Who were the best high school football players in Illinois during the past decade, from 2000 through 2009? How many Sun-Times Players of the Year were good enough to make the team? In hindsight, who was overlooked or overrated or underrated? There is plenty of room for argument and debate.
Here are my selections:
Offense: Tight end--C.J. Fiedorowicz, Johnsburg; Wide receivers--Jason Avant, Carver; Kyle Prater, Proviso West; Linemen--Christian Lombard, Fremd; Jon Asamoah, Rich East; Martin O'Donnell, Downers Grove South; Chris Watt, Glenbard West; Bryan Bulaga, Marian Central; Quarterback--Charlie Goro, Maine South; Running backs--John Dergo, Morris; Rashard Mendenhall, Niles West.
Defense: Linemen--Darius Fleming and Bruce Gaston Jr., St. Rita; Tim Jamison, Thornton; Alex Magee, Oswego; Linebackers--Chris Jeske, Joliet Catholic; Matt Roth, Willowbrook; Corey McKeon, Naperville North; Backs--Tom Zbikowski, Buffalo Grove; Terry Hawthorne, East St. Louis, Greg Turner, Driscoll; Kyle Kleckner, Downers Grove North.
Let the debate begin.
Yes, Goro is my choice at quarterback over Maine South's Sean Price and Naperville North's Jordan Tassio and Hinsdale Central's John Whitelaw and Riverside-Brookfield's Tim Brasic and St. Viator's Brett Basanez. Goro was very athletic and could throw and run. It will be interesting to see if he will be competive while playing for Vanderbilt in the SEC.
Dergo and Mendenhall are my picks at running back. They have an edge, in my view, over Maine South's Matt Perez, Wheaton Warrenville South's Dan Dierking, Hubbard's Robert Hughes, Joliet Catholic's J.R. Zwierzynski, Thornton Fractional South's Pierre Thomas and Holy Cross' Garrett Wolfe.
The most difficult thing about making these kinds of selections is that we all too often tend to rate players on what they accomplished after high school, what they achieved in college or the NFL. I tried very hard to evaluate each player solely on the basis of his high school performance.
For example, Dergo was one of the most sensational running backs in state history. His senior statistics are stuff of legend. But he chose to accept a scholarship to wrestle at Illinois rather than play football in college.
I'll be anxious to see who you believe should earn a spot on the offensive or defensive unit. Remember, look at it this way: Who would you drop from my list to make room for another player? And why?