The upcoming IHSA state semifinal games will feature several players I have under serious consideration for Player of the Year in Illinois.
I've been naming a Player of the Year (in one form or another) for nearly 20 years and this year I see a handful of names who have risen towards the top of the list.
Libertyville QB Riley Lees, who is committed to Northwestern as a wide receiver, has been impressive and—at times—as dominating as any player in this state. Lees has rushed for 2,156 yards and 29 touchdowns while also passing for 1,663 yards and 26 touchdowns with just six interceptions. While the numbers are extremely impressive, I've never been a real numbers guy. Lees makes it look easy when its anything from easy. He has a quiet self confidence that you see in the great ones.
Or how about Glenbard West senior RB Sam Brodner? The Vanderbilt commit, who has rushed for 1,332 yards and 40 touchdowns, doesn't have overwhelming stats . But don't tell me that after seeing Sam Brodner take a pitch, turn the corner and run past (or run over) oncoming defenders time and time again that he's not worthy of Player of the Year status.
The same can be said for Nazareth Academy’s do-it-all senior Julian Love (Notre Dame). Love does a little bit of everything for the Roadrunners, including playing receiver, running back, defensive back and kickoff returner. He also performs in the school play (that's also the truth, FYI). The Truth: it seems like a perfect Player of the Year slogan to describe the importance of Julian Love. The overall stats aren't overwhelming. He’s just The Truth (trademark pending).
Others? Don’t tell me that Palatine QB Zach Oles (2,302 yards rushing, 20 TD; 2,063 yards passing, 19 TD) isn't in the hunt. And the same can be said of Marist QB Brendan Skalitzky who has thrown for 3,412 yards 36 passing TD while also adding a mere 893 yards in the ground with eight touchdowns. Skalitzky alone has put up more offense than half the teams in Illinois this season.
What about a few kids giving this quarterback position a "try" for the first time at the varsity level? Take Montini Catholic senior QB Justin Blake. So far, Blake has amassed over 2,300 yards of total offense. And in many cases, he’s played in barely over one half of football thanks to Montini’s success. Phillips senior QB Quayvon Skanes (UConn) decided to move over to quarterback after being a standout receiver last fall. Skanes under center has been as impressive as anyone in Illinois so far this season.
And what about this Evans kid out of Prairie Ridge? It seems this sophomore Samson Evans has a bit more speed than his older offensive linemen brother (Shane Evans/NIU) is also approaching over 3,000 yards of total offense this season for the Wolves. Not too shabby for a sophomore.
And can we just award a lifetime achievement award now to Cary Grove junior FB/LB Ty Pennington? He’s amassed 1,255 yards 21 touchdowns this season—and it seems like he has played for the Trojans since the mid 2000s.
Hinsdale South? The Hornets can share the award between senior QB Sean McCormack and senior RB Marcus Curry, because I don't need stats to tell me the value both kids have for the team. I've seen it up close myself.
Crete-Monee? Take senior ATH Clint Radkovich. Quite simply, he is the best all around football player you most likely haven't heard about yet. But you should, especially if you are a Hinsdale South fan.
So how do you choose? I'm still looking and I have a feeling the next two weeks will play a large role in the final choice.