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Vikings' offensive 'machine' hitting on all cylinders

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Vikings' offensive 'machine' hitting on all cylinders

There's offensive efficiency, and then there's what Homewood-Flossmoor did last Friday night at Downers Grove South.

Anxious to get a highly anticipated season underway, the state's top-ranked team left no doubt about their explosive potential in a 56-15 victory over the Mustangs.

In seven scoring drives from the first team offense, the Vikings averaged 2.8 plays; no drive took more than six plays, and four of those possessions needed two plays or fewer. The constant home-run strikes resulted in Homewood-Flossmoor needing just 7:03 to score seven touchdowns, with no drive taking longer than 2:14 to find the end zone. Their first five touchdowns came in the offense's first 11 plays from scrimmage.

"I told Bryce, I told Deante, I told Devonte, ‘Can y'all please slow down so I can get a break?’" joked senior defensive end Tyler Newkirk, who led the defense with 13 tackles. "Because we go on the field, make a stop, they get on the field and then I’m right back on the field for PAT and then I got to get ready to go back on defense. So I’ve told those guys countless times and they’re like, ‘We can’t. We’ve got to keep scoring.’ So it is what it is. I’m glad they’re scoring. It’s a good problem to have."

Quarterback Bryce Gray led the charge with an unimaginable box score: 8-for-9, 348 yards and four touchdown passes in a little more than a half on the field. The Harley-Hampton touchdown competition got off to a rousing start, with Devonte finding the end zone twice on touchdown runs in the first quarter, while brother Deante scored from 31 yards out on the game's opening drive. Deante added a second score early in the second quarter on a 28-yard middle screen pass from Gray. A 66-yard catch-and-run score out of halftime gave Devonte his third score of the night.

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Wide receiver Kendric Pryor, who committed to Wisconsin late Wednesday night, picked up right where he left off a year ago, too. The senior caught four passes for 152 yards and a pair of scores from Gray. The Vikings' explosive offense was summed up when a holding call and intentional grounding left them with a 2nd-and-33 from the Mustangs' 35-yard line. Gray took the snap, looked right and lofted a perfectly thrown ball to Pryor, four yards in front of his defender, for the score.

"We trust each other. I know where he’s going to be, I know if I throw it up 90 percent of the time he’s going to go get it," Gray said. "If he doesn’t get it nobody’s going to get it, so it’s great."

Statistically it's difficult to envision a high school program improving on a prior season in which they amassed 5,800 yards and nearly 600 points. But the trial run Friday night made it look like a matter of when, not if, they'll do just that.

"We know each other. We trust each other. Not many new pieces, so we’ve been playing with each other in this offense three years with the core guys. So we trust what Coach Buzz calls, trust the play calling, trust the coaches and we do what we do," Gray said. "And if we execute like we did today, it’s going to be hard to beat."

Even the backups, talent good enough to start on most teams in the state, showed promise. Reserve quarterback Trevor Johnson, who was split wide in an athlete role with the first team, led an 11-play drive in the third quarter that resulted in a 20-yard score from running back Tony Bello.

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A rival head coach described the Vikings' offense to CSN's Edgy Tim as a "machine," and their Week 1 performance certainly backed it up.

Despite the lackluster opponent, Friday was a crisp display of how deadly the Vikings' offense can and should be this season. With eight starters enjoying their second season in the role, head coach Craig Buzea believes the explosive unit is adding cohesiveness in the form of trusting one another on every play call.

"There's a feel amongst each other when things don't go well, there's always someone to bail them out," he said. "I think that just comes with time and chemistry and playing together a long time. I really sense that between them all."

They'll need to continue that camaraderie as they head into a Week 2 showdown against Stevenson, the reigning 8A state champion that stole glory from many of the same seniors who will take the field in Lincolnshire in Week 2. For some, like Deante Harley-Hampton, it's revenge. For others, it's simply the first tough test on the Vikings' schedule toward eminence in the form of a state championship in DeKalb 3 months from now.

"I'm sure our guys will show up and play, I'm sure their guys will. It'll be a great atmosphere, great high school game," Buzea said. "Win or lose, there's going to be seven more games to play. I think it's going to be exciting."

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

High School Lites had a busy show as it was the final week of the regular season for IHSA boys basketball Class 3A and 4A. The Class 1A and 2A playoffs also tipped in boys basketball as the show has some thrilling regional titles that were decided in the final minute. And finally, the girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals were played on Friday as the state's top teams played in Bloomington.

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

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Richards wrestler Mia Palumbo

Saint Xavier Team of the Week: Simeon boys basketball

Highlights

Marshall shocks Leo in Class 2A regional final

Aurora Christian runs past Harvert Christian for 1A regional title

Buzzer-beater lifts Monticello over Gibson City for regional title

Jacobs goes unbeaten in Fox Valley with win over Dundee-Crown

West Aurora gets by rival East Aurora

Yorkville completes season sweep of DeKalb

Lemont escapes past T.F. North

Marshall needs OT to get past Teutopolis in girls 2A semifinals

Harlan takes down Eureka in 2A semifinals

Stockton runs by Okaw Valley in 1A

Schlarman races by Lebanon

Boys Basketball Playoffs begin on busy week of High School Lites

Boys Basketball Playoffs begin on busy week of High School Lites

High School Lites is down to the final week of the regular season in local high school hoops as the Class 3A and 4A schools finish up conference play. The boys basketball playoffs have also started as the Class 1A and Class 2A regional championships will be played on Friday night.

The girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals will also be featured. You can catch all of those games on NBC Sports Chicago on Friday beginning at 11 a.m. with the 1A semifinals. High School Lites will air Friday night at 11 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago

East Aurora at No. 11 West Aurora, 7:00 p.m. -- These two rivals meet for the 225th time. The Blackhawks (20-4, 9-0) won the first matchup by 22 points as they try to finish the season on a 12-game winning streak. 

Jacobs at Dundee-Crown, 7:00 p.m. -- Fox Valley rivals match up as Jacobs tries to go unbeaten in the conference. The Eagles (23-3, 15-0) has been playing very well as they've won 20 of 21 games heading into this one -- including an earlier win against Dundee-Crown. The Chargers (14-11, 10-4) has won seven consecutive games since dropping to the Golden Eagles as they're second in the Fox Valley heading into this one. 

Yorkville at DeKalb, 7:00 p.m. -- The top two teams in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East play in this one. DeKalb (16-11, 11-1) has already clinched a share of the conference title as the team's only league loss has come against Yorkville. The Foxes (17-8, 10-2) knocked off DeKalb at their place on Feb. 3 as they try to win again to get a piece of the division title. 

T.F. North at Lemont, 7:00 p.m. -- Two of the better teams in the South Suburban Blue battle on the eve of the playoffs. Lemont (17-8, 9-3) has picked up three straight wins entering this one. T.F. North (11-9, 9-3) is trying to build some momentum after recent close losses to Hillcrest and T.F. South.

Carmel at No. 10 Benet, 7:30 p.m. -- The ESCC closes out its season with this one. Benet (22-4, 7-1) is coming off a nice road win at Marian Catholic earlier this week. Carmel (17-10, 4-4) knocked off Joliet Catholic during the week as they've been a dangerous team in the ESCC. 

Class 2A Boys Basketball Regional Championships

Leo vs. Marshall, 6 p.m. -- The Lions are the favorites but the Commandos are the host of this regional title game. Leo (20-5, 8-0) has a 13-game winning streak as they won the Catholic League White. Marshall (8-17, 4-5) struggled in the win column but they were a competitive 4-5 in a very deep Public League Red-South. 

Uplift vs. Northridge, 7 p.m. -- This should be an interesting battle as Uplift is playing on the road at Northridge. Uplift (17-9, 6-3) has played an extremely competitive schedule that includes a recent close loss to No. 1 Simeon as Kansas commit Markese Jacobs and senior forward Toraze Dobbs are one of the best combinations in the Class 2A field. Northridge (22-5, 12-0) went unbeaten in the Independent School League this season as they're riding a 13-game winning streak.

Class 1A Boys Basketball Regional Championships 

Aurora Christian vs. Harvest Christian, 7 p.m. -- These two teams play for the third time this season in what should be an interesting regional title game. Aurora Christian (23-1, 10-0) is the host as they only lost to Winnebago this season. The Eagles beat Harvest Christian twice in a six-day span in December. Harvest Christian (18-8, 8-2) finished third in the Northeastern Athletic as they played the second game within two points. 

Class 1A Girls Basketball State Semifinals

Okaw Valley vs. Stockton, 11 a.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Okaw Valley (29-5) is making its first state appearance after winning its first regional title in school history. Stockton (31-2) finished under .500 last season (13-15) and had an amazing turnaround that includes a current 15-game winning streak. 

Lebanon vs. Schlarman, 12:45 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- These two teams have combined for two losses this season as this should be a good one. Lebanon (31-1) just won its first sectional title in school history as they've now moved on to state. Schlarman (31-1) is led by junior Anaya Peoples, a Notre Dame commit and five-star prospect in the Class of 2019. 

Class 2A Girls Basketball State Semifinals

Harlan vs. Eureka, 5:30 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Two red-hot teams play in the first semifinal in Class 2A. Harlan (25-6) is riding a 12-game winning streak as this is its first appearance at state for girls basketball. Eureka (28-3) has a 19-game winning streak as they make their first state appearance since 1988.

Marshall vs. Teutopolis, 7:15 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Two storied programs in the state match up in this one. Marshall (20-7) will be making its 21st state appearance as head coach Dorothy Gaters is one of the most storied coaches in Illinois. Teutopolis is making its 17th appearance at state as the Lady Shoes (28-6) seek their first title since 1995.