Preps Talk

Vikings get 'mojo' back as postseason run heats up

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Vikings get 'mojo' back as postseason run heats up

You'd be hard-pressed to find a high school football player who doesn't treat the playoffs like a do-or-die situation. For many of these players, it is in a sense.

For the sophomores and juniors, there's never a guarantee of their teams returning to the postseason the following year. For the seniors, the vast majority will never strap on a helmet and shoulder pads in an organized sense ever again. There's a finality to the high school football playoffs, and for the true contenders in each of the eight classes it presents an opportunity to finish a dream or to lose it for good.

And yet somehow, it means something even more for Deante Harley-Hampton and the Homewood-Flossmoor Vikings.

The supremely talented running back can't forget how his junior season ended. It's been well documented, that inside a minute to play in the 8A state title game Harley-Hampton fumbled at the 3-yard-line, cementing a 31-25 loss to the Stevenson Patriots. Harley-Hampton rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown in the crushing defeat, averaging better than 4.5 yards per carry against one of the state's best defenses.

But none of those yards mattered on that late November evening in Champaign. It was the three yards he didn't get. And while the senior has moved past his shortcomings as a junior, it undoubtedly has fueled him to finish what he came 9 feet shy of a year ago.

It's why as the second season began last Friday night for the Homewood-Flossmoor Vikings, Harley-Hampton announced his arrival and left no doubt about his plans for the postseason.

Harley-Hampton, who had battled a calf injury the last three weeks, rushed 13 times for 287 yards and three scores in the Vikings' opening round 55-17 victory over O'Fallon, finding the end zone on rushes of 14, 85 and 95 yards in the blowout win.

"I was a little gassed, I've got to get in shape," Harley-Hampton said with a smile, referencing his 63-yard run late in the second half that didn't find the end zone. "I'm not used to running that far. But I'm glad I can run that far with my O-linemen, major shoutout to them. My running backs coach, coach Albert Evans. I'm just blessed right now."

The Vikings rushed for a season-high 602 yards, averaging nearly 16 yards per carry while finding the end zone six different times. Much of the success was due to head coach Craig Buzea's implementation of a Wildcat version of the offense, substituting quarterback Bryce Gray for an extra blocker while having Deante Harley-Hampton or his twin brother, Devonte, handling the ball.

And therein lies the rub for opposing defenses attempting Homewood-Flossmoor. For as well as Deante ran against the three-man O'Fallon front, Devonte was just as good. The taller of the two Harley-Hampton twins rushed 15 times for 249 yards, also finding the end zone three times. The two-headed monster proved unstoppable Friday night, and it acted as a reminder for the rest of the state that this offense is still the most lethal in the state, despite their Week 9 hiccup in a 22-21 loss to Bolingbrook.

"Now we're starting to have our mojo back," Devonte Harley-Hampton said. "We had to bounce back from last week but now we've got a little fire to ourselves. We're coming back strong."

A Vikings team that came 3 yards from the ultimate prize doesn't need to be reminded about how fragile the playoffs can be. Gray admitted after the game that the Vikings were as focused in practice as they had been all season long, perhaps both a reaction to the surprising Week 9 loss and the reality that one more bump in the road means heading home without the trophy they expect to win in hand.

The expectation for the eighth-seeded Vikings is a trip to DeKalb in three weeks, and for a senior-laden team that experienced the lowest of lows in last season's state title game there won't be any skipped steps. Doubt from the outside crept in following the loss in the season's final week, but the playoffs are a different animal. And for a team that's been in this exact position before, with so many seniors on their last hurrah before graduation, the past is a reminder to not let it happen again. That focus was apparent last Friday, and it will remain as they continue their journey toward a state championship.

"I thought this was a big step in the right direction to be able to do what we did tonight, and do it so convincingly," Buzea said. "You never know when you're going to be done or when you're going to get a group of seniors like this or a team like this."

Added Gray: "We had our best week of practice all year, amazing week. And I think the product showed on the field. We've got to keep this going for four more weeks and we can do some special things." 

NBC Sports Chicago to carry live coverage of the 2018 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships

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NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago to carry live coverage of the 2018 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships

Network to televise LIVE coverage of the Class 1A-4A IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships from Redbird Arena in Normal, IL over the next two weekends

PLUS -- Live streaming coverage of EVERY IHSA Girls Basketball State Championship telecast – including surrounding pre/postgame coverage – to be made available to authenticated subscribers on NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive and via the NBC Sports app

NBCSportsChicago.com/Preps to air highlight packages from all semifinal, consolation, and championship games; “High School Lites” Girls Championships specials to air Feb. 23 & Mar. 2 at 11:00 PM CT

Chicago, IL (February 20, 2018) NBC Sports Chicago, the home of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Championships, will be airing LIVE cross-platform coverage of the 2018 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships on Friday, February 23 & Saturday, February 24 (Class 1A & 2A) and Friday, March 2 & Saturday, March 3 (Class 3A & 4A) from Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena in Normal, IL.  Over the next two weekends, Illinois preps hoops fans can look forward to seeing every action-packed semifinal, consolation and championship battle starting Friday at 11:00 AM CT featuring four, live semifinal match-ups, along with a pair of consolation and two huge state championship title games on Saturday.  Plus – EVERY game will be telecast in a high-definition (HD) format.  The 2018 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships will be produced by the IHSA & PlayOn! Sports.

In addition -- EVERY IHSA Girls Basketball State Championship telecast on NBC Sports Chicago, including surrounding pre/postgame coverage, will be streamed LIVE on NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive and will be made available via the NBC Sports app on tablets and smart phones.  Authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers can watch live IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships action from anywhere in the United States.  The live streaming service is currently available to customers of Comcast/Xfinity, DIRECTV, DISH Network, AT&T U-verse, Mediacom, RCN, WOW!, Time Warner Cable and Charter among numerous other carriers.  In addition, NBC Sports Chicago is also available on numerous digital streaming services including DIRECTV NOW, Hulu, fuboTV, Sling TV, CenturyLink Stream, PlayStation Vue, and YouTube TV.  For a full list of carriers and more information about NBC Sports Chicago’s live streaming service, viewers are urged to visit nbcsportschicago.com/live-faq.

IMPORTANT NOTES:

  • Several IHSA Girls Basketball State Championship telecasts will all air live on NBC Sports Chicago+…NBC Sports Chicago+ is located on Comcast/Xfinity ch. 201 in the Chicago area and in South Bend, IN, and on ch. 285 in Comcast/Xfinity’s Peoria, Springfield, Rockford and Champaign markets…viewers are urged to visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s special “Channel Finder” section (http://www.nbcsports.com/chicago/channel-finder ) or IHSA.org for complete channel location details for ALL games throughout the state. 
  • Fans are also strongly urged to interact via Twitter throughout the entire weekend by utilizing the hashtag #IHSA to share their comments and showcase their school spirit for their favorite teams. 

In addition, NBCSportsChicago.com’s IHSA Preps section (NBCSportsChicago.com/preps) will feature highlight packages from all games over the next two weekends, plus – NBC Sports Chicago viewers can look forward to a special championship editions of High School Lites on Friday, February 23 & Friday, March 2 (both nights live at 11:00 PM) for a complete rundown of every girls championship game, including expanded highlights and player/coaches interviews, along with the latest highlights and playoff scenarios for the upcoming IHSA Boys Basketball State Championships, which will take place the weekends of March 8-10 & March 17-18 at Carver Arena in Peoria, IL.  (NOTE: Full schedule details regarding NBC Sports Chicago’s live coverage of the 2017 Boys Basketball State Championships will be announced the week of March 5.)

The following schedule details NBC Sports Chicago’s coverage of the 2018 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships over the next two weekends (all times Central Time) (play-by-play/color analyst/sideline reporting teams are in parentheses):

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 23

11:00 AM –      Class 1A Semifinal #1: Okaw Valley (Bethany) vs. Stockton (Lee Hall/Chloe Barnes/Elise Menaker)

12:45 PM –      Class 1A Semifinal #2: Lebanon vs. Schlarman (Danville) (Lee Hall/Chloe Barnes/Elise Menaker)

5:30 PM –        Class 2A Semifinal #1: Harlan (Chicago) vs. Eureka (Dave Bernhard/Patricia Babcock-McGraw/Elise Menaker)

7:15 PM –        Class 2A Semifinal #2: Marshall (Chicago) vs. Teutopolis (Dave Bernhard/Patricia Babcock-McGraw/Elise Menaker)

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 24

11:00 AM –      Class 1A: CONSOLATION GAME (Teams TBD) (Lee Hall/Chloe Barnes/Elise Menaker)

12:45 PM –      Class 1A: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Teams TBD) (Lee Hall/Chloe Barnes/Elise Menaker)

5:30 PM –        Class 2A: CONSOLATION GAME (Teams TBD) (Dave Bernhard/Patricia Babcock-McGraw/Elise Menaker)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

7:15 PM –        Class 2A: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Teams TBD) (Dave Bernhard/Patricia Babcock-McGraw/Elise Menaker)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

FRIDAY, MARCH 2

11:00 AM –      Class 3A: Semifinal #1 (Teams TBD) (Dave Bernhard/Katy Winge/Camron Smith)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

12:45 PM –      Class 3A: Semifinal #2 (Teams TBD) (Dave Bernhard/Katy Winge/Camron Smith)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

5:30 PM –        Class 4A: Semifinal #1 (Teams TBD) (Nate Baliva/TBA/Katy Winge)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

7:15 PM –        Class 4A: Semifinal #2 (Teams TBD) (Nate Baliva/TBA/Katy Winge)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

SATURDAY, MARCH 3

11:00 AM –      Class 3A: CONSOLATION GAME (Teams TBD) (Mike Bradd/Katy Winge/Camron Smith)

12:45 PM –      Class 3A: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Teams TBD) (Mike Bradd/Katy Winge/Camron Smith)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

5:30 PM –        Class 4A: CONSOLATION GAME (Teams TBD) (Nate Baliva/TBA/Katy Winge)

(NOTE: This game will air in its entirety on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER  for the exact channel location in your area)…ALSO, this game will be joined in progress on the main NBC Sports Chicago channel location immediately following “Blackhawks Postgame Live”

7:15 PM –        Class 4A: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Teams TBD) (Nate Baliva/TBA/Katy Winge)

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.