DuPage County All-Area Football Team Captain: Alessio Milivojevic, St. Francis

After leading St. Francis to a Class 4A state semifinal appearance during his junior year, Alessio Milivojevic went back to work.

Despite finishing with 30 touchdown passes during the Spartans' 11-2 campaign in 2022, good enough to earn a multitude of postseason honors, including all-conference, all-DuPage County, and all-area recognition, Milivojevic was not satisfied.

Instead, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound quarterback went back to work in the offseason.

"I did speed work with my trainer in the mornings four or five days a week," said Milivojevic. "My goal was to get faster to help escape the pocket easier and become more of a two-dimensional quarterback."

The hard work paid off.

Improving in every imaginable metric, Milivojevic enjoyed a memorable senior season, guiding the Spartans to their second consecutive state semifinal berth - this time in Class 5A.

For his efforts, Milivojevic has been selected as the Captain of the Daily Herald's 2023 DuPage County All-Area Football Team.

His statistics are eye-popping.

In addition to completing 251 of 344 pass attempts (73%) for 3,415 yards and 40 touchdowns with just 4 interceptions, Milivojevic gained another 275 yards on the ground with 9 touchdowns.

"I feel Alessio is the top high school quarterback in the state," said Spartans coach Bob McMillen. "He's one of the best QBs in the Midwest.

"He became the true leader of our football team this season, both on the field and in the weight room. He took the team and put it on his shoulders."

Despite the team's success in 2022, St. Francis experienced a transitional period last offseason.

"I don't know how much people know about our school or football team, but we had nearly a complete turnover of our coaching staff last year," said McMillen. "We lost our offensive coordinator, running backs coach, receivers coach, offensive line coach, defensive line coach, and defensive backs coach. Only two of our coaches came back."

"I had to learn a new offensive system," said Milivojevic. "We used a lot more hand signals to get the plays in this season."

During the Spartans' season opener, Milivojevic completed 23 of 32 passes for 212 yards and a pair of touchdowns in their 27-22 loss to eventual Class 7A state runner-up Downers Grove North.

From that point forward, Milivojevic was in complete control.

In Week 2, he completed 16 of 19 passes for 265 yards and 4 touchdowns while adding a TD run during the Spartans' 42-28 victory over Sterling.

In Week 3, he put on a repeat performance, passing for 302 yards and 4 touchdowns with a TD run and a pair of 2-point conversion passes during the Spartans' 42-28 triumph over eventual Class 4A state runner-up St. Laurence.

Following his team's 17-16 loss to Fenwick in Week 4, Milivojevic began showing his knack for coming through in the clutch during back-to-back, nail-biting victories over Joliet Catholic and IC Catholic Prep.

With his team trailing Joliet Catholic 28-26 and 5:08 remaining, Milivojevic engineered the game-winning, 87-yard drive during the Spartans' 33-28 triumph.

In Week 6 against IC Catholic Prep, Milivojevic took the field late with his team behind 34-27 at its own 19-yard line.

A few minutes later, the Spartans pulled within 1 at 34-33 after Milivojevic's 8-yard touchdown pass to his younger brother, Dario, with 19 seconds remaining, capped a 13-play, 81-yard drive.

His successful 2-point conversion pass to DeShaun Williams proved to be the game-winning play in the Spartans' 35-34 win over the defending Class 3A state champion Knights.

"I remember going into the huddle in both games and telling everyone that we're going to score," said Milivojevic.

In Week 7, Milivojevic was back at it, helping lift the Spartans to a 31-28 victory over St. Rita on a late drive that resulted in the game-winning field goal.

With his confidence soaring, the Spartans continued to pile up victories.

After a 4-touchdown performance in St. Francis' 42-6 win over St. Rita, Milivojevic completed 16 of 21 passes for 273 yards and 2 touchdowns with a TD run during the Spartans' 35-17 victory over Nazareth.

No stranger to postseason play, Milivojevic kept rolling.

Following a season-high, 5-touchdown effort in the Spartans' 45-14 first-round win over Rochelle, Milivojevic completed 28 of 37 passes for 285 yards and 4 touchdowns with a TD run during his team's 49-8 second-round rout of Sterling.

Playing on his home field for the last time in his career, Milivojevic tossed a pair of touchdown passes and ran for 2 TDs during the Spartans' 37-14 win over Morgan Park.

Facing eventual 5A state champion Nazareth for the second time in five weeks, the Spartans finished on the wrong end of a 38-31 decision despite Milivojevic's 313-yard, 4-touhdown passing performance.

"I'm convinced that if our defense had come up with a late stop, Alessio would have marched us into the end zone," said McMillen. "And then we would have gone for the win (2-point conversion)."

Milivojevic finished his 3-year varsity career with 7,267 yards passing and 84 touchdowns.

"Every year, he got better," said McMillen. "This season, he became a real student of the game. He knew the offense completely - he knew everybody's position on every play."

After graduating in late December, Milivojevic will depart for Ball State, where he will get an early start on his collegiate career.

"Ball State is the perfect place for me," said Milivojevic, who was coached by his dad, Ivan, during his youth football days. "I'll start learning the playbook. My goal is to play football as long as I can.

"I'll leave with a lot of great memories. I have nothing but respect for Coach McMillen. He is like a second dad to me."

McMillen echoed his quarterback's sentiment.

"I've known Alessio since he was 8, 9 years old," said McMillen. "He's like one of my kids. One of his best attributes is that he is even keeled. He never gets mad. That's what made him so great - and will make him great in college. He doesn't get rattled.

"He is the best quarterback ever to come out of St. Francis."

St. Francis' Alessio Milivojevic threw for 3,415 yards and 40 touchdowns with just 4 interceptions this season while also rushing for 9 TDs, Sean King/for Shaw Local News Network
St. Francis' Alessio Milivojevic threw for 3,415 yards and 40 touchdowns with just 4 interceptions this season while also rushing for 9 TDs, Tony Gadomski/for Shaw Local News Network
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