Top 10 defensive backs to watch in Rockford-area high school football

Coming soon: Top 10 receivers to watch for in the area

East's Shamar Holt intercepts the ball against Freeport in the second quarter of their NIC-10 game at Guilford High School Friday, April 16, 2021, in Rockford.
Matt Trowbridge Jay Taft
Rockford Register Star

With high school football practices underway, our preseason coverage of the area teams has already kicked off.

Leading up to the Aug. 27 season opening kickoff, we will not only take a look at the best teams from the NIC-10, Big Northern, NUIC and 8-man football, but we will also take a position-by-position look at the top players to watch in the area.

We began our series by spotlighting the quarterbacks. Here, we move to defense and the players most responsible for keeping those quarterbacks in check.

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In alphabetical order, here are the Rockford area’s most intriguing defensive backs heading into the season:

Large schools

Joey Appino, Boylan

The 6-foot-1, 170-pound senior is a three-sport star who played as a junior on basketball, baseball and football teams that finished a combined 33-8. Appino intercepted two passes in only three games for Boylan (3-0).

“He does everything right,” Freeport coach Anthony Dedmond said. “He has great hands and eyes and gets there before the ball gets there.”

Ryan Coon, Freeport

The 5-foot-8, 160-pound safety played as a freshman for a young Freeport team that finished 3-3. He also made honorable mention all-conference in baseball. Coon was one of the best of many freshmen who played well last season for the Pretzels.

“He’s an all-around athlete,” Dedmond said. “He’s a weight-room gym rat. He loves to hit and makes all types of plays. He can also play receiver, running back and kick returner. He has the frame to do it.”

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Scott Garrett, Jefferson

The 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior safety is one of Jefferson's top three players and also started at receiver last year. "He's an all-round player," Jefferson coach Jacob Arnold said. "We can put him anywhere on the field. He might even get some quarterback touches because we like a dual-threat. He's a do-it-all guy."

Bryce Goodwine, Hononegah

The 5-foot-10, 160-pound senior is a versatile three-year starter who is also one of the top kickers in the NIC-10 and plays some at wide receiver. He was a brilliant defensive left fielder on Hononegah’s first team to ever reach the state baseball finals last spring.

“He’s been doing a lot of summer baseball, so I’ve only seen spurts of him in summer camp,” Hononegah coach Brian Zimmerman said. “He is such a tremendous athlete. He does exciting things for us wherever he is at. He can pop in at a blitz from his safety position, and he is a good cover guy as well. ... He has the ability to do both and is smart enough to make the decision whether he should go for the ball or stay with the receiver and make the tackle.”

Shamar Holt, East

East throws less than any team in the NIC-10, but the E-Rabs do a good job churning out defensive backs, with four currently playing in college. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Holt is one of their best. He led the NIC-10 with four interceptions in six games as a junior.

“He can run,” East coach Gary Griffin said. “He gets to places quick. He has a long stride. He is very, very athletic. He just gets where he needs to be and he gets there pretty darn quick. He is a ball hawk."

Small schools

Stillman Valley's Chris Seper is tackled by Byron's Braden Smith, 3, and Hutton Rundle during the first quarter of their game in Stillman Valley on Friday, April 9, 2021. Byron won the game 31-14 between the two rivals.

Ian Broshous, Stockton

Stockton had to face some of the area's toughest quarterbacks last season, including Du/Pec's Hunter Hoffman and Rockford Christian's Caden Norquist. The 5-foot-11, 165-pounder stepped up and learned a lot along the way, according to his coach Matt Leitzen. Stockton has another tough schedule, one that includes a regular-season-ending matchup with Hoffman's Rivermen.

Marey Roby, Lena-Winslow

As one of the best pure athletes in the area, the 5-foot-10, 165-pounder is one to watch both a running back and cornerback. Roby hurt his foot in the first game of the spring season, needed surgery the next week and was lost for the season. He's back and expected to be one of the most electrifying weapons on the field every week.

"He's just a great athlete, with great ball skills," Le-Win coach Ric Arand said of Roby's defensive skills.

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Bo Seaton, Durand-Pecatonica

The 6-foot, 160-pound senior has speed and returns after a strong spring season. He was challenged often in the spring, and should be a big play waiting to happen this season.

Braden Smith, Byron

Smith, who also the returning starting quarterback, had a solid season at free safety this spring. He looks to be a solid defender against the pass and the run.

Smith had 21 tackles last season, and Byron coach Jeff Boyer calls him "a very technical player" when it comes to his defensive style of play. Boyer also said Smith is "always in the correct spot and always doing his job" when he's back at safety.

Adam Thompson, Dakota

Thompson played in only two games last year, but still got an honorable-mention, all-conference nod. Dakota coach Joe Free calls the defensive captain "the heart and soul of our team."

Jay Taft:; @JayTaft. Matt Trowbridge:; @matttrowbridge