Preseason Football No. 1: All the pieces in place for Homewood-Flossmoor
By Pat Disabato email@example.com August 28, 2014 9:52PM
Homewood Flossmoor's Deante Harley-Hampton | File photo
2. Mount Carmel
4. St. Rita
5. Joliet Catholic
6. Lincoln-Way East
8. Lincoln-Way North
9. Brother Rice
Updated: September 30, 2014 6:26AM
Throughout an 11-game season in 2013, Homewood-Flossmoor found itself behind on the scoreboard approximately five out of 528 minutes of game action.
The Vikings hit opponents early and often, leading to large leads and lopsided results, as evidence by a 414-176 scoring differential.
Coincidentally, those five minutes of playing from behind were late in games against Bolingbrook and Naperville Central.
The Vikings failed to rally either time, suffering a 31-24 overtime loss to Bolingbrook in Week 7 and a 24-21 second-round playoff defeat to Naperville Central, which went on to win the Class 8A title.
“We know we can’t let up,” H-F tight end James Sheehan said. “When we get ahead, we have to keep building on that. I think, for the most part, we did a good job of that last season. But in those two games, we didn’t, and it cost us. We’ll learn from that.”
If the Vikings indeed can apply those lessons to 2014, it very well could be a magical season for H-F, which has earned the No. 1 spot in the SouthtownStar Preseason Top 10.
“We appreciate the ranking and the confidence,” H-F receiver Jared Sharp said. “We think everybody has the same expectations that we have on ourselves. We know each opponent is going to bring their best, and we’re going to have to play great football every game. We love that challenge.”
Many familiar faces return for H-F, which finished 9-2 in 2013 and last won a state championship in 1994. Tops among the returnees are the Harley-Hampton twins, DeVonte (5-10, 180) and Deante (5-8, 170), who combined to score 13 touchdowns last season.
Junior Bryce Gray steps in at quarterback. The 6-foot, 200-pound Gray has a powerful arm and tremendous touch, which should bode well for the Vikings’ explosive spread attack. Gray has big-time receivers in seniors Sheehan (6-3, 210) and Sharp (5-10, 170) and juniors Kendric Pryor (5-10, 160) and Alex Daubon (6-2, 175). The Harley-Hamptons are two other receiving options out of the backfield.
“Pick your poison,” Sharp said when asked about the Vikings’ weapons. “The twins are even better all-around players than they were last year.”
The offensive line is somewhat of a mixed bag. The good news is the Vikings boast one of the top linemen in the Class of 2016 in junior Desmond Bland (6-4, 285). The bad news is that he’s the only returning starter on the line.
The Vikings are confident senior Rayshaun Hawkins (6-foot, 300) and sophomore Jamezz Kimbrough (6-3, 240) can help fill the void.
“The offensive line is going to have to mature in a hurry,” H-F coach Craig Buzea said. “I expect some growing pains.”
The defense suffered a serious blow when senior linebacker Preston Sanders suffered an ankle injury in practice and likely will be lost for the season. Beyond performance, Sanders was a leader on the field.
“It’s unfortunate,” Buzea said. “He’s the heart and soul on defense. It’s a major void we have to fill.”
It will be up to senior linemen Kaylen Luna (6-foot, 210) and Justin Minor (5-10, 230), linebacker Justin Chu (5-10, 195) and safety Matt Dwyer (5-10, 180) — all returning starters — to shoulder more of the leadership responsibilities.
H-F opens its season Friday at home vs. Harlan, followed by a much-anticipated Week 2 date in Flossmoor vs. Stevenson.
“We’ve looked good on offense, but maybe it’s because our defense isn’t very good,” Buzea said with a chuckle. “We lost 46 seniors, 18 of whom went on to play college football. That’s a lot to replace. But we do have talent.”