By Mark Gregory
When Maine South fell to eventual Class 8A state champions Lincoln-Way East in the state semifinals this season, it stopped the Hawks from defending its state title – this year in Huskie Stadium in DeKalb at Northern Illinois University.
For senior running back Fotis Kokosioulis, the loss only delayed him getting on Brigham Field by a few months.
The 5-foot-9, 173-pound running back has committed to play for Northern Illinois next season.
This year he put up 1,626 yards on 182 carries and 24 touchdowns and never fumbled the football.
He tacked on 31 receptions for 350 yards and five scores.
For his efforts, Kokosioulis is the 2017 Voyager Media Offensive Player of the Year.
“I looked at it as a compliment that teams tried to stop me,” Kokosioulis said. “It really helped us as a team if the opponent was trying to stop the run, it would open the passing game and then we could go back to the run. It was fun to be versatile and to be able to get the ball in the run game and pass game.”
He is an Illinois High School Football Coaches Association All-State selection for Class 8A, was the CSL South Offensive Player of the Year, is nominated for the Academic All-State team with a 3.54/4 GPA and is a candidate for the Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year.
For his career, Kokosioulis passed 2009 Voyager Media Player of the Year Matt Perez for school records with 3,952 yards rushing and 58 touchdowns as well as racking up 6,351 all-purpose yards and 73 total scores.
“(Perez) was awesome and we watched his highlights and to be able to pass him meant something a lot for me,” Kokosioulis said. “I couldn’t have had any of these records without my team. Not only did the line block for me, but the receivers blocked for me once I was past the line. I hope there is a kid out there watching me and trying to be as good or better than me – that would be great. Coach (David) Inserra talks all the time that we have to play for the people that came before us, playing now and the ones that are going to come. So, it is cool if someone out there looks up to me and wants to pass me.”
Inserra said it was not only his talent that helped Kokosioulis get to where he got in the program record books.
“He not only holds all the records, but he may hold the record for showing up and giving 100 percent every single day,” said Inserra. “He is the toughest competitor and never took a short cut and that is why he has those records. He has never in his life taken a short cut and that says a lot about him and his family.
“At his size, he takes a pounding and he has never missed a day of practice and never missed a play and that is what I am most proud of Fotis for.”
Benet Academy advanced to the IHSA Class 7A state semifinal game for the second-straight season this year and after suffering injuries on the offensive side of the football all season, it was the defense that really stepped up and helped carry the Redwings.
The Benet defense allowed only 17.5 points per game this season, including five games holing teams to less than 14 points and a pair of shutouts – including a blanking of No. 1 seed Rockton Hononegah on the playoffs.
At the center of that defense was senior Devin Petersen, who posted 167 tackles on the season, including 54 solo tackles. He had 12 tackles for loss, two sacks, four forced fumbles and one interception.
For his efforts, Petersen is the 2017 Voyager Media Defensive Player of the Year.
“I consider him the heart and soul of our defense,” said Benet coach Pat New. “He is one of our hardest workers and we hate losing him because kids like that only come around one in a while. He has great football IQ, he loves the game and he is your prototypical middle linebacker.”
Like all team players, Petersen shined the light on his teammates for his success.
“I was very happy with how I played this year. My goal was to play better than I did last season and I think I accomplished that,” he said. “But all together, it was everyone and every single person helped. You can give the credit to certain people but everyone did their job and got us to where we are at.”
And while Benet fell short of the ultimate goal of playing in a state title game two years in a row, Petersen knows what being in the final four back to back seasons means.
“Coach New was talking and one of the things he said that hit me the most was that we left a legacy that is going to make Benet more well-known and we are happy with that,” he said. “We have to look back and be proud of what we have done.”
Petersen is still looking at options for next season, but will play football on the college level.
The rest of the All-Area team members are:
Junior quarterback completed 130 of 228 pass attempts this season for 2,001 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Defensive end tallied 97 tackles, 26 solo and 25 tackles for loss. He posted 13 sacks, 15 hurries, forved four fumbles and intercepted one pass.
Offensively, he caught 19 passes for 272 yards and a team-best five touchdowns. On defense, he posted 48 total tackles with one interception. Also returned kicks.
“He is the QB of the defense,” said Minooka coach Terry McCombs. “He will be a scholarship player.”
Prime target in the Benet pass attack, he hauled in 44 passes for 710 yards and five touchdowns.
Favorite target of Aubry, the senior wide receiver hauled in 34 passes for 861 yards and 10 TDs.
The do-it-all junior was the Dons top player, never leaving the field. He played offense, defense and all special teams.
His bread and butter was as a running back, where he rushed for 1,217 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also had 23 catches for 305 yards four scores. Overall he posted 1,522 yards from scrimmage and 23 TDs.
Gavin was the MVP of the East Suburban Catholic Conference.
On defense, he posted 118 tackles, two sacks, 14 tackles for loss, one interception, forced one fumble and recovered two and scored one defensive TD.
On the offensive side of the ball, he had 30 Carries for 137 yards and four rushing touchdowns, along with nine catches for 112 yards and two scores.
“Tommy was our team captain and truly the center of the success we were able to have this past season,” said Central coach Jon Pereiro. “He is an incredible football player who plays with passion and toughness not seen often.”
He has a total of 76 tackles this season, 31 solo to go along with two interceptions, one forced fumble, one recovered and a pair of defensive scores.
“He is the inside linebacker on what I feel is the best defensive unit in the area and one of the best in my 48-year career,” said McCombs.
The junior carried the ball 161 times on the season for 942 yards and four touchdowns.
“He is a physical, downhill runner who punishes tacklers,” said JCA coach Jake Jaworski. “Also led the way for Ke’von (Johnson) as a lead blocker.”
Tallied 894 yards on 127 carries this season and caught 12 passes for 116 yards and 11 total touchdowns.
The three-year varsity player for the Hillmen, he was an ESCC All-Conference selection.
“Pound for pound, he is one of the toughest kids around,” Jaworski said. “He is a dynamic player in space.”
Junior center who paved the way for an explosive JCA running attack in the tough ESCC.
The two-year varsity player is an ESCC All-Conference selection.
“He was the captain of our offensive line from the center position,” Jaworski said. “He also contributed on the defensive line.”
Senior defensive lineman was as disruptive as they come in the state this season. He tallied 23 solo tackles on the season, to go with 24 assists and posted 22 tackles for loss. He had four sacks, six pass breakups, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and one blocked kick.
He was named to the IHSFCA Class 8A All-State team.
The Tigers’ version of the Swiss Army knife, McCarthy rushed 83 times for 554 yards and 10 touchdowns and caught 25 passes for 370 yards and four TDs on offense. On defense, he had 51 tackles, 4.5 for loss to go with four pass break ups and four interceptions. McCarthy also added one defensive and one special team’s touchdown.
Defensive end posted 58 tackles on the season, including 6.5 quarterback sacks and seven tackles for loss. He forced one fumble and recovered a pair this season to go with two blocked kicks and a defensive touchdown.
Senior quarterback completed 153 of 255 pass attempts for 2,197 yards and 18 touchdowns. He carried the ball 42 times for 354 yards and another score.
Cornerback tallied 23.5 total tackles, forced one fumble, had four pass break ups and blocked three kicks.
He also had three interceptions – all of which were returned for touchdowns of 36, 44 and 55 yards.
On offense he hauled in 28 passes for 366 yards and four TDs and added on a pair of rushing scores. On defense, contributed 99 total tackles, including 54 solo – both team highs. He had five pass break ups and forced a pair of fumbles.
The all-CSL senior completed 166-of-267 passes for 2,349 yards and 22 touchdowns against only eight interceptions. He carried the ball 49 times for 128 yards and seven more scores.
“He can make any throw and has to make many pre and post snap decisions in our high tempo, complex offense,” Inserra said.
Linebacker posted 91 total tackles, including 55 solo, to go with one sack, 18 tackles for loss and a pair of forced fumbles.
Carried the ball 129 for 1,049 yards and scored 12 rushing TDs on the season. Was one of only three area backs to surpass 1,000-yard mark and rushed for 421 yards in a game this season, good for 18th on the all-time single game list.
A ball hawk strong safety, he had nine interceptions on the season to go along with 86 tackles, including 26 solo. He posted six tackles for loss, two pass break-ups, two fumble recoveries and one defensive touchdown. He also tallied a pair of offensive scores.
He was named to the IHSFCA All-State team in Class 7A.
Played both sides of the ball for the Indians.
On offense, he caught 21 passes for a team-high 375 yards and one TD. Defensively, he posted 41 tackles with four interceptions and one touchdown.
Trojans’ workhorse this season, carried the ball 161 times for 924 yards and nine touchdowns, while catching 14 passes for 227 yards and one TD.
Only a sophomore, the 6-foot-3 255-pounder already has offer to University of Illinois.
Helped a line that allowed Kokosioulis and O’Sullivan to get the stats they got this season. He had 26 pancake blocks and eight 10-yard blocks, while allowing only one sack on the season.
On defense, he posted 18 tackles, three for loss, and recorded a pair of sacks.
“He will be the best linemen in the state his senior year,” Inserra said. “He has a 4.30 GPA. He is a very special player.”
As a wide receiver, the senior caught 48 passes for 792 yards and 12 TDs. As a free safety, he posted 61 tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery.
Was named all CSL. He currently has a preferred walk-on offer at Illinois and full ride to Moorehead State.
“He is a true difference maker,” Inserra said.
The prime target in the Bolingbrook pass game, the senior hauled in 35 passes for 589, a 16.8 yard per catch average and four touchdowns.
Senior completed 92 of 148 for 1,577 yards on the season to go along with 15 touchdowns.
Senior was named to the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Class 8A All-State team after posting 94 tackles, including 15 sacks and 36 tackles for loss. He had 22 quarterback knockdowns and forced three fumbles.
He led a defense that played 15 straight quarters of shutout football and was the unanimous choice for West Suburban Conference Gold Defensive Player of the Year and was the DGS MVP.
“Sergio is one of the most dominant defensive linemen we have had at South in the last 15 years,” said South coach Mark Molinari. “His combination of speed, leverage, and hands made him unstoppable.”
Junior offensive tackle helped the Minooka offense run and had a season-saving touchdown on a tackle lateral play in the playoffs.
“He will be a scholarship player in college next fall,” McCombs said.