Prairie Ridge’s Tyler Vasey (7) breaks a tackle as he returns a kick against St. Ignatius.

Prairie Ridge’s Tyler Vasey (7) breaks a tackle as he returns a kick against St. Ignatius.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Chicago Sun-Times High School Football Player of the Year: Prairie Ridge’s Tyler Vasey

Vasey set an IHSA record and led the nation in rushing yards this season with 3,878.

As Prairie Ridge senior Tyler Vasey, the Sun-Times’ Player of the Year, approached the Illinois single-season rushing and touchdown records, heads started to turn in Crystal Lake.

‘‘More people kind of stare at me,’’ Vasey said. ‘‘I don’t know if I really like it. You don’t realize how it will make you feel until more eyes are on you. It’s weird. You walk around school, and people look at you.’’

In an era of overbearing parents who wear down kids and coaches, Vasey hit the jackpot with his mom and dad.

‘‘They were happy I was getting all the recognition, but they made sure I was OK and wasn’t too stressed out,’’ Vasey said. ‘‘The thing I loved about it is they supported me in a way to make sure I was enjoying the game and having fun, that I was doing it because I wanted to do it, not because I had to do it. They weren’t telling me to go get the record. They motivate me and support me so much. I really do appreciate them.’’

Vasey wound up setting the Illinois High School Association record for rushing yards in a season. He finished with 3,878 yards. According to USA Today, that was the most rushing yards in the country this season. Vasey beat out Ethen Knox from Oil City, Pennsylvania, by 173 yards.

Vasey held the touchdown record for about a week. He scored 53 rushing touchdowns, breaking John Dergo’s record of 51 for Morris in 2005. But then Decatur St. Teresa submitted a new claim that Jacardia Wright scored 55 in 2018, so Vasey is second.

The 5-11, 170-pound quarterback was a total unknown heading into the season, mainly because of injuries. In 2021, he was injured a week before the season started. He came back and played the last six games as a running back. He missed all but two games of the short COVID spring season as a sophomore after breaking his collarbone.

Vasey’s speed is obviously key to his rushing success. But Prairie Ridge coach Chris Schremp says his decision-making is what made him a historically dangerous threat.

‘‘When we are running an option play, I give him the choice of mid-line, inside veer or outside veer,’’ Schremp said. ‘‘He chooses it based on the alignment of the defense. His vision on that and ability to pick the right play is better than any quarterback I’ve ever had.’’

Vasey posted eye-popping numbers in most games this season. He had back-to-back kickoff returns for touchdowns against Jacobs and broke the rushing-yardage record with 481 yards and eight touchdowns against Harlem in the Class 6A quarterfinals.

‘‘It’s like a sports car,’’ Schremp said. ‘‘His zero to 60 is crazy. And then he can just cut and — bam! — hit it and go.’’

Prairie Ridge’s Tyler Vasey (7) celebrates after the Wolves defeat St. Ignatius to advance to the IHSA 6A title game.

Prairie Ridge’s Tyler Vasey (7) celebrates after the Wolves defeat St. Ignatius to advance to the IHSA 6A title game.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Heading into the season, Vasey’s goal was to get Prairie Ridge (12-2) to the state championship game. He did that, but the Wolves lost to East St. Louis 57-7.

‘‘I’ve never seen kids that big,’’ Vasey said. ‘‘They were really good football players. We scored on the first drive, but they just wore us down. They are so big that at halftime everyone was just hurting.’’

Vasey hasn’t made a college decision yet. He’s also a top-notch shortstop in baseball. He hit .413 last season and runs the 60-yard dash in 6.6 seconds.

‘‘I’ll probably just play one sport in college,’’ Vasey said. ‘‘I know how much time it takes in college to just do one. It wouldn’t be fair to pick right now because I’m just coming off football.’’

Schremp has coached another Sun-Times Player of the Year, Samson Evans, who won the award in 2017. Evans put Prairie Ridge on the map, and Vasey has cemented its legacy.

‘‘He’s a special kid,’’ Schremp said. ‘‘I’m just going to miss seeing his face in school every day and having the chance to talk with him.’’

The complete list of Sun-Times Football Players of the Year

1951 - Bob McKeiver, Evanston

1952 - Frank Pinn, Mount Carmel

1953 - John Carroll, Fenwick

1954 - Jack Delveaux, Fenger

1955 - John Swain, Vocational

1956 - Ed Ryan, Leo

1957 - Mike Lind, Calumet

1958 - Jack Strobel, Fenwick

1959 - Dick Butkus, Vocational

1960 - Al MacFarlane, Taft

1961 - Jim Grabowski, Taft

1962 - Jim DiLullo, Fenwick

1963 - John Byrne, St. Rita

1964 - Chico Kurzawski, Weber

1965 - LaMarr Thomas, Thornton

1966 - Randy Marks, Loyola

1967 - Tom Spotts, Maine South

1968 - Carlos Matthews, Evanston

1969 - Barry Cernoch, Downers Grove

1970 - Ken Ferguson, Lane Tech

1971 - Bill Marek, St. Rita

1972 - Jeff Stewart, Elk Grove

1973 - Kevin King, St. Laurence

1974 - Frank Shellenback, Barrington

1975 - Mark Carlson, Deerfield

1976 - Rich Weiss, New Trier

1977 - Chris Boskey, St. Francis de Sales

1978 - Marty Finan, Fenwick

1979 - Tim Marshall, Weber

1980 - Mike Tomczak, Thornton F. North

1981 - Tony Furjanic, Mount Carmel

1982 - Eric Kumerow, Oak Park-R. Forest

1983 - Dempsey Norman, Tilden

1984 - Chuck McCree, Romeoville

1985 - John Foley, St. Rita

1986 - Kent Graham, Wheaton North

1987 - Jeff Lesniewicz, Homewood-Flossmoor

1988 - Brian Dunlavy, St. Viator

1989 - Alex Rodriguez, Lane

1990 - Corey Rogers, Leo

1991 - Mike Alstott, Joliet Catholic

1992 - Broc Kreitz, Waubonsie Valley

1993 - Greg Williams, Bolingbrook

1994 - Jason Loerzel, Maine South

1995 - Tim Lavery, Naperville Central

1996 - Mark Floersch, New Trier

1997 - Rocky Harvey, Dunbar

1998 - Philip Macklin, Proviso East

1999 - Ryan Clifford, Naperville Central

2000 - Brett Basanez, St. Viator

2001 - Tim Brasic, Riverside-Brookfield

2002 - Tom Zbikowski, Buffalo Grove

2003 - Sean Price, Maine South

2004 - Chris Jeske, Joliet Catholic

2005 - John Dergo, Morris

2006 - Dan Dierking, Wheaton Warrenville South

2007 - Jordan Tassio, Naperville North

2008 - Charlie Goro, Maine South

2009 - Matt Perez, Maine South

2010 - Reilly O’Toole, Wheaton Warrenville South

2011 - Ty Isaac, Joliet Catholic

2012 - Laquon Treadwell, Crete-Monee

2013 - Justin Jackson, Glenbard North

2014 - Dewayne Collins, Phillips

2015 - Julian Love, Nazareth

2016 - Jake Marwede, Loyola

2017 - Samson Evans, Prairie Ridge

2018 - Payton Thorne, Naperville Central

2019 - AJ Henning, Lincoln-Way East

2020 - Vaughn Pemberton, Loyola

2021 - Jack Lausch, Brother Rice

The Latest
As part of the citywide “Flight of Butterflies” exhibit, ten 6-foot artworks have landed on Michigan Avenue.
This 25-year-old producer and performer is behind some of the hottest, catchiest tracks today.
Notes: The team activated left-hander Drew Smyly and optioned side-armer José Cuas to Triple-A.
His set included “La Diabla,” which made him the first Mexican artist to top the global Spotify chart, and his latest hit, “Corazón de Piedra.”
Rels B, the 30-year-old rapper and record producer from Mallorca, Spain, opened his Saturday set with his 2019 hit single “A Mí.”