Preps Talk

State-of-the-art practice facilities 'wonderful addition' for HF

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State-of-the-art practice facilities 'wonderful addition' for HF

Temperatures in Homewood, Ill., the week of the 2014 8A state title game reached uncommon lows of 16 degrees, with winds gusting as high as 45 miles per hour. One week away from the ultimate prize, the 16 teams remaining in the IHSA playoffs around the state dealt with icy, snowy conditions on their practice fields leading up to the biggest games of their respective lives.

All teams but one.

Tucked away inside their cozy, 137,000-square foot student-athlete facility, the Homewood-Flossmoor Vikings spent the vast majority of that week practicing on their 30-by-55-yard indoor football field. They calmly lifted weights inside their 9,000-square foot state-of-the-art fitness center. They diligently watched film of Stevenson, their opponent, in brand new classrooms and wound down inside brand-new locker rooms that had been constructed mere months earlier.

The gold standard for athletic facilities in Illinois resides on the Homewood-Flossmoor campus, and it's been an instrumental tool in constructing one of the state's top football programs.

The project, completed in spring 2014, was the result of nearly a decade of saving, researching and careful planning. The school was helped out in large part by earning a AAA bond rating, one of 69 schools in the country at the time, two months after the renovation began in February 2013. The bond rating improved the school's credit profile, helping it maintain competitive interest rates on financing and not requiring the use of increased taxpayer dollars. Athletic director Dan Vosnos, who arrived at HF two years ago, applauded the work of business manager Ken Parchem for his years of work and planning which allowed the $26 million project to be completed in such financially and timely efficient fashion.

[#DriveVikings: HF offensive line putting the 'hit' in Hit Squad]

Walk into the north building on HF's campus and you'll swear you're inside a collegiate field house. Football head coach Craig Buzea has heard from countless college assistants that their facility is the nicest they've seen anywhere in the country. They're not wrong.

The facility was the product of faculty members and coaches touring more than 20 different schools and facilities across the Midwest, researching and pooling together data to better blueprint their own plans on what they hoped would become an athletics center unmatched by any school in Illinois for the next five decades. It was the major piece of a decade-long "strategic facilities plan" that saw the science labs, the school's main auditorium, the TV/radio station and district offices all renovated.

In a little more than a year, construction took an athletic facility built in 1973 and transformed it into a staple of the community and school. Among the amenities? The aforementioned fitness room, locker rooms and indoor football field, four full-size basketball courts, practice rooms for cheerleaders and pom teams, a 200-meter indoor track, a wrestling room, a medical center, a volleyball gymnasium and batting cages for baseball and softball teams. The renovation also included a second turf field outdoors that acts as the home field for the boys and girls soccer teams, as well as the junior-varsity football team.

"It's just a wonderful addition to such a wonderful school," athletic director Dan Vosnos, who gave CSN and Drive an exclusive tour of the facilities, said.

[RELATED: HF football shows what 'Viking Tough' is all about]

Vosnos also added that feeder teams and park district groups are able to use the facility year-round, offering more local community support from the school to the city of Homewood. Past the athletic teams, the renovation also included the school's main atrium and cafeteria.

And there's more on the horizon. Vosnos said the school will look at renovating the pool area next summer, in addition to other facilities.

"We're still not done yet," he said. "We still have some ideas we're talking about."

As it pertains to the football team, the renovations have been crucial. Thunderstorms threatened to abruptly end the first day of organized practice. Instead, Buzea moved practice indoors, the offense ran 7-on-7 on their indoor field and the defense ran 11-on-0 sets on the school's basketball courts.

The result of rain-or-shine accessibility has been a 4-0 start for the Vikings. Inclement weather postponed many of the games last Friday night. But with the help of the indoor turf field, both the Vikings and Joliet Central Steelmen had time to warm up indoors as they waited out the storms. That allowed the game to start as soon as the all-clear sounded, with both teams warmed up from their time inside.

As is the case for any school, the football stadium lies at the heart of the athletic complex. The Vikings were one of the first teams in the state to install field turf, and both the press boxes and scoreboard have undergone complete renovations that make HF one of the most visually appealing stadiums in Illinois.

"We've sort of taken away a few things from how colleges do it," Buzea said. "We really try to make it not just a football game, but some people come to it just as an event. And we want it to be the event on that Friday night that we host, and because of the facilities that we have it's become that. I think it's made a really nice home-field advantage for us."

Hear more from Vosnos in the video below.

Public League champion Simeon remains clear No. 1 in latest Preps Power Rankings

Public League champion Simeon remains clear No. 1 in latest Preps Power Rankings

The Class 1A and 2A regionals begin this week and the regular season is finishing up for every other team in the state. We're getting that much closer to state titles being decided in Peoria. Simeon remains the clear No. 1 in the latest Power Rankings after beating No. 4 Whitney Young and No. 2 Orr by double digits on the way to earning a third straight Public League Playoff title, while a couple of familiar faces are back in the tail end of the rankings.

1. Simeon (25-3, 9-0) (1) -- Simeon stays at No. 1 after winning the Public League Playoffs for the third consecutive year. The Wolverines have now defeated teams No. 2 through No. 6 in the Preps Power Rankings for a 6-0 record on the season in which the average margin of victory has been 14.5 points per game. The clear No. 1 in the state of Illinois, Simeon has the week off before the Class 4A playoffs.

2. Orr (22-4, 9-0) (2) -- Orr put up a good fight but they ultimately fell short to No. 1 Simeon in the Public League Playoff title game. The Spartans did gain revenge on No. 3 Curie, however, with a big semifinal win on Friday. Orr has to forget the title loss ahead of the Class 2A Playoffs that begin this week as the Spartans try to repeat as champions.

3. Curie (23-4, 8-1) (3) -- The Condors have only lost to No. 1 and No. 2 when it comes to in-state losses as they remain one of the most complete and balanced teams in the state. Curie has the week off before the IHSA Playoffs.

4. Whitney Young (22-7, 7-2) (4) -- Whitney Young earned a huge quarterfinal win over Morgan Park before falling to Simeon in the Public League Playoff semifinals. The Dolphins also have the week off before they attempt to repeat as Class 4A champions. 

5. Morgan Park (18-9, 7-2) (5) Disappointing result for the Mustangs as they lost on a buzzer-beater in the Public League Playoffs to Whitney Young. Defending champions in Class 3A, the Mustangs will rest this week before the playoffs begin.

6. Fenwick (18-7, 8-0) (8) -- The Friars earned two wins during the week as they beat Marmion while also getting a huge conference road win at Loyola. Fenwick will battle Taft during the week.

7. New Trier (22-3, 8-1) (9) -- New Trier had one of the best weeks of any team in the area as they picked up wins over Maine South and Evanston. Now the leaders in the rugged CSL South, the Trevians have some more tough games against Niles North and Glenbrook North this week. 

8. Evanston (20-5, 8-2) (6) -- Evanston's red-hot recent play was finally slowed down as they fell to rival New Trier. The Wildkits will try to bounce back when they play Vernon Hills in a Central Suburban crossover this week.

9. Oak Park-River Forest (21-5, 12-0) (11) -- The Huskies finished the West Suburban Silver season unbeaten following wins over York and Proviso West. OPRF gets a great test right before the playoffs when they face Hinsdale South in the West Suburban championship game.

10. Benet (21-4) (6-1) (12) -- Two wins for the Redwings this week when they beat Joliet Catholic and Stevenson. Things aren't easy for Benet this week as they head to Marian Catholic before hosting Carmel in two tough ESCC games. 

11. West Aurora (19-4, 8-0) (13) -- The winning streak is now 11 for the Blackhawks after beating South Elgin. West Aurora will play Bartlett and crosstown rival East Aurora this week as they try to keep the momentum going into the playoffs. 

12. Marist (23-4, 6-2) (15) -- Marist picked up a double-digit win over St. Patrick during the week as they prepare for the Class 4A draw. The RedHawks will have an ESCC game against Marian Central this week. 

13. Niles North (22-4, 5-4) (8) -- The Vikings fell to CSL South rival Maine South and followed that up with an overtime win over a tough Wisconsin team in St. Catherine's. The Vikings get a crack at conference leader New Trier this week before playing Maine West in a tough Central Suburban crossover. 

14. Marian Catholic (20-4, 5-3) (16) -- Three wins for the Spartans during the week as they knocked off Nazareth, Rich Central and Marian Central. Marian Catholic gets a tough test this week when they host Benet in its final ESCC game.

15. Naperville North (23-2, 14-1) (17) -- The Huskies have won eight straight games as they clinched at least a share of the DuPage Valley Conference with a win over Waubonsie Valley this week. Naperville North hosts Wheaton-Warrenville South this week to decide the DVC title.

16. DePaul Prep (20-6, 5-3) (19) -- Picking up a convincing double-digit win over Mount Carmel, the Rams got back on track after the loss to Brother Rice. DePaul Prep will host Montini during the week as they prepare for Class 3A. 

17. Loyola (21-6, 5-3) (10) -- Tough recent stretch for the Ramblers as they fell to St. Joseph and Fenwick to fall out of the Catholic League Blue race. Loyola hosts Steinmetz for a tune-up this week. 

18. Hillcrest (21-5, 13-0) (21) -- Hillcrest survived a tight win over T.F. North before winning convincingly against Oak Forest. The Hawks have the week off as they prep for Class 3A. 

19. Leo (19-5, 8-0) (22) -- Finishing the regular season with a big win over Marmion, the Lions will be one of the area teams to watch in the Class 2A playoffs as they are in the Marshall Regional. 

20. Homewood-Flossmoor (16-6, 7-1) (23) -- Another huge win for Homewood-Flossmoor as the Vikings took down Bolingbrook to keep a lead in the SouthWest Suburban Blue. Homewood-Flossmoor goes on the road this week to battle Sandburg and Lockport. 

21. Hinsdale South (20-5, 10-2) (24) -- The Hornets stayed hot with wins over Addison Trail and Proviso East as they clinched the West Suburban Gold. Hinsdale South has a tough battle against Oak Park-River Forest in the West Suburban championship game this week. 

22. St. Viator (22-5, 8-0) (25) -- The Lions picked up some wins against Carmel and Bartlett. St. Viator will try to close out the ESCC with an undefeated record when they play Nazareth this week. 

23. Bolingbrook (17-6, 5-3) (18) -- Bolingbrook fell out of the SouthWest Suburban Blue conference race when they lost to Homewood-Flossmoor. The Raiders still have some tough games to close out the regular season when they play Lincoln-Way East and Stagg.

24. Maine South (20-7, 6-4) (NR) -- Huge win for Maine South as they knocked off Niles North after losing to New Trier in overtime earlier in the week. The Hawks close out the regular season with a Central Suburban Crossover against Highland Park.

25. Willowbrook (22-5, 9-3) (NR) -- Willowbrook is back in the rankings by earning three double-digit wins over Morton, Leyden and Downers South. The Warriors have only lost to ranked teams like West Aurora and Hinsdale South lately as they've been playing well. 

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