FOOTBALL

7 of the Peoria area's most important players in the Illinois high school football playoffs

Adam Duvall
Journal Star

Here are seven important players — one from each of the seven classes with a Peoria-area team — heading into the playoffs:

Daniel Kieser, Stark County

Arguably one of Class 1A's best secondary players, recording eight interceptions this season. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound senior snagged a pair of interceptions in Week 9 against Princeville. Kieser also has three pick-6s as the Rebels (5-4) head into the 7 p.m. Friday road game against Lincoln Trail Conference foe ROWVA/Williamsfield (5-4).

More Illinois high school football news:Where and when Peoria-area teams play in the 2022 IHSA football playoffs

Farmington's Rese Shymansky crashes through the Elmwood/Brimfield line for a touchdown in the first half Friday, Oct. 7, 2022 in Farmington. The Farmers defeated E/B 47-16.

Rese Shymansky, Farmington

Fully anticipate seeing this senior playing both sides of the ball at running back as well as at the linebacker position. How dynamic of a runner can the 6-foot, 215-pounder be? Shymansky had 95 yards on just four carries with a touchdown in Week 8 for the Class 2A Farmers (7-2), who host El Paso-Gridley (7-2) at 3 p.m. Saturday.

More:How a single blowout loss changed Farmington's focus this football season

Carson Gold, Eureka

A broken fibula in Week 3 couldn't keep this senior off the field. Following four weeks of rehab, Gold returned to the field in Week 9, kicking an extra point in the win over Deer Creek-Mackinaw. Look for the 6-foot-1, 175-pounder to give QB Jake Morin another target for the Class 3A Hornets (7-2), who host Beardstown (5-4) at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

More:What the heck is '959'? The motto that helps define Eureka's suffocating defense

JT Jeter runs for a touchdown.

JT Jeter, Macomb

The 6-foot-2, 170-pound junior wide receiver has become a threat to score any time quarterback Jack Duncan puts the ball even near him. Jeter picked up his first scholarship offer from Western Illinois earlier this month. He had 163 yards and a TD in Week 9 for the Class 4A Bombers (9-0), who host Quincy Notre Dame (5-4) at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Ricky Hearn, Peoria High

With Malachi Washington handling the ground game, the 6-foot-2, 174-pound wideout provides a reliable asset for QB Tino Gist. He was a big part of Class 5A Peoria High's 703 total yards of offense — 111 receiving yards and a TD — in a Week 7 win. Hearn is important for Peoria High (8-1), which hosts Decatur MacArthur at 1 p.m. Saturday.

More:Peoria High football lost the conference title. Here's why that could be a good thing

Washington defense

The Panthers are one of the state's stingiest, well-documented defense during the second half of the season. In five wins, Washington has given up 14 total points to go with three shutouts. Carter Prina, Noah Bell-Lorentzen and Garrett Cox all can get in the backfield for Class 6A Washington (6-3), which visits Midlothian Bremen (8-1) at 7 p.m. Friday.

More:How Washington's defense kept rolling — and kept Morton from the football playoffs

Pekin's Tanner Sprecher (8) celebrates a touchdown with teammate Bo Benassi late in the second half Friday, Sept. 30, 2022 in Pekin. The Dragons rolled over the Redbirds 55-13.

Bo Benassi, Pekin

Everyone is familiar with the Dragons backfield — Tanner Sprecher and Kanye Tyler — but Benassi has been a silent weapon on the outside. The 6-foot-2 wideout is QB Scotty Jordan's favorite target including a 63-yard TD catch last week against East Peoria. Class 7A Pekin (9-0) has Plainfield Central (5-4) at Memorial Stadium for a 7 p.m. Friday kick.

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