FOOTBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Brendan Skalitzky, Marist
Photos by Jeff Vorva
Even in an era when video-game football scores and stats are being racked up in high school football, Marist senior quarterback Brendan Skalitzky stood out.
Skalitzky passed for 3,705 yards and ran for 1,088 and scored 47 touchdowns helping to lead the RedHawks to an improbable trip to the Illinois High School Association Class 8A state championship game, where they lost to Loyola, 41-0 this season.
Marist was 5-4 during the regular season and became just the fifth team in state history to make it to a title game with four losses.
One of the reasons the RedHawks made it to the state title game was because Skalitzky accounted for 633 yards and all eight touchdowns in a 59-56 quarterfinal stunner over Barrington in the highest scoring game in Class 8A history.
Skalitzky has been named the 2015 Reporter-Regional Football Player of the Year.
His coach watched the Evergreen Park resident carve up defenses all season.
“You talk about being one of the best quarterback around, all year he was great for us,” Marist coach Pat Dunne said. “He threw the ball. He ran the ball. He can hurt you in a lot of different ways. He’s been a leader. What he’s done all year – his stats have shown it.
“But more important, the biggest thing about him is that he is such a team player.’’
Whenever people ask him about his own accomplishments, Skalitzky is quick to praise others on the team.
“It’s all the offensive line and [running back Darshon McCullough]—you give that kid the ball in an open space and he is going to make some big plays,” he said. “My wide receivers got open and made big catches. It’s all a team effort.’’
The RedHawks opened the season with a 21-14 loss to Mount Carmel at Soldier Field but then went on a three-game streak in which they beat DuSable, 56-0, St. Viator 45-28 and knocked off Niles Notre Dame, 49-42.
After a loss 29-25 loss to Benet Academy the offense was rolling again, in a 45-21 win over St. Patrick, and a 41-7 victory over Marian Catholic.
They closed the regular season with losses to eventual Class 5A champ Nazareth Academy (62-45) and Joliet Catholic (35-28). They drew the 23rd seed out of 32 teams knocked off Notre Dame again, 17-14 to open the playoffs and then the explosive 59-56 win over Barrington followed by a 31-16 semifinal win over Waubonsie Valley before the Loyola loss.
VOLLEYBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Kayla Caffey, Mother McAuley
Even as a sophomore. Mother McAuley’s Kayla Caffey was making an impact as a volleyball player -- especially when she turned out to be one of the most valuable players on the Mighty Macs’ Class 4A state championship win over Benet Academy in 2013 by pounding a team-high eight kills in just 10 swings of her right arm.
Two years later, she took her game to a different level when she assumed the role of a leader, where she impacted the play of entire roster of talented player while not missing a beat with her own ability to take over a match.
Those tangibles, along with a.461 hitting percentage, 286 kills, 123 service points, 98 blocks and 17 aces, led the Caffey being named the Reporter-Regional’s first Girls Volleyball Player of the Year.
“My senior season was like no other because I was an upperclassmen and a leader,’’ Caffey said. “There were a lot young players that I was able to take under my wing and teach them the ropes because they were coming up from JV. Varsity is a huge step between the levels both mentally and physically.
“I encouraged them that they could get this. I remember the way (former Macs player) Gabby Innis took me under her wing and how it meant so much to me. I remember playing much more intense at state.’’
And Caffey admitted it took extra effort involved in leading.
“You just can’t just pay attention to only what you’re doing,’’ she said. “You have to focus on everyone else and that they’re doing their job too.’’
Head coach Jen DeJarld said that Caffey was hesitant to step into a leadership, but she ultimately took her game to the next level when she did and had the ability to control a given match.
“Kayla definitely became a captain and team leader her senior year,’’ the coach said. “She did a really good job of leading despite kind of shying away from in the past. With so many great players who were older than her as a sophomore, she felt pretty comfortable with them taking the reins and following their lead.
“But she really embraced the leader role for her senior year, and it showed the court. She is one of the most talented players I’ve had the pleasure to coach in 21 years at Mother McAuley.’’