The 2018 high school football season gets underway at stadiums in the metro-east beginning Friday.
There is once again no shortage of standout players from across the region, from the NCAA Division I prospects to those outstanding athletes who can carry their small-school programs.
Based upon impressive numbers they put up a year ago, rankings by scouting services and the success of their teams year ago, these are 10 of the top players in the St. Louis area heading into the start of the 2018 season:
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Kendall Abdur-Rahman, Edwardsville, QB
Ranked as the No. 6 rated player in the the state for the Class of 2019, Abdur-Rahman has scholarship offers from several top programs including, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Illinois, Iowa and Iowa State.
At 6-1 and 180-pounds, he is the quintessential double-threat quarterback. He rushed for 1,399 yards and 26 touchdowns while throwing for 580 yards and eight scores a year ago. A first team Class 8A all-state performer, Abdur-Rahman led Edwardsville to nine straight wins and a berth in the Class 8A state semifinals..
Abdur-Rahman was the News-Democrat Large School Player of the Year last season and is expected to be a major factor in the Tigers quest to unseat East St. Louis as SWC champions this season.
Freddy Edwards, Granite City, QB
The Warriors were 2-1 and generated 121 points in the 10 quarters Edwards played quarterback last fall. In the final 6 1/2 games, Granite City scored only 68 points, losing its final six games to finish with a 2-7 record which included seven losses in the Southwestern Conference.
Injured early in the third quarter of a week three loss to Belleville East, the 5-11, 180-pound Edwards underwent shoulder surgery and nearly six months of rehab. In 2018, Edwards returns as one of the top players in the St. Louis area and will lead the Warriors into a new era as an independent.
First-year head coach Brad Hasquin, a former quarterback at Civic Memorial High School, has worked closely with the Edwards over the past two seasons. He said the game has “slowed down” for his bigger, faster quarterback.
Despite playing quarterback in just 10 varsity games in his first two years, Edwards numbers are staggering. Edwards has helped account for 33 touchdowns, has more than 1,500 yards rushing and has thrown for nearly 1,000 yards. Already with a scholarship offer from Iowa State, Edwards has taken an unofficial visit to Notre Dame and has also received interest from Clemson, Miami, Iowa, Central Michigan and Missouri.
Brady Feldman, Highland, RB
A major reason why Highland is once again expected to be one of the top Class 4A teams in the state this season is the return of the 6-foot 190-pound Feldman.
Feldman averaged nearly nine yards per rushing attempt and finished with 1, 209 yards and 23 touchdowns. Feldman also showed his versatility with 36 receptions out of the backfield for 604 yards and nine scores. The first team all-area running back will once again be a mainstay on both sides of the football.
Nic Horner, QB and Donovan Bieber, RB, Columbia
The latest in a long line of talented skilled position players turned out by the Eagles program and head coach Scott Horner, this talented duo should be among the best in southern Illinois for the next two years.
The son of the head coach, Nic Horner completed 96-of-171 for 1,304 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, while Bieber burst on the scene when all-state back Colton Byrd went down with an injury early in the season.
Bieber rushed for nearly 400 yards on just 41 carries, averaging just under 10 yards per attempt.
Scott Horner believes both players will be keys to the Eagles success this fall. In addition to the experience he picked up as a sophomore, Nic Norner has added nearly 20 pounds. Bieber also has added speed and size, the coach said.
Antonio Johnson, East St. Louis, Safety
Just a junior, Johnson was one of the top defensive players on a loaded Flyers unit a year ago.
The 6-2, 185-pound safety had 67 tackles, including 46 solos, four interceptions and two quarterback sacks. Ranked as the No. 3 overall prospect in Illinois by 24/7 Sports for the Class of 2020, Johnson already has scholarship offers from Iowa, Iowa State, Virginia Tech, Kentucky and Missouri.
Sam LaPorta, Highland, WR
An all-state wide receiver a year ago when he caught 64 passes for nearly 1,300 yards and 20 touchdowns, the 6-4, 215-pound Bulldogs standout will be even more of a marked man this season with the graduation of all-state quarterback Garrett Marti.
But with several returning starters back from a team which reached the Class 4A state semifinals and finished 12-1, LaPorta won’t have to go it alone as Highland hopes to defend its Mississippi Valley Conference championship.
LaPorta currently has scholarship offers from eight NCAA Division I programs including Yale, Northern Iowa, Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan and Illinois State.
Lawaun Powell, East St. Louis, Wide Receiver
Still just a junior, Powell already has been a key actor on Flyers football teams which have won 24 of their last 26 games, a pair of Southwestern Conference championships and the 2016 Class 7A state championship.
Powell, 6-2, 185, caught 37 passes for 597 yards and 15 touchdowns while adding 20 tackles, (17 solos) and four quarterback sacks while playing defensive back. Powell is also a top special teams performer.
Powell is the No. 8 rated recruit on Rivals.com top 10 recruits in Illinois for the 2020 season.
Keith Randolph, Belleville West, Defensive End
Ranked 29th among the list of top recruits in Illinois, the 6-5 250-pound Randolph is a combination of power, speed, quickness and raw athletic ability.
With schools such as Illinois, Rutgers, Wyoming Minnesota and Purdue among the handful NCAA DI programs which have extended scholarship offers, Randolph will more than likely wait until the end of the Maroons’ season before choosing a school.
West coach Cameron Pettus doesn’t hesitate when describing what kind of athletic ability Randolph possesses, calling him a “physical freak,” who “can jump out of the gym and run like a deer.” Advanced technique will make him a true standout as a senior.
Also a top basketball player, Randolph figures to play a key role once again in the upcoming season as the Maroons attempt to defend their Class 4A state title.
Darrell Simmons, East St. Louis, OG
The latest in a long line of outstanding offensive linemen to join the Flyers’ football program, Simmons will continue to play a high level as a member of the Iowa State University football program next season. His skills were developed at Belleville East under coach Kris Stephens before he transferred to East Side in January.
For now, the 6-3, 280-pound Simmons will be a key member of an East Side offensive front which should be among the best in the St. Louis area.
Javontez Spraggins, East St. Louis, Guard
East St. Louis put up 508 points on the scoreboard in 2017 behind a stout offensive front. Simmons and Spraggins are back to help keep the Flyers’ offense moving this fall.
Spraggins is a 6-3, 300-pound athlete with good quickness who will be a key in the Flyers’ rushing attack.
Demond Taylor, East St. Louis, DT
Headed north next summer where he will compete for a starting job at Northern Illinois University, the 6-2, 265-pound Taylor will be one of the top defensive linemen in the St. Louis area during the 2018 season.
Taylor had 13 tackles and two quarterback sacks for an East St. Louis squad which finished 10-2 and reached the Class 7A quarterfinals before losing to Chicago Mount Carmel.
Dalton Viglasky, Waterloo, RB
This Bulldogs senior has shown the ability to run the football and catch it out of the backfield in becoming one of the top offensive players in the Mississippi Valley Conference.
Viglasky averaged seven yards per carry and finished the season with 1,015 yards and 15 touchdowns for a Waterloo team which finished 4-5. Viglasky also had 15 receptions for just under 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns.