Though it’s past the midway point in the season for many of the area teams, others — with goals of long playoff runs — are just getting started.

A lot can happen in the next eight weeks leading up to the state championship games in DeKalb on Nov. 29-30, but here are the seven players who have made the biggest impact so far this season.

Denim Cook, running back/nose guard, St. Teresa

Cook, a sophomore, emerged as a force on the defensive line during the Bulldogs’ Class 2A semifinals run last year. This year, he’s been the team’s focal point on both sides of the ball during a 5-1 start. St. Teresa didn't play in Week 2 because of a forfeit, but Cook still has 100 carries for 883 yards and 10 touchdowns following his 291 yards and four TDs against Clinton.

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Tristin Duncan, receiver, Effingham

Injuries kept Duncan, a junior, out of some games late last year, but he still finished with 33 catches for 833 yards and 11 touchdowns, and help fuel the Hearts’ near-upset of Kankakee Bishop McNamara in the Class 4A quarterfinals. This year, as a junior, he’s the area’s best receiver, with 37 catches for 676 yards and seven touchdowns in the Hearts' first five games to help lead Effingham to a 6-0 record.

Austin Hopkins, running back/linebacker, Arcola

Hopkins, a senior, has been a workhorse on both sides of the ball for the Riders, who are 4-2. Through five games, no running back in the area had more than his 128 carries, with which Hopkins had 754 yards and eight touchdowns.

Wade Jostes, quarterback, Maroa-Forsyth

Jostes, a junior, was thrust into the starting spot this year after the transfer of Ian Benner and — after a shaky start — has become the area’s most prolific passer, with 1,171 yards and 13 touchdowns on 63-of-91 passing to lead the Trojans to a 5-1 record.

Sage Davis, running back, Mount Zion

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Davis, a senior, has been the most consistent of the Braves “triplets,” combining with quarterback Ashton Summers and receiver Christian Keyhea to lead Mount Zion to a 6-0 record. Following a 36-carry, 286-yard performance in Week 6, Davis has rushed 98 times for 800 yards and 10 TDs.

Jacob Paradee, receiver/defensive back, Central A&M

Paradee, a senior, was the area’s most explosive player last year and that hasn’t changed this season. He’s led the Raiders’ 6-0 start with 486 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns on just 18 catches — 27 yards per catch.

Makail Stanley, running back/defensive end, Argenta-Oreana

Stanley’s mix of speed and strength make him unstoppable in the Lincoln Prairie Conference. A senior, Stanley has made the switch from receiver to running back seamlessly. His 264-yard performance in Week 6 against Villa Grove-Heritage made him the first area running back to go over 1,000 yards this season — he has 99 carries for 1,055 yards and 16 touchdowns. 

Others to watch

Deyon Jackson, MacArthur — The Generals' quarterback missed the team's game against Rochester, but still had 612 yards rushing, 752 passing and 12 total touchdowns through the first five games.

Kentrell Beck, Shelbyville — After a tough Week 1 at QB, Beck has emerged, rushing for 521 yards and 12 TDs, and passing for 759 yards and four TDs.

Brylan Phillips, Eisenhower — The Panthers haven't won a game, but they have the quarterback that can help turn their program around in Phillips, who has thrown for 1,193 yards and 1a TDs.

Connor Heaton, Central A&M — Heaton has made big plays in the passing game (1,094 yards, 16 TDs), the running game (369 yards, 7 TDs) and on defense.

PHOTOS: Players who've made the biggest impact in Decatur-area football so far this season

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Contact Justin Conn at (217) 421-7971. Follow him on Twitter: @jconnHR


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