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HF football honors family, eyes perfection

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HF football honors family, eyes perfection

Spend even a day around the Homewood-Flossmoor program and the essence and importance of family is apparent.

There's two sets of brothers, Justin and Jeremy Correll and twins Deante and Devonte Harley-Hampton. Head coach Craig Buzea's wife, Barb, is on the sidelines weekly, supervises team dinners and runs the team's Twitter account - "the little things," Craig Buzea said in a 2010 interview. Buzea himself has brought in multiple coaches with whom he had developed friendships with while coaching in Indiana the last two decades.

It's why the Vikings family was hit so hard in August 2013 when athletic director Alec Anderson suffered a heart attack in the school's weight room and suddenly passed, three days after he had addressed the football team for their upcoming season. Anderson had been at Homewood-Flossmoor for just one year, but in that span he touched the lives of everyone around him and became a close friend of Buzea.

"Did a marvelous job. Was great for kids, great for athletics, just really befriended a lot of people that were here," Buzea recalled.

Anderson spent the previous seven seasons at rival Bolingbrook, where he oversaw the Raiders win five state championships, including 8A football in 2011. Anderson's presence and effect made it an easy decision for both schools to honor their friend and colleague with a memorial trophy that would go to the winner of the annual game between conference foes that defensive end Tyler Newkirk likened to Bears-Packers.

The trophy went to the Raiders in Year 1, with Bolingbrook earning a 31-24 victory. Last year the Vikings brought the trophy back to Flossmoor with a 35-28 win - they also beat the Raiders in the 8A quarterfinals - and as the two teams prepare to square off in the final week of the regular season the trophy is just one of the reasons they're looking for a victory.

At stake for the top-ranked, playoff-bound Vikings is a shot at their first outright Southwest Suburban Lake conference title in school history. With a victory Homewood-Flossmoor would earn its first undefeated regular season since 1994. A win would also mean sending its top rival, the 4-4 Raiders, home without a playoff berth for the first time since 1992.

"It was actually one of our goals from the beginning of the year," Newkirk said of an undefeated season. "Of course that’ll be one of the things that we can check off, so that in itself is a big accomplishment. But to win outright conference so we don’t have to share it with anyone else is amazing."

An undefeated regular season appears likely. Though anything can happen in a rivalry game, and Ohio State-bound linebacker Tuf Borland will make things difficult for the Vikings offense, Buzea's group has shown no signs of slowing down. Despite trailing 13-0 - their first deficit all season long - to Sandburg in Week 8, the Vikings didn't panic, made the right adjustments and scored 55 of the game's next 63 points in another blowout victory.

The Vikings have outscored their opponents, 401-80, in eight games. The offense is averaging 11.0 yards per play - 496.1 yards per game - the defense has forced 16 turnovers and Trevor Johnson has only punted five times all year. Homewood-Flossmoor, up to No. 26 nationally on Scout.com, has aced every test its faced up to this point as is only improving as it embarks on a quest for its second state championship.

"We’re starting to play every week more and more together, every week everything is together," said cornerback Kemori Porter, who collected two interceptions in the win over Sandburg. "There’s no individual person. Everybody’s hustling to the ball, we’re making plays, we’re congratulating each other and we’re just all there to support each other. Nobody’s ever alone when you’re out the on the field."

Earning one of the top seeds in the 8A playoffs means the Vikings will likely earn a home playoff game - that, or they'll play in Flossmoor in Round 2 - but Friday is an important contest in that its senior night for a core group that has been on varsity since their respective sophomore seasons. Their hope is the journey ends in a state championship Thanksgiving weekend in DeKalb, but for now the next step is keeping the Alec Anderson memorial trophy at home, earning victory No. 9 and appreciating their final regular season home game.

"I was talking to Coach Buzz, it seems like yesterday we were just freshmen football players just trying to find our way into HF. And now that we’re finally seniors this is it. It’s senior night and there’s so many implications that come with the game, and so now that it’s here it’s going to be a little bit overwhelming at the beginning.

"We’ll see how the emotions work out when we’re on the field calling our names with our parents. But at the end of the day we still have to play a football game and we still make sure we take care of business."

Five top-25 matchups highlight loaded episode of High School Lites

Five top-25 matchups highlight loaded episode of High School Lites

High School Lites had five matchups between top-25 teams on Friday night as the Public League Playoff semifinals and big matchups in the CSL South, Catholic League Blue and SouthWest Suburban Blue took shape.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for the latest news and scores for IHSA basketball.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Palatine's Eduardo Orozco

Saint Xavier Team of the Week: Maine West girls basketball

Highlights

No. 1 Simeon holds off No. 4 Whitney Young

No. 2 Orr gets revenge on No. 3 Curie

No. 9 New Trier takes down No. 6 Evanston

No. 8 Fenwick handles No. 10 Loyola Academy

No. 23 Homewood-Flossmoor rallies past No. 18 Bolingbrook

Oswego East upsets No. 20 Joliet Central

Andrew shuts down Thornridge

Sandburg tops Lockport in OT

Richards runs by Shepard

Maine West captures second straight girls basketball regional title

Five ranked matchups lead a loaded edition of High School Lites

Five ranked matchups lead a loaded edition of High School Lites

High School Lites has a huge lineup in place for this week's show as we'll feature five matchups between top-25 teams. With the Public League Playoff semifinals, Catholic League Blue, CSL South and SouthWest Suburban Blue. 

Catch the newest edition of High School Lites this Friday night at 11 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. 

Public League Semifinals at Chicago State

No. 2 Orr vs. No. 3 Curie, 5 p.m. -- A huge rematch in the first semifinal puts these two top-3 teams against each other. Curie (23-3, 8-1) won the first matchup between the two teams early in the season as they were playing without senior guard Maurice Commander. Junior guard Marquise Walker and senior big men Traevon and Tyree Martin stepped up in that one. Orr (22-3, 9-0) has been on a roll lately as seniors Raekwon Drake, Dannie Smith, Ty Mosley and Chase Adams are playing at a high level. 

No. 1 Simeon vs. No. 4 Whitney Young, 7 p.m. -- The second semifinal puts two Public League titans against each other. The Wolverines (23-3, 9-0) will be the favorite as they're still unbeaten against Illinois competition. Senior Talen Horton-Tucker is the leading Player of the Year candidate and he's surrounded by talented teammates. Whitney Young (22-6, 7-2) earned a huge quarterfinal win over Morgan Park earlier this week as the Dolphins are playing with a lot of confidence. Seniors Javon Freeman and Xavier Castaneda are experienced while sophomore Tyler Beard has elevated his play.

Friday's Other Games

No. 9 New Trier at No. 6 Evanston, 7:00 p.m. -- A huge rematch in the CSL South that could ultimately decide a tight conference race. Evanston (20-4, 8-1) won the first matchup in overtime on the road on Jan. 12 as they've won six straight games. New Trier (20-3, 7-1) has won 10 straight games since that loss to the Wildkits as they picked up an important overtime win over Maine South earlier this week.  

No. 8 Fenwick at No. 10 Loyola, 7:00 p.m. -- Two Catholic League powers battle here. Fenwick (17-7, 7-0) is trying to stay unbeaten in the conference as they picked up a win over Marmion earlier this week. Loyola (21-5, 5-2) has dropped two straight games on the road but the Ramblers are still trying to gain some momentum before the postseason starts. 

No. 18 Bolingbrook at No. 23 Homewood-Flossmoor, 7:00 p.m. -- Two of the top teams in the SouthWest Suburban Blue face in this one. The Vikings (15-6, 5-1) have recent wins over Hillcrest and Lincoln-Way East as they've been playing better basketball the past few weeks. The Raiders (17-5, 5-2) won the first matchup between these two teams on Jan. 19 as they beat Sandburg in their last game. After a 10-day layoff, it'll be interesting to see how Bolingbrook looks in such an important game. 

Lockport at Sandburg, 6:00 p.m. -- We stay in the SouthWest Suburban Blue in this one as Sandburg look to get back on track. The Eagles (15-8, 2-5) have dropped two straight games, including a recent loss to Bolingbrook. Lockport (7-14, 1-6) recently knocked off Bolingbrook but they've also lost two straight heading into this one. Sandburg won the first matchup between these two teams with an overtime win on Jan. 19. 

Thornridge at Andrew, 6:30 p.m. --  Heading over into the SouthWest Suburban Red, Andrew tries to stay ahead of the pack for the league title. The Thunderbolts (16-8, 8-2) have won three straight games as they won on the road at Thornridge on Jan. 12. Thornridge (14-9, 3-6) has gone on a lot of runs this season as they've won two straight on the road after a five-game losing streak. 

Richards at Shepard, 7:00 p.m. -- Two of the best teams in the South Suburban Red matchup here. Shepard (15-7, 7-4) lost to Oak Lawn last week to snap a seven-game winning streak. Richards (11-12, 8-3) has played significantly better lately after a slow start. Both of these teams are battling with Oak Lawn for league supremacy. 

Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week

No. 20 Joliet Central at Oswego East, 6:30 p.m. -- Our Viewers' Choice Game of the Week heads to the Southwest Prairie. Joliet Central (19-4, 11-0) is trying to go unbeaten in league play as they've won three straight games. Oswego East (16-7, 8-3) is coming off a big win over Romeoville earlier this week. The Steelmen won this first matchup between these two teams on Dec. 15.