Preps Talk

Who are the candidates for Chicagoland HS football player of the year?

mccarthy-naz-1003.jpg
NBC Sports Chicago

Who are the candidates for Chicagoland HS football player of the year?

It's never easy to select just one standout player from across Chicagoland. Several players that are highly considered for this honor hail from teams that are still remaining in the IHSA state championship games. Here are my top Chicagoland Player of the Year candidates, in no particular order:

QB John Bean, Brother Rice: Bean, a senior signal caller, has been -easily- the biggest key in the Crusader's offense this season. Bean is a threat with the run (823 yards rushing 14 touchdowns) and the pass (124 of 205 passes for 1,854 yards 18 touchdowns). He has also been a calm and confident leader for a Crusaders team that has gone from a 2-7 season in 2017 to a 13-0 record this fall and a potential Class 8A state title this Saturday.

WR/DB/KR Michael Love, Nazareth Academy: Love, a senior who was committed this offseason to Bowling Green, has since reopened his recruiting process this season. Love has been a major impact performer for the Roadrunners and head coach Tim Racki in all three phases of the game. This season, Love has caught 54 passes for 1,087 yards and 18 touchdowns while also adding 289 yard rushing and four touchdowns. Love also has been an impact defensive back who, more often than not, is assigned the opposing team's top speed receiver. Love also is an electric kick and punt returner. 

QB JJ McCarthy, Nazareth Academy: McCarthy, a sophomore signal caller, was under some serious attention and scrutiny after adding FBS level scholarship offers as a freshman before even taking a snap at the varsity level. The attention only increased after several impressive offseason camp performances. This season, McCarthy has been a huge key for the Roadrunners having completed 161 of 219 passes for 3,088 yards and 35 touchdowns with just four interceptions all season. McCarthy has all the physical tools and maturity beyond his years, and at times it's scary to even think that McCarthy has two more full seasons of high school football still ahead of him.

QB Jack Baltz, Lincoln-Way East: Baltz, who is verbally committed to Illinois State, was able to spearhead the Griffins offense this season and took full advantage of his senior season after serving as a backup on the 2017 8A state title team. One of the best playoff games for Baltz was a five touchdown effort against St. Charles East. He passed for 244 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 45 yards and another score in a 49-0 victory.

QB/ATH Alante Brown, Simeon: Brown, who is verbally committed to Michigan State as a receiver, has been spectacular for the Wolverines and head coach Dante Culbreath. This fall, Brown amassed 3,436 yards of offense (2,347 yards passing and 1,089 yards rushing) and a combined 41 touchdowns. Brown can also play at any number of spots on the football field. He answered the call at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and defensive back in his varsity career at Simeon. 

S Jake Gonzales, Loyola Academy: Gonzales, who is verbally committed to Penn, is the quarterback of the Ramblers defense-- and has been for the past handful of seasons. Gonzales, who leads the Ramblers this season with 125 tackles and two interceptions, is always around the football. He is a big time finisher who also has exceptional football smarts and instincts. 

QB Payton Thorne, Naperville Central: Thorne, who is verbally committed to Western Michigan, wrapped up an outstanding career at Naperville Central after starting his first two years at Metea Valley. In 2018, Thorne completed 204 of 319 passes for 3,079 yards and 40 touchdowns in just 11 games. Thorne also ran for 4440 yards and four touchdowns and was easily one of the top overall quarterbacks in Chicagoland. 

RB Keenan Hailey, Joliet Catholic: Hailey, a senior who was expected to share the Hilltoppers' rushing game load with junior RB Kenyetta William. However, he wound up being the main runner for head coach Jake Jaworski after Williams went down with a season ending injury in the opening week. All Keenan Hailey has done this season is carry the ball 300 times for 2,541 yards and 32 touchdowns while drawing the attention of every opposing defense all season long.

QB Mike Markett, Marist: Markett, a multi-year starter for the Redhawks and head coach Ron Dawczak, posted some very impressive numbers in leading Marist to the Class 8A semifinals. Markett completed 151 of 248 passes for 2,032 yards and 17 touchdowns while also rushing for 944 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. Markett made huge strides  in both the passing game and on the ground. He became a much more confident runner in 2018. 

WR/S Tyler Nubin, St. Charles North: Nubin has solid overall numbers. But his value to the North Stars program over the past few seasons is immeasurable. Nubin, who is verbally committed to Minnesota, has run for 530 yards and 12 touchdowns while also catching 40 passes for 638 yards and nine touchdowns. Yet Nubin can -and will- play anywhere on the field. That includes under center as a Wildcat quarterback. His efforts in double overtime led North to huge win over Mount Carmel last Saturday, sending the North Stars to the 7A state title game for the first time in school history. 

OL/DL Addison West, Cary-Grove: Ok, it's rare that a linemen will draw any sort of serious "Player of the Year" accolades, That said, West is undoubtedly one of the biggest keys on both side of the football for the Trojans this season. West, a 6-foot-5, 275 pound senior who's verbally committed to Western Michigan, is a three year starter on coach Brad Seaburg's offensive line. He has also been starting on the defensive line this fall for the first time in his high school career. West has terrific size, strength and quickness along with possessing a non-stop motor. 

Basketball coaching legend Gene Pingatore dies

Basketball coaching legend Gene Pingatore dies

Legendary high school basketball coach Gene Pingatore—the winningest boys basketball coach in Illinois history—died on Wednesday night at the age of 83.

St. Joseph won two state championships (1999, 2015) under Pingatore, while also capturing six sectional championships during a high point from 1982 to 1988. During his tenure, Pingatore helped produce three McDonald’s All-Americans and led the Chargers to nine state appearances.

On February 11, 2017, Pingatore collected his 1,000th win—his overall record was 1035-383—and is still to this day the only Illinois high school basketball coach with over 900 wins. The legendary coach also helped guide some of the state’s greatest talents along their way to stellar careers. Among Pingatore’s star pupils are Indiana Hoosiers great Daryl Thomas, 2010 John R. Wooden Award winner Evan Turner and NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas.

He was also well known for his important role in the critically acclaimed “Hoop Dreams”, the 1994 documentary that followed high school athletes William Gates and Arthur Agee as they chased their dreams of being NBA players, while also dealing with the socio-economic difficulties of traveling from inner-city Chicago to Westchester, Illinois every day for school. According to the Sun-Times, Pingatore was coaching this past weekend at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout. 

In his 50 years of coaching at St. Joseph, Pingatore made an indelible mark on many lives and the St. Joseph community at-large.

Lincoln-Way East's AJ Henning commits to Michigan

aj-henning.jpg
NBC Sports Chicago

Lincoln-Way East's AJ Henning commits to Michigan

Lincoln-Way East 4 star ranked running back AJ Henning (5-foot-10, 183 pounds) today gave the University of Michigan his verbal commitment.

"At the end of the day Michigan was just the best overall for me," Henning said. "Michigan has stuck with me in this process for a long time including when I was injured and never backed off. Michigan also recruited me but also  got to know my family well which really made a strong impression on me."

Henning, who narrowed down his final list of schools to Michigan. Georgia, Notre Dame and Penn State new that Michigan was his school after his recent official visit. 

"When I made my official visit to Michigan is when I knew that I found my school. I was able to just get a great feel for the coaches and the guys on the team on my official visits. I just felt that I will be a great fit at Michigan socially, athletically, academically and that I really fit in well with the guys on the team. After my official visit I knew that Michigan was the place I needed to be."

Henning, who ended up selecting Michigan over scholarship offers from 33 FBS schools  is bit thrilled and relived to have announced his college choice.

"It's definitely a relief, but just being able to be recruited and offered scholarships from 33 different schools is a true blessing. I'm just glad I found a home in Michigan."