Illinois High School Football News

Presenting The Times 2022 Football All-Area Team

Streator's Aneefy Ford (9) runs down Wilmington's Colin James (19) after a 38-yard run as heavy rain falls at Doug Dieken Stadium on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, in Streator.

As selected by The Times Sports staff, here is The Times 2022 Football All-Area Team, with representatives from Marquette, Seneca, Ottawa, Streator, Fieldcrest and Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland:

FIRST TEAM

Branden Aguirre

Branden Aguirre, Ottawa, RB/LB, sr.

Aguirre accounted for 92 yards of offense and two touchdowns this season, but it was as a blocker and on the defensive side where he truly made his presence felt, accounting for 62 tackles (33 solo), a quarterback sack, an interception and a team-best eight tackles for loss.

Brady Barla

Brady Barla, Seneca, OL/DL, sr.

The Fighting Irish offensive line was the not-so-secret secret to Seneca’s success, including an undefeated regular season and Vermilion Valley Football Alliance North championship. Barla, the team’s 5-7, 200-pound center, was key in that.

Vinny Battistelli

Vinny Battistelli, Marquette, RB/LB, sr.

Battistelli ran for 91 yards and a touchdown. It was his defensive work, however, that landed him on our First Team with 60 total tackles (22 solo) including a whopping 18 tackles for loss plus a pair of quarterback sacks.

Christian Benning

Christian Benning, Streator, QB/LB, Jr.

Benning broke John Benckendorf’s school record for career passing yards with a season still to go following a junior season in which he was 132 of 244 for 1,418 yards, 13 touchdown and nine interceptions. The Bulldogs leader also rushed for 329 yards and four TDs, while defensively collecting 41 tackles (17 solo) with two interceptions and five TFLs.

Tommy Durdan

Tommy Durdan, Marquette, RB/DB, sr.

Durdan was the home-run hitter in the powerful Crusaders rushing game, averaging 9.8 yards per carry on his way to a 1,076-yard season and a dozen rushing touchdowns. He also added 11 catches for 111 yards and a TD as well as 56 tackles (30 solo) and two fumble recoveries.

Braden Ellis

Braden Ellis, Seneca, RB/DB, sr.

On a Fighting Irish offense that liked to share the workload, Ellis still ran for 762 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging a gaudy 10.3 yards per carry. Defensively, he recorded 25 tackles (1 1/2 for loss) and a Times-area best six interceptions.

Aneefy Ford

Aneefy Ford, Streator, RB/WR/DB, sr.

The fastest man in the area led the Bulldogs in tackles with 53 (27 solo), had one pick-6, ran 71 times for 344 yards and five touchdowns, and hauled in 48 receptions for 577 yards and seven more TDs — including a 99-yard catch-and-run.

Alex Graham

Alex Graham, Marquette, QB/DB, sr.

Marquette’s wing-T offense was as balanced as its been in recent years, in large part due to the arm and decision-making of Graham. He finished 41 of 84 passing for 742 yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions, and rushed for 105 yards and seven more TDs.

Nathan Grant

Nathan Grant, Seneca, QB/DB, jr.

Seneca’s signal-caller was an effective passer (19 of 36, 417 yards, eight TDs, two INTs) when asked to throw it and a just as effective runner (943 yards, 8.7 avg., 12 TDs) leading the Fighting Irish’s throwback power-T offense. On defense, The Times Football Player of the Year recorded 2 1/2 TFLs and recovered six fumbles.

Asher Hamby

Asher Hamby, Seneca, RB/DB, jr.

Hamby led the Fighting Irish in total tackles (80) and solos (with an eye-popping 49), 6 1/2 of those for lost yardage. He also recovered five fumbles, while on offense rushing for 768 yards (9.8 per carry) and 11 touchdowns.

Gabe Hicks

Gabe Hicks, Seneca, OL/DL, sr.

Hicks was a force to be reckoned with on the Fighting Irish defensive line, allowing the Seneca linebacking corps to run free while collecting five solo tackles, two tackles for loss and a quarterback sack for himself.

Kysen Klinker

Kysen Klinker, Seneca, TE/LB, jr.

Klinker recorded 36 tackles (22 solo) on defense and hauled in a team-high nine receptions for 217 yards and four TDs. It was his blocking work as the sixth lineman, though, where he truly stood out and helped power the Seneca attack.

Ryder Miller

Ryder Miller, Ottawa, RB/DB, jr.

Miller was a true two-way star for this fall’s Pirates, leading the team in rushing (537 yards) and touchdowns (11), fourth on the team in receiving (six receptions for 167 yards) and second on the team in tackles (63, including 24 solo and 3 1/2 for loss).

Michael Mills

Michael Mills, Ottawa, OL/DL, jr.

The top lineman on an offensive line that powered the Pirates to the playoffs for the first time in a decade, the 6-1, 215-pound Mills was the cornerstone upon which the Ottawa attack was built.

Charlie Mullen

Charlie Mullen, Marquette, TE/LB, jr.

Mullen proved tough to stop on either side of the line of scrimmage. He caught nine passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns as a tight end, while defensively the 6-4, 180-pounder notched 50 tackles (27 solo), seven TFLs and a pair of interceptions.

Logan Nelson

Logan Nelson, Marquette, WR/LB, sr.

Nelson was the Crusaders’ leading receiver (nine catches for 282 yards and five touchdowns), second leading scorer (54 points scored), tertiary rusher (255 yards and four TDs), tied for second on the team in tackles for loss (13) and was first in quarterback sacks (seven).

Streator senior Sabby Nieto

Sabby Nieto, Streator OL/DL, sr.

Nieto was the cornerstone of the Streator lines and a big play machine at times, especially impressive on the defensive side where No. 70 despite an injury-hampered season recorded 10 solo tackles and recovered a fumble.

Chris Peura

Chris Peura, Seneca, OL/DL, jr.

A no-doubt-about-it all-conference and all-state selection, Seneca’s top offensive lineman was also a no-doubt Times All-Area Team selection after a dominating season for the 6-0, 220-pound guard and the Fighting Irish. For good measure, he added 48 tackles (27 solo) including 7 1/2 for loss, and 2 1/2 quarterback sacks.

Conner Price

Conner Price, Ottawa, WR/DB, sr.

On offense, Price hauled in a dozen receptions for 202 yards and a touchdown. On defense he was almost as prolific catching passes, as the shutdown corner believed to be Ottawa’s all-time interceptions leader brought in five more this past fall.

Ethan Price

Ethan Price, Marquette, OL/LB, sr.

Price was arguably the Crusaders’ most effective offensive lineman from his guard spot on a dynamic offense, while defensively he tied for the team lead in tackles (76, 31 solo), with 13 of those coming behind the line of scrimmage plus five additional sacks.

Jurnee Reed

Jurnee Reed, Marquette, RB/LB, sr.

Speaking of Marquette’s team leaders in tackles, Reed’s 76 (29 solo) tied Ethan Price and included eight for loss. The 12th-grade running back/linebacker was also second on the team in rushing with 720 yards on a team-high 143 carries for six touchdowns.

Levi Sheehan

Levi Sheehan, Ottawa, WR/DB, sr.

Sheehan finished up his high school career as the triple-crown career receiving leader at Ottawa High by adding during his senior campaign 34 receptions for 368 yards and six touchdowns. He also contributed a rushing TD and three interceptions.

Jesse Simpson

Jesse Simpson, FCW, RB/DB, sr.

Despite injuries slowing him down, Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland’s featured weapon ran for 716 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 7.5 yards per carry, added 203 yards receiving on 19 catches and added a trio of tackles for loss for the Falcons.

Matt Williamson

Matt Williamson, Streator, WR/DB, so.

Williamson came up to varsity and quickly became a featured secondary weapon opposite Aneefy Ford, finishing the season with 43 receptions for 481 yards and a pair of Streator touchdowns.

SECOND TEAM

Julian Alexander, Ottawa, RB/DB, so.

Jett Austin, Streator, OL/DL, sr.

Noah Barth, Marquette, OL/DL, sr.

Jeremiah Brown, Streator, WR/DB, sr.

Kesler Collins, FCW, OL/RB/LB, jr.

Matt Dillon, Seneca, OL/DL, jr.

Caden Eller, Marquette, WR/DB, sr.

Paxton Giertz, Seneca, RB/DB/K, so.

Matt Haerle, Ottawa, WR/DB, sr.

Cam Loomis, Ottawa, K/P, jr.

Eddie Lorton, Fieldcrest, RB/LB, so.

Charles Medrow, Ottawa, OL/DL, sr.

Anthony Mohr, Streator, WR/DB/KR, so.

Colby Mortenson, Ottawa, QB, jr.

Alex Perez, Ottawa, OL/DL, sr.

Lane Provance, Seneca, TE/DE, jr,

Payton Quaintance, FCW, RB/DB, jr.

Brady Ruestman, Fieldcrest, QB/DB/P, jr.

Trenton Topolski, Fieldcrest, TE/LB, sr.

Jase Torrez, FCW, OL/LB, sr.

Griffin Walker, Marquette, RB/DB, sr.

DJ White, Streator, RB/LB, sr.

Aiden Wood, Seneca, OL/DL, sr.

Collin Wright, Seneca, RB/LB, sr.