Crystal Lake South’s Michael Prokos can catch just about everything thrown his way.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s at his toes or in the sky,” Gators coach Rob Fontana said. “He’s going to go up and get it, or he’s going to go down to grab it. His catch radius is amazing. In front of him, behind him, he doesn’t drop footballs.”
Prokos, who was a Northwest Herald All-Area first-team selection last year, had four touchdowns and was second among receivers in the Fox Valley Conference with 56 catches for 916 yards.
Many of his grabs left players and coaches asking, ‘How did he do that?’
“I don’t know how many times last year when it was, ‘Oh, that one’s out of bounds,’ and there’s Michael diving full extension and bringing balls in that should have never had a chance [of being caught],” Fontana said. “He’s got a knack for reading defenses, where the holes are, when to sit in the hole, when to throttle up, when to throttle down.
“His ability to read the defense, along with his catch radius, he puts himself in position to be open on the field. He’s always adjusting to what the defense is doing to him.”
Prokos set the team’s single-season records in receiving yards and catches as a sophomore and would like to top them again in his junior year. This summer, he went to camps at North Central College, Lindenwood (Missouri), Northwestern and Iowa State.
The Gators’ top wideout said his favorite trip was to Northwestern.
“I got lots of reps there,” Prokos said. “I felt like those coaches cared the most, and that was big. Some coaches were only focused on the five-star [recruits], but they were coaching up everyone.”
Prokos ran track and field for the first time in the spring, showcasing his versatility as an athlete. He also will play on defense for the Gators at free safety, where he finished last season with 58 tackles, three interceptions and a forced fumble.
Fontana said Prokos should have no problem fitting in at the next level.
“He definitely has the abilities and skill set to play Division I football,” Fontana said. “Michael’s a grinder, and he’s going to work hard to be the best. Someone is going to get a real good player when they pull the trigger and get him on their campus.”
Joining Prokos at receiver is Cooper LePage, who had 446 yards on 26 catches last season. Seven of his catches went for a team-leading seven touchdowns. LePage is a standout basketball player for the Gators and recently committed to Division II Northern Michigan.
“Cooper is a warrior. That kid does not want to lose at anything he does,” Fontana said. “He brings that basketball skill of boxing guys out and putting himself in the best position to make a play on the ball.”
Prokos (6-foot, 180 pounds), LePage (6-1, 175), and Colton Hess (6-4, 189) give South plenty of size at the position. Brady Schroeder (6-3, 180), who is in competition for the quarterback job with Caden Casimino, gives the Gators another big body if needed.
Running back Nate Van Witzenburg, who ran for 1,182 yards and 18 touchdowns, is another threat in the passing game. The senior ended last year with 370 yards on 30 catches, along with three scores. Fontana said Van Witzenburg is one of the team’s smartest players and knows almost every position on the field.
“He wants the ball in his hands, he wants to be physical, he’s savvy with the ball and he does everything,” Fontana said. “He can run, he can catch, block and he can tackle. He’s another one that’s a diamond in the rough for schools that are looking.”
Fontana is happy to have Prokos, and the rest of the Gators’ skill players, on his side.
“We know he’s a guy that other teams have to plan around and know where he’s at,” Fontana said. “He’s a special player on both sides of the ball. He’s got a real high football IQ, he knows the game, and I’m glad he’s on our team.”