Meet the 2022 Journal Star football player of the year and the all-area offense

Adam Duvall
Journal Star

The Illinois high school football season has come and gone, from preseason practices to the state championship games.

Each year, we select the top players from across the Peoria area. For the last few seasons, we've split the defensive and offensive players. That continues this season.

Below are the offensive picks for the 2022 Journal Star all-area football team, including 11 on the first team and 11 honorable mention — led by our player of the year in Peoria High all-state running back Malachi Washington.

Top defensive players: The Journal Star all-area defense for 20220

Peoria High senior Malachi Washington rushed for 3,348 yards and 53 touchdowns on 407 carries this season, leading the Lions to a berth in the Class 5A state championship game in Champaign. He is the 2022 Journal Star Football Player of the Year.

Malachi Washington, Peoria High

The 2022 Journal Star Football Player of the Year was inserted into the Peoria High starting lineup and thrived in guiding the Lions to the Class 5A state title game. He rushed for 3,348 yards and 53 touchdowns on 407 carries, averaging 8.2 yards a carry. The 5-foot-10, 206-pound senior running back had a 383-yard, 5-TD game in a 76-56 semifinal win over Morris. Washington was named 5A Illinois High School Football Coaches Association all-state, a unanimous all-Big 12 Conference first-team offense and the Big 12 offensive player of the year.

Peoria High Lions:Every story from Peoria High's run to the Class 5A football championship game

Farmington quarterback Gage Renken runs the ball against Elmwood/Brimfield in the first half Friday, Oct. 7, 2022 in Farmington. The Farmers defeated E/B 47-16.

Gage Renken, Farmington

Renken capped his two-year run as the Farmers starting quarterback by going 19-4 with a pair of Class 2A playoff appearances. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound senior threw for 1,133 yards with 16 touchdowns and three interceptions. He rushed for 931 yards and 12 TDs in being named 2A IHSFCA all-state and all-Prairieland Conference first team.

Peoria High quarterback Tino Gist throws under pressure from Nazareth Academy in the second half of the Class 5A football state title game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Champaign.

Tino Gist, Peoria High

In his first full season as a varsity starter, the 6-foot-1, 181-pound junior helped lead the Lions to the Class 5A state title game. Gist threw for 2,364 yards with 24 TDs and 10 interceptions including three games with four TDs. He was named all-Big 12 Conference first-team offense.

Pekin's Tanner Sprecher celebrates a long run to the one-yard line that set up a touchdown against Lake Zurich during their Class 7A football quarterfinal Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022 in Pekin.

Tanner Sprecher, Pekin

Sprecher was a big reason the Dragons made the program's deepest run in the playoffs, finishing 11-1 with a Class 7A quarterfinal appearance. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound senior rushed 1,557 yards with 20 TDs, averaging 129.8 yards a game and 8.2 yards per carry. He was all-Mid-Illini first-team and 7A IHSFCA honorable mention all-state.

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Peoria High's Ricky Hearn (1) runs for a long gain on a kickoff return during the Class 5A football state title game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Champaign.

Ricky Hearn, Peoria High

While wearing a cast on his left hand all season, the 6-foot-2, 174-pound senior wide receiver caught 42 balls for 856 yards and six TDs. He posted 147 return yards in the 5A state title game, including a 78-yard return. Hearn was named a unanimous all-Big 12 first-team receiver.

Peoria High's TQ Webb celebrates a touchdown against Nazareth Academy during the Class 5A football state title game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Champaign.

TQ Webb, Peoria High

The 5-foot-10, 162-pound sophomore wide receiver had a big-time breakout season, starting the season with two TDs in both weeks 2 and 3. Webb went for 114 yards and a TD in the 5A quarterfinal against Mascoutah. He finished with 10 TDs on 45 catches for 937 yards. Webb is an all-Big 12 first-team receiver.

JT Jeter, Macomb

Despite missing two-and-half games due to injury, the 6-foot-2, 170-pound junior wide receiver set the single-season receiving record. His 963 yards and 16 TDs led the Bombers, who went 10-1 and went undefeated in the Prairieland Conference. He was an all-Prairieland Conference first-teamer and Class 4A IHSFCA all-stater.

IHSFCA all-statersPeoria-area players named all-state by Illinois High School Football Coaches Association

Matheno Fuller, Peoria High

Fuller anchored the 5A runner-up Lions offensive line, helping paving the way for nearly 4,000 rushing yards and close to 2,500 passing yards. The 6-foot-4, 318-pound senior right guard was one of three seniors, who helped the Lions average 50 points a game. He was named an all-Big 12 first-team offensive lineman.

Metamora's Ben Wallace celebrates a tackle against Peoria High in the first half Friday, Aug. 26, 2022 at Peoria Stadium.

Ben Wallace, Metamora

The Illinois State recruit was a big aspect of the Redbirds offensive line, making holes for an offense that ran for almost 2,500 yards. Wallace, a 6-foot-5, 300-pound senior offensive lineman, also lined up on the other side of the ball on the defensive line. He was named all-Mid-Illini first team and 5A IHSFCA all-state.

Sam Morgan, Dunlap

Morgan proved to be a dominating presence up front. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound senior offensive lineman plays both ways, starting since he was a sophomore. He's committed to play college football at Minnesota State, which is a Division II program in Mankato, Minn. Morgan was named all-Mid-Illini first team.

Metamora quarterback Conner Willerton, left, tries to fend off Morton's Ian Mutchler in the second half Friday, Oct. 1, 2021 in Morton. Morton defeated Metamora 40-30.

Ian Mutchler, Morton

Mutchler was a beast on the offensive line, helping the Potters average 228.4 yards per game and 20 TDs. On the defensive side, the 6-foot-4, 280-pound senior recorded 11 tackles with two sacks. Mutchler is an all-Mid-Illini first-teamer and 5A IHSFCA all-state honorable mention.

2022 Journal Star all-area offense honorable mention

  • Henry Worrick | Washington | Junior | Offensive lineman | 6-foot | 270 pounds
  • Jack Duncan | Macomb | Senior | Quarterback | 6-foot-2 | 200 pounds
  • Augie Christiansen | Princeton | Senior | Running back | 5-foot-6 | 155 pounds
  • Justis Bachman | Eureka | Senior | Wide receiver | 5-foot-10 | 170 pounds
  • Michael McLaughlin | Peoria Notre Dame | Junior | Offensive lineman | 6-foot-3 | 275 pounds
  • Bo Benassi | Pekin | Senior | Wide receiver | 6-foot-2 | 170 pounds
  • Caleb Hollis | Elmwood/Brimfield | Senior | Offensive lineman | 6-foot-2 | 240 pounds
  • London Toliver | Manual | Junior | Kick returner | 5-foot-7 | 146 pounds
  • Graham Glover | Dunlap | Senior | Wide receiver | 5-foot-10 | 160 pounds
  • Ben Jablonski | Eureka | Senior | Offensive line | 5-foot-11 | 250 pounds
  • Blaine Halley | Olympia | Senior | Offensive line | 6-foot-6 | 300 pounds

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