor (Toledo commit)

2018 WR/S Fabian McCray (WMU/Toledo offers)

2019 WR/DB Joseph Thompson

2019 TE Jahleel Billingsley 

2019 DB/WR Joseph Thompson

2020 DB Robert Pledger 

Dunlap

2018 TE Charlie Mangieri (Northwestern commit) 6-foot-4, 230 pounds

2018 RB/LB Luke Bennyhoff 5-foot-10, 180 pounds

2018 WR/DB Isaac Guyton 6-foot-2, 170 pounds

2018 OL Broc Jockisch 6-foot-3, 280 pounds

2019 WR/DE Josiah Miamen 6-foot-4, 215 pounds

Class 6A

Prairie Ridge 

2018 QB Samson Evans (Iowa commit) 6-foot-1, 210 pounds

2018 OL Jeff Jenkins (Iowa commit) 6-foot-4, 280 pounds

2018 LB Joe Perhats 6-foot-3, 205 pounds

2018 LB Jacob Ommen 6-foot-1, 215 pounds

2018 OL Justin Grapenthin 6-foot-3, 250 pounds

2018 OL Jeffery Schultz 6-foot-6, 300 pounds

Nazareth Academy 

2018 DT Isaiah Lee (Iowa State commit) 6-foot-1, 290 pounds

2018 TE/LB Austin Reifsteck 6-foot-1, 210 pounds

2018 LB Wesley Lones 6-foot-2, 205 pounds

2019 RB/DB Devin Blakely 5-foot-9, 180 pounds

2019 WR/DB Diamond Evans 5-foot-10, 180 pounds

2019 WR/DB Michael Love 5-foot-10, 165 pounds

2019 DB Jermaine Baker 6-foot-2, 200 pounds

2019 WR David Ogelsby 5-foot-10, 182 pounds

Class 7A

Batavia

2018 OL Nolan Eike (Central Michigan commit) 6-foot-6, 260 pounds

2018 SS Michael Niemiec 6-foot-1, 190 pounds

2019 ILB Luke Weerts 6-foot-2, 230 pounds

2019 OLB Michael Jansey 6-foot-2, 210 pounds

2019 DE Ethan Towers 6-foot-5, 210 pounds

Lake Zurich

2018 QB Evan Lewandowski 6-foot-4, 215 pounds

2018 LB Jack Sanborn (Wisconsin commit) 6-foot-2, 220 pounds

2018 OL Ian Fitzgerald 6-foot-6, 300 pounds

2019 LB Lucas Dwyer 6-foot-2, 195 pounds

2019 DL Jackson Farsales 6-foot-3, 265 pounds

Class 8A

Loyola Academy 

2018 QB Quinn Boyle 6-foot-1, 180 pounds

2018 OL Charlie Gross (Fordham commit) 6-foot-5, 270 pounds

2018 TE Charlie Gilroy 6-foot-5, 225 pounds 

2018 DL Marty Geary 6-foot-2, 265 pounds

2018 DE John McMahon 6-foot-3, 245 pounds

2019 LB Armoni Dixon 6-foot-3, 220 pounds

2019 S Jacob Gonzales 6-foot-1, 175 pounds

2019 WR Noah Jones 6-foot-2, 195 pounds

Lincoln-Way East

2018 DL Devin O'Rourke (Northwestern commit) 6-foot-6, 250 pounds

2018 TE/LS Turner Pallissard (Iowa PWO) 6-foot-2, 220 pounds

2018 DT Jayden Hacha 6-foot-0, 250 pounds

2018 WR Shane Pedersen 6-foot-4, 185 pounds

2018 LB Declan Carr 6-foot-1, 200 pounds

2020 WR AJ Henning 5-foot-10, 170 pounds

2019 OL Dane Eggert 6-foot-3, 265 pounds