FOOTBALL

Here are 7 surprises midway through the Peoria-area high school football season

Adam Duvall
Journal Star

Nothing is predictable when it comes to high school football.

Upsets, injuries and breakout players emerge as the season progresses. A lot has happened in the first five weeks of 2022 around the Peoria area — including some impressive streaks, a big-play quarterback and an offense that has seen no letdown from last season.

Here are the seven things that have surprised the most about the Peoria-area high school football season:

More:The Peoria area's top performances from Week 5 of the high school football season

Macomb

Records are being set all over the place for the Class 4A 10th-ranked Bombers (5-0), who beat Farmington, 58-7 last week. Quarterback Jack Duncan is now the program’s all-time passing yards leader following a 230-yard effort in Week 3. His two wideouts — Langdon Allen (1,366) and JT Jeter (1,353) — are 1-2 in the all-time career receiving category. Running back Max Ryner is a premier running back in an offense putting up 46 points a game. No Macomb team has ever hit the 10-win mark, but a win over Elmwood/Brimfield (4-1) on Friday would be a step in that direction.

Carrion Ferrell, Manual

Ferrell produces regardless of who is throwing him the ball — London Tolliver in Week 1 or Marquis Woodson in Week 5. The 6-foot-4, 179-pound senior wide receiver snagged a pair of touchdowns in Saturday’s 64-28 loss to Peoria High. He had three catches for 47 yards from Woodson including a 16-yard first-quarter TD, then caught a 19-yard score in the fourth quarter. Ferrell and Tolliver hooked up for three TDs in a back-and-forth Week 1 game with Peoria Notre Dame. He posted TDs of 35, 69 and 19 for 123 yards in a 40-38 loss to the Irish.

More:'I'm ready to win': This big Manual lineman has even bigger plans for Rams football

Eureka's defense

This stat has been floating around since last week, but it is worth repeating. The Hornets (5-0), ranked No. 8 in Class 3A, are riding a 19-quarter scoreless streak, equating to 233 minutes and 51 seconds of game time. In that span, Eureka has scored 230 points and has pitched four consecutive shutouts. Eureka last gave up points (a touchdown against Canton) at the 5:51 mark of the first quarter in Week 1. A trip to Heart of Illinois Conference foe El Paso-Gridley (4-1) is next up for Eureka before hosting state-ranked Colfax Ridgeview/Lexington (5-0) in Week 7.

Tremont's Blaine Williams, left, and Eureka's Camron Manning collide, forcing a Tremont fumble in the first half Friday, Sept. 2, 2022 in Tremont.

Kaden Hartnett, Metamora

Pick one — offense, defense or special teams — and Hartnett has proven to be very effective. He comes off a five-touchdown performance in Friday’s 54-20 win over Canton. The 6-foot, 170-pound senior quarterback rushed for 223 yards and scored four rushing TDs, while throwing for a 16-yard score. He’s made a near seamless transition to QB after catching 24 balls for 479 yards and four TDs as a wide receiver last season. Hartnett also returned a blocked field goal 97 yards for a touchdown in Week 4 against Morton.

More:The Metamora football coach knew his QB would be special. Why? It's his sister's kid

Metamora quarterback Kaden Hartnett (8) grapples with Canton's Joseph Norton in the first half Friday, Sept. 23, 2022 in Metamora.

Peoria High's offense

This should be a bit of a surprise that the Peoria High offense is on this list. However, losing running back Eddie Clark to graduate left some questions in the backfield. Those doubts were answered by senior running back Malachi Washington. The 5-foot-10, 206-pounder has 1,156 rushing yards and 18 total TDs through five games. Washington is just the beginning of the Lions offense, which is averaging 52 points a game. QB Tino Gist (124 yards, 2 TDs) and WR Ricky Hearn (91 yards, TD) were a big part of the 517 total yards — 384 rushing and 133 passing — in a 64-point output against Manual.

Peoria teammates Ricky Hearn (1) and Malachi Washington celebrate one of Washington's touchdowns against Manual in the first half Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022 in Peoria Stadium.

Aiden Frail, Elmwood/Brimfield

Frail has been running behind an experienced offensive line — Aaron Brown, Elijah Davis, Mason Geeseman, Caleb Hollis, Jerry Harkness and Tyler Scheps — all season. The 5-foot-8, 140-pound senior is averaging 94.4 rushing yards per game with 472 yards and six TDs on the season. He’s also shown versatility out of the backfield with two reception TDs for 145 yards and two TDs. In Week 5, Frail ran 10 times for 103 yards and two TDs as the Trojans (4-1) erupted for 48 points. He’ll go up against a stout Macomb defense, allowing 9.2 points per game.

Pekin

Much like Peoria High, there may be a little shock that the Class 7A fifth-ranked Dragons appear here. But the Dragons are living up to expectations even after being pushed to brink by Morton last week. Defensively, Jace Hackman came up with the biggest play of the night, sacking Potters QB Jude Hart to end the game. On the other side of the ball, everyone knows the names: Kanye Tyler, Tanner Sprecher, Scotty Jordan and Bo Benassi. Next up for Pekin is hosting Metamora on Friday to wrap up a brutal four-week stretch. There’s an outside chance that Pekin drops to Class 6A for the playoffs.

More:With league rival Morton threatening, state-ranked Pekin found another way to win

Adam Duvall is a Journal Star sports reporter. Email him at aduvall@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall.