St. Francis football looks like it’s reloading

Based on its performance at Naperville North’s Windy City Classic 7-on-7 football tournament, St. Francis doesn’t look like it missed a beat.

The 2023 Class 5A semifinalists graduated one of DuPage County’s top quarterbacks, Daily Herald DuPage County All-Area captain Alessio Milivojevic.

An Illinois High School Coaches Association Class 5A first-team all-state pick, he saw his stock rise from being a Ball State commit to now a freshman at Michigan State.

“You lose the player of the year in Alessio, you got a guy who throws for 4,000 yards, 40 touchdowns, so we’ve got to find that,” St. Francis coach Bob McMillen said at Naperville North.

The numbers may or may not bear out, but the way junior Brady Palmer was slinging the football in late June at Naperville North, he may have found it.

“We have a fantastic team, all our guys are great,” Palmer said before directing St. Francis to the Windy City Classic championship game, where the Spartans fell to Maine South.

In minimal time last fall, Palmer completed 4 of 5 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown.

“Our line’s a little bit younger than last year, but we have some awesome guys who came in, some transfers, some guys returning who have good experience. And our receiving corps is basically the exact same as last year, plus a couple guys,” he said.

“We have Gavin Mueller now, he’s our new tight end, he’s like 6-6, 250, so he’s definitely a weapon. That’ll be fun to throw to,” Palmer said.

It looked fun. A basketball player and track and field athlete, Mueller hadn’t played football since the eighth grade though he loves to lift weights. After McMillen saw him in the weight room, the coach convinced Mueller to return to football.

After just three days of practice he looked like a threat on any route, and showed serious leaping ability and sticky hands.

A junior, Mueller said that after a single football workout this year he picked up scholarship offers from Akron and Marshall.

“I missed it, so it was great coming back out. I found my passion again,” said Mueller, already the No. 11 recruit among Illinois’ Class of 2026 by

Receiver Zach Washington is No. 7 on that list. He joins returner Tanner Glock, Dario Milivojevic (Alessio’s younger brother) and Illinois State commit Ian Willis, a 2023 all-area pick who caught 80 passes for 1,072 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Running backs often serve as release valves to avoid timed “sacks” in 7-on-7 competitions, and he was watching from the Windy City Classic sidelines rather than suited up, but St. Francis also returns Tyvonn Ransom, who ran for 1,360 yards and 10 touchdowns last year.

McMillen operates from strength in these spots as well as at quarterback, where junior Jalen Carter also drew snaps. A transfer, last fall Carter passed for 2,338 yards and 31 touchdowns at Aurora Christian. He could start at quarterback, receiver or safety for St. Francis.

McMillen figured that in a competition among Class 7A and 8A opponents, St. Francis may have had the lowest numbers at Naperville North.

Those offensive skill positions, though, project high.

“Losing Alessio hurt,” Willis said, “but us having a quarterback like Brady to come in and do the job, too, we have the same receiver corps coming back, so as long as our line holds up for Brady we’ll be really good this year. Just as good or better than last year.”

  St. Francis coach Bob McMillan looks on at last month’s Naperville North High School Windy City 7 on 7 football tournament. John Starks/
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