St. Francis QB Alessio Milivojevic capped off stellar three-year run, led team to Class 5A semifinals

Ball State recruit threw for 3,408 yards and 40 touchdowns

St. Francis' Alessio Milivojevic (11) is greeted in the end zone by fellow team mates after scoring a touchdown on a keeper against Morgan Park during a class 5A state quarterfinal football game at St. Francis High School in Wheaton on Saturday, Nov 11, 2023.

As a sophomore, St. Francis quarterback Alessio Milivojevic wasn’t sure how his high school football career would pan out.

After watching star quarterback Tommy Rittenhouse wrap up a three-year stat-filled career leading the program, Milivojevic was among the main candidates for the starting job for the fall 2021 season.

“I had been following Tommy around and seen his overall leadership and how he became a (star) quarterback,” Milivojevic said. “I played in the JV games in my freshman year, but by the end of the season, I threw a couple of touchdowns on varsity and played in a couple of games where we were leading. I learned under Tommy. It helped me acclimate and speed up my process. He helped me by telling me to relax and to keep grinding.”

Right before his sophomore season, Milivojevic started to get an inking he would be the varsity starter for the Spartans.

“It was a really exciting moment,” he said. “We had a couple of quarterbacks just battling it out. By the end of 7-on-7 in the summer, I was named the starter. I rolled from then. It felt really good. Obviously, I wasn’t going to doubt myself. I was excited about the opportunity.”

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Milivojevic, a Ball State recruit, did roll from there, stamping his name all over the program’s record books with a stunning three-year run.

Milivojevic, the 2023 Suburban Life Football Player of the Year, wrapped up a spectacular career by leading the Spartans to the Class 5A state semifinals. He shredded several elite defenses in his senior season, finishing with 3,408 yards and 40 touchdowns with only four interceptions. His passing efficiency was off the charts, completing 73% of his passes. He also rushed for 339 yards and nine touchdowns.

Milivojevic, the Chicago Catholic League Orange Division Offensive Player of the Year, pointed out motivation came in many forms, namely a tough schedule that included regular-season games against Downers Grove North, St. Laurence, Fenwick, Joliet Catholic, IC Catholic Prep, St. Rita and Nazareth.

“I think going to my senior year in the offseason I really took to the next level, working out as much as I can with my quarterback training,” Milivojevic said. “I knew going into the CCL a lot of people doubted us and thought we would go 5-4 or 4-5 and possibly not make the playoffs. We went on a run in the middle of the year, won eight games in a row against the toughest competition. I’m really proud of the team and resiliency we showed and how hard we fought.”

St. Francis' Alessio Milivojevic (11) looks for a receiver during a 2023 playoff game at Nazareth in La Grange Park. But by the time Milivojevic was in fifth grade, 7-on-7 had become a well-known answer for Illinois athletes to even the playing field with the rest of the country.

Milivojevic saved some of his best performances for the final minutes, leading inspiring comebacks against Joliet Catholic, IC Catholic and St. Rita.

St. Francis senior linebacker Dom Beres, who finished with 125 solo tackles this season, said Milivojevic possesses strong leadership skills to go with a clutch gene.

“In my opinion, Alessio is one of the most selfless players that I have ever had the opportunity to be on a team with,” Beres said. “He’s consistently working hard day in and day out for our team and responds to constant pressure.

“Seeing Alessio work hard all year in practice each day made me feel so confident in our team during crunch time. Alessio has incredible confidence and composure during those high-pressure moments, which occurred during most of our games this season. His hard work behind the scenes and constant dedication to our team is what I believe created his clutch gene.”

St. Francis coach Bob McMillen said Milivojevic’s numbers don’t tell the entire depth of his stunning senior season.

“Last year he was a very good quarterback, but he really took off with our new offense this year,” McMillen said. “We changed our whole offense and brought in a new coordinator and position coaches. Yet for him to come in and learn a completely different offense, one he knew for three years, and be able to learn a new offense and pick it up that fast and go from there and to have the year he had with his number, that’s amazing. We had a great run and played so many quality football teams.”

St. Francis' Alessio Milivojevic (11) sits back in the pocket and looks downfield against Morgan Park during a class 5A state quarterfinal football game at St. Francis High School in Wheaton on Saturday, Nov 11, 2023.

McMillen said Milivojevic, whose is part Serbian and Italian, is never fazed by high-pressure moments.

“He always wants the ball in his hands,” McMillen said. “He always wants to go back out there and makes his team better. He wants to go out there with the ball when the game is on the line. He’s an even-keeled guy, doesn’t get rattled and is a true competitor with the drive to be a great quarterback.”

Milivojevic said leading a team is something that comes natural for his personality. His physical traits – strong arm, ability to move in the pocket and avoid pressure and poise – make him an enticing recruit at the next level. He plans to enroll early at Ball State.

“I like the leadership aspect, just having the ball in your hands for every play,” he said. “There’s not a play you don’t touch the ball. I like having the control and leadership. Handling the pressure is hard at times. Hopefully, people will remember my play on the field but also in the classroom and being a good student and in the community. I’m excited about college. It’s tough going early and leaving my friends and family behind, but I’m excited to get an early opportunity to learn the playbook.”