While seven metro-east players made the cut for the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association all-state teams announced Friday, three other players who were nominated are conspicuous by their absence.
Earning IHSFCA All-State honors in Class 8A was Edwardsville senior defensive lineman Tate Rujawitz and in Class 5A it was Triad senior linebacker Ethan Salopek.
Five Class 4A senior players from the area making all-state were Althoff running back Jaylon Bester, Althoff receiver C.J. Coldon, Columbia quarterback-kicker Greg Long, Mater Dei quarterback Colin Schuetz and Central running back-linebacker Collin Thomas.
Drawing as much attention for not being included on the all-state lists were Edwardsville senior All-American defensive end and Iowa recruit A.J. Epenesa in 8A and, in 7A, East St. Louis senior All-American receiver Jeff Thomas and Division I quarterback prospect Reyondous Estes.
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Edwardsville coach Matt Martin said he nominated Epenesa in each of the last two years and Epenesa never made the cut. Southwestern Conference coaches meet to choose their all-conference team, then agree on a list of all-state nominees that are sent to the IHSFCA.
“Last year I did that and supposedly it didn’t go through,” Martin said. “After last year I was very careful to fill out all the paperwork this year. I don’t know if A.J. is really bothered by it. He’s all-state in basketball, he’s all-state in track and football can’t get it right. I don’t understand where the miss is.”
Belleville East coach Kris Stephens said he submitted the list of Southwestern Conference names to the IHSFCA this year. He was equally mystified how players the caliber of Epenesa and Thomas did not make their respective all-state teams.
There were 36 players selected in Class 7A and Class 8A, 18 from each class.
Epenesa is the No. 1-ranked senior defensive end in the country by Rivals.com and No. 36 overall recruit on the Rivals 100 list. He’s also No. 61 nationally on the ESPN 300 recruiting list and through nine games had 33 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and two sacks.
Thomas has offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State, Michigan, Michigan State and many more. He is ranked the 11th best senior receiver in the country by Rivals.com, No. 2 in the state and is No. 78 on the Rivals 100 recruits list. He’s No. 88 on the ESPN 300 recruits list.
Before Saturday’s semifinal playoff game Thomas had 50 catches for 1,036 yards and 12 TDs. Estes, who originally committed to Missouri, had thrown for 2,255 yards and 22 TDs with four interceptions while running for 521 yards and eight TDs.
“You’d have a hard time convincing me there are kids in the state that are better than those two,” Stephens said of Thomas and Epenesa. “I don’t know what criteria they’re using for those two kids to not come out on top. We had all those guys on there.
“It’s something that as a conference we’re going to have to investigate and look into, maybe get some members on the committee or something.”
Metro-east all-state players
Tate Rujawitz, defensive line, Edwardsville (6-3, 290): through first nine games had 30 tackles, five tackles for loss and two sacks.
Ethan Salopek, linebacker, Triad (5-10, 205): Salopek had 81 tackles for the 7-4 Knights along with three quarterback sacks.
Jaylon Bester, running back, Althoff (5-8, 162): Miami (Ohio) recruit ran for 2,184 yards and 32 touchdowns on 168 carries and also caught 13 passes for 115 yards and one TD for 11-1 Althoff team that lost to Rochester in the 4A quarterfinals.
C.J. Coldon, wide receiver, Althoff (6-2, 175): Division I recruit caught 58 passes for 965 yards and 11 TDs on offense; also had 49 tackles and one interception as a defensive back.
Colin Schuetz, quarterback, Mater Dei (6-1, 212): Schuetz completed 153-of-286 passes for 2,083 yards and 26 TDs with five interceptions; also led Knights (7-5) in rushing with 888 yards and 11 TDs on 196 carries.
Greg Long, quarterback-kicker, Columbia (5-11, 180): Long completed 71.5 percent of his passes (133-of-186) for 1,862 yards and 25 TDs with one interception. He also kicked eight field goals and 53 extra-points and had 46 tackles and six interceptions on defense.
Collin Thomas, running back-linebacker, Central (6-2, 175): Thomas ran the ball 194 times for 1,529 yards and 27 TDs. On defense at linebacker he had 57 tackles, two sacks, three fumble recoveries and one interception.