Meet the defense

Meet the defense

BRYCE BARNES

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, Jr., DL

Why he made the team: Even if Barnes hadn't made what served as the game-winning reception in the Falcons' Class 2A championship victory, he'd still be deserving of recognition thanks to 86 tackles and an interception for a dominant defensive unit.

A few of my favorites: Need concert tickets to see Lil Uzi Vert. ... Before I compete, I eat chicken. ... In my dream career, I would be a basketball player. ... My favorite subject to study in school is P.E. ... My favorite athlete is LeBron James. ... My favorite TV show is "SportsCenter." ... If I could have dinner with any three people from any time period, I would pick LeBron James, J.J. Watt and Kobe Bryant.

On my bucket list: Go to an NBA game, win back-to-back state titles and travel around the world.

JOSH BLEICH

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, Jr., DL

Why he made the team: Another key member of the Falcons' championship-caliber defense, Bleich ranked 11th in the area with 102 tackles, though his 60 solo wrapups made for the fourth most among local athletes. He also added 23 made extra points.

A few of my favorites: Need concert tickets to see Zac Brown Band. ... Before I compete, I eat Country Kettle. ... In my dream career, I would be a football coach. ... My favorite subject to study in school is trigonometry. ... My favorites athletes are J.J. Watt and Reggie Wayne. ... My favorite TV shows are "SportsCenter" and "SportsNation." ... If I could have dinner with any three people from any time period, I would pick Abe Lincoln, Marshawn Lynch and Pat McAfee.

On my bucket list: Win back-to-back state titles, travel and coach a state team.

SKYLAR BOLTON

Oakwood, Sr., LB

Why he made the team: Bolton again stood out on both sides of the ball for the Comets, compiling 25 tackles and an interception on defense while shredding opposing defenses to the tune of 1,382 yards and 20 touchdowns rushing.

A few of my favorites: Need concert tickets to see G Herbo and Lil Bibby. ... Before I compete, I eat bananas. ... In my dream career, I would be a professional baseball player. ... My favorite subject to study in school is science. ... My favorite athletes are Yadier Molina and LeBron James. ... My favorite TV show is "SportsCenter." ... If I could have dinner with any three people from any time period, I would pick Michael Jordan, Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina.

On my bucket list: Meet Yadier Molina, make $1,000,000 and hit the studio with G Herbo.

BLAIZE COBB-GRIFFIN

Salt Fork, Sr., DB

Why he made the team: Cobb-Griffin produced 46 tackles and three interceptions for a 5-5 Storm unit and was arguably more dangerous when on offense. At receiver, Cobb-Griffin netted 876 yards and 12 touchdowns, both third in the area.

A few of my favorites: Need concert tickets to see G Herbo. ... Before I compete, I eat bananas. ... In my dream career, I would be a sports physical therapist. ... My favorite subject to study in school is history. ... My favorite athlete is LeBron James. ... My favorite TV show is "One Tree Hill." ... If I could have dinner with any three people from any time period, I would pick Peyton Manning, Lance Langley and LeBron James.

On my bucket list: Travel to Egypt, have a studio session with G Herbo and meet Julio Jones.

MARIO CORTEZ

Arcola, Sr., DB

Why he made the team: Cortez's sturdy hands and accurate boot keyed the 7-3 Purple Riders. He had seven interceptions, the best mark locally, while adding 27 tackles, two receiving touchdowns and 33 successful extra points.

A few of my favorites: Need concert tickets to Travis Scott and Kendrick Lamar. ... Before I compete, I eat Subway. ... In my dream career, I would work for a sports team. ... My favorite subject in school is history. ... My favorite athletes are Lionel Messi and Odell Beckham Jr. ... My favorite TV show is "Prison Break." ... If I could have dinner with any three people, I would pick Martin Luther King Jr., Jesus and Chance the Rapper.

On my bucket list: Watch a Barcelona game, skydive and hit the lottery.

LUKE FREEHILL

GCMS, Sr., LB

Why he made the team: If one had to pick the biggest star from a GCMS defense full of them, he'd be a popular choice. His 123 tackles ranked fourth in the area (plus an area-best 76 solo stops). His ability to shut down opponents was noteworthy, including Maroa-Forsyth's last-ditch effort in the 2A title game.

A few of my favorites: Need concert tickets to Elvis. ... Before I compete, I eat Subway. ... My favorite subject to study in school is statistics. ... My favorite athletes are Walter Payton and "Macho Man" Randy Savage. ... If I could have dinner with any three people from any time period, I would pick George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Donald Trump.

On my bucket list: Own a bar, coach a state championship team and get married.

NATHAN HARMAN

Monticello, Sr., LB

Why he made the team: He was nearly impossible to stop no matter his assignment on the field for the Sages. On defense, he notched 126 tackles — third-best in the area — and an interception. And on offense, he had six touchdowns (four runs and two catches).

A few of my favorites: Need concert tickets to Brantley Gilbert. ... Before I compete, I eat two peanut butter sandwiches and a banana. ... In my dream career, I would be an agronomist. ... My favorite subject in school is P.E. ... My favorite athlete is J.J. Watt. ... My favorite TV show is "Parenthood." ... If I could have dinner with any three people, I would pick Rob Gronkowski, Mark Cuban and Joe Rogan.

On my bucket list: Deep sea diving, swim with a great white shark and hunt for bears.

DUNCAN HATHAWAY

Westville, Sr., DB

Why he made the team: The Tigers' star quarterback was also a force on defense, posting 37 tackles and an interception while also tossing for 1,280 yards and 17 touchdowns against just two picks.

A few of my favorites: Need concert tickets to see G Herbo. ... Before I compete, I eat mac 'n cheese. ... In my dream career, I would be a football coach. ... My favorite subject to study is math. ... My favorite athlete is Jalen Ramsey. ... My favorite TV show is "That 70s Show." ... If I could have dinner with any three people from any time period, I would pick Thomas Jefferson, Walter Payton and Alexander the Great.

On my bucket list: Visit every continent, cross an ocean on a sailboat and hike the Rocky Mountains.

CADE KRESIN

Tuscola, Jr., P

Why he made the team: Kresin's booming punts came up large as the Warriors tried to fight their way back in the 1A state title game, but he also converted an area-best 68 extra points and five field goals while making 41 tackles and six interceptions.

A few of my favorites: Need concert tickets to Coldplay. ... Before I compete, I eat Jimmy John's. ... In my dream career, I would be a medical engineer. ... My favorite subject to study is math. ... My favorite TV show is "The Walking Dead." ... If I could have dinner with any three people, I would pick Pat McAfee, Tom Brady and Hunter Woodard.

On my bucket list: See the Bears win a Super Bowl, win a state title and keep my 4.0 GPA all throughout high school.

ETHAN MIEBACH

Unity, Sr., LB

Why he made the team: While the Rockets were busy grinding away at their opponents on offense, Miebach was leading a grounding effort on defense. His 103 tackles rated 10th in the area, and he added two touchdown catches to boot.

A few of my favorites: Need concert tickets to see Garth Brooks. ... Before I compete, I eat Casey's popcorn chicken. ... In my dream career, I would work for the CIA. ... My favorite subject to study in school is physics. ... My favorite athlete is J.J. Watt. ... My favorite TV show is "Big Bang Theory." ... If I could have dinner with any three people from any time period, I would pick Neil deGrasse Tyson, Noah Toalson and Jackie Robinson.

On my bucket list: Skydive, drive a stock car and fish for marlins.

JULIAN PEARL

Danville, Sr., DL

Why he made the team: The Illinois commit with a personality almost as big as his 6-foot-7 frame tied for 12th in the area with 98 stops while terrorizing opposing offensive lines in the Big 12 and beyond.

A few of my favorites: Need concert tickets to see J. Cole and Dreamville. ... Before I compete, I eat McDonald's provided by Marcus Forrest. ... In my dream career, I would be a professional athlete or a politician. ... My favorite subject to study in school is history. ... My favorite athlete is LeBron James. ... My favorite TV show is "The Office." ... If I could have dinner with any three people from any time period, I would pick LeBron James, Muhammad Ali and Aristotle.

On my bucket list: Make it to the league, meet J. Cole and win a Big Ten championship at the U of I.

ALEX PIPPIN

Paxton-Buckley-Loda, Sr., DL

Why he made the team: The only repeat first-team All-Area member on defense from last season, Pippin used his burly frame to not only rack up 64 tackles, but also bull his way for two receiving touchdowns for the 6-4 Panthers.

A few of my favorites: Need concert tickets to see Snoop Dogg. ... Before I compete, I eat Subway. ... In my dream career, I would be a diesel mechanic. ... My favorite subject to study in school is P.E. ... My favorite athletes are Brian Urlacher and Luke Kuechly. ... My favorite TV show is "Trailer Park Boys." ... If I could have dinner with any three people from any time period, I would pick Dick Butkus, Ken Block and Grandpa.

On my bucket list: Own a Nissan GTR, own a large garage and own a trophy truck.

TREVOR WEBB

Argenta-Oreana, Sr., LB

Why he made the team: Though his 9-2 Bombers were upset early in the Class 1A postseason, Webb's terrorized opponents all season. Webb's 127 stops ranked second in the area, and his 67 solo efforts were good for runner-up status.

A few of my favorites: Need concert tickets to see Rodney Atkins. ... Before I compete, I eat steak and eggs. ... In my dream career, I would be a professional football player. ... My favorite subject to study in school is American history. ... My favorite athlete is Luke Kuechly. ... My favorite TV show is "Diesel Brothers." ... If I could have dinner with any three people from any time period, I would pick Abraham Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower and Barack Obama.

On my bucket list: Meet Tom Brady, go skydiving and go rock climbing.