Disabato: Homewood-Flossmoor will be young but dangerous on football field
By Pat Disabato email@example.com Twitter: @disabato July 10, 2013 9:49PM
Homewood-Flossmoor's Vashon Nutt. | File photo
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Updated: August 12, 2013 7:02AM
Craig Buzea never has been the type of coach to promote sophomores to the varsity.
In fact, the Homewood-Flossmoor football coach can recall doing it maybe a handful of times during a successful 20-year career.
“Only if we had to,” said The Buzzman, who’s beginning his third year at H-F. “I’ve started maybe two sophomores in my 20-year career. I won’t bring a sophomore up and not play him.”
That’s why when H-F takes the field this season, at least eight to as many as a dozen sophomores might be starting.
However, I’d refrain from using the word “rebuild” in describing the 2013 Vikings. In fact, I’m predicting the Vikings will qualify for the state playoffs.
This sophomore class is special. Real special.
As freshmen in 2012, not only did the Vikings register an undefeated season, they led each opponent, on average, 49-0. At the half.
That’s right. A running clock to begin the second half of each game.
I’m not one to put a lot of stock in lower-level records, knowing most programs promote top freshmen to the sophomore team, some to the varsity.
Buzea resisted that urge a year ago and kept the entire freshman class together. Still, that type of dominance can’t be ignored.
“I don’t put too much stock in that,” Buzea said of his the freshman Vikings’ dominant season. “But the way they beat teams was pretty awe-inspiring. We have some really talented sophomores. They’re still young and inexperienced. This (varsity) is a whole other level. I don’t know how successful you can be when you have 12 sophomores on the field.”
It appears we’re about to find out.
In no way, though, should H-F’s senior class be slighted. Guys such as Darrion Sole, Mylan Reeves, Devin Pitts, Vashon Nutt, Devion May, Michael Johnson, Nick Sanders, Pat Johnson, Aaron Gooch, R.J. Howell and Devante Heard are very good players and will start.
Likewise juniors James Sheehan and Shaun Bridges, part of a 7-2 sophomore team a year ago.
H-F will rely on its sophomores at many skill positions and on defense. Twin brothers Devonte Harley-Hampton and Deonte Harley-Hampton will see plenty of time in the backfield, and Desmond Bland, a 6-foot-4, 255-pounder, will nail down a spot on the offensive line.
The most intriguing position challenge involving a sophomore is at quarterback, where a three-way battle is brewing.
Seniors Jordan Culpepper and Isaac Cutrara — the latter of whom started his career at Marian Catholic before transferring to H-F before his junior year — and sophomore Bryce Gray are vying for the starting role.
Culpepper, a track star, is making his way back from a hamstring injury. Cutrara is well-versed in the offense, has a strong arm and excellent football sense. He’s also a straight “A” student.
Gray, also a big-time prospect on the baseball diamond, has been all the rage since he set foot in the school. He’s a polished drop-back quarterback who has the potential to be mentioned with some of the best the area has produced. High praise, indeed, I know, but the kid is the real deal. He also excels in the classroom, boasting an “A” average.
“We have three guys who can really play,” said Buzea, 25-10 in three seasons at H-F. “Isaac and Bryce are snap-for-snap with each other right now. Jordan has been hurt. He’s going to have to pick it up now. Isaac got some experience last year backing up Ron (Johnson). Bryce has more experience playing quarterback growing up. We’re working on some mechanical things with him. Making reads, checking off different plays and reading coverages, that’s where Isaac is ahead of him now.
“If we’re not successful this year, I don’t think it will be because of quarterback.”
It also likely won’t be because of a bunch of sophomores failing to adapt to varsity competition. Not only are the sophomores talented, they’re supremely confident.
“Most sophomores will kind of sit in the back and just watch things,” Buzea said. “Not these guys. They’re confident. There are times when they think they know a little too much and I have to tell them to ‘go back to the salt ’n pepper league for a little more seasoning.’ They’re pushing the older guys. The older guys know they can’t be complacent.”
In a perfect world, Buzea would like to start 22 seniors. With a roster of nearly 100 kids on varsity, he easily can do that.
However, Buzea believes in playing the best at each position, even if it means a sophomore.
“If the sophomore is the best kid at the position, he’ll play,” Buzea said. “We tell the seniors and juniors they’ll get every shot in the world to play. But we’re going to put the best people on the field, whether it’s a sophomore or a senior.”
Welcome to varsity competition.