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." 

Edgy Tim's Preps Power Rankings: Playoffs Edition

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NBC Sports Chicago

Edgy Tim's Preps Power Rankings: Playoffs Edition

Here are the latest @NBCSPreps Top 25 Power Rankings as teams embark on the first week of postseason play.

1. Lincoln-Way East 9-0 (1)
Last Week: Beat Bolingbrook, 31-0
This Week: vs St. Charles East
EDGY's Take: The Griffins get a playoff rematch with the Saints...this time, minus the mud and slop.

2. Batavia 9-0 (2)
Last Week: Beat Wheaton North, 24-13
This Week: vs Granite City
EDGY's Take: The Bulldogs defense will need to slow down Granite City QB "Fast" Freddy Edwards this week. 

3. Brother Rice 9-0 (3)
Last Week: Beat Montini Catholic, 31-0
This Week: vs Zion-Benton
EDGY's Take: Impressive win over Montini to capture the CCL Blue title.
 
4. Marist 8-1 (4)
Last Week: Beat Benet Academy, 24-7
This Week: vs Stevenson
EDGY's Take: The Redhawks get a very difficult opening round game in hosting the Patriots.
  
5. Mount Carmel 8-1 (5)
Last Week: Beat Fenwick, 49-7
This Week: vs T.F. South
EDGY's Take: The Caravan have a very nice path in 7A; that said, the Rebels are not an easy opening game.

6. Homewood-Flossmoor 8-1 (6)
Last Week: Beat Sandburg, 56-0
This Week: vs Fremd
EDGY's Take: Can the Vikings offense dent a strong Fremd defense this week?

7. Cary-Grove 9-0 (7)
Last Week: Beat Naperville Central, 55-41
This Week: vs Wauconda
EDGY's Take: Wow. Talk about an impressive win. Last Friday's 55-41 triumph over Naperville Central certainly qualifies.

8. Simeon 9-0 (8)
Last Week: Beat Curie, 40-0
This Week: vs Rockford East
EDGY's Take: Simeon gets the top seed in Class 7A and will host the Rockford East E-Rabs in the opening round.

9. Nazareth Academy 8-1 (9)
Last Week: Beat Marian Catholic, 42-6
This Week: vs Andrew
EDGY's Take: The Roadrunners will not have an easy opening round game as they host the T-Bolts.

10. Maine South 8-1 (10)
Last Week: Beat Niles West, 48-6
This Week: vs Huntley
EDGY's Take: The Hawks will need to buckle the chin strap against a very big, strong Huntley team.
 
11. Oswego 9-0 (11)
Last Week: Beat Plainfield South, 22-15
This Week: vs Taft
EDGY's Take: The 3-seed Panthers also have a decent path in 8A. They open up against Taft.
  
12. Richards 9-0 (13)
Last Week: Beat Eisenhower, 41-6
This Week: vs Rock Island
EDGY's Take: Richards will face a strong Rocks' running game, anchored by a big offensive line.
 
13. Phillips 7-2 (13)
Last Week: Beat Raby, 40-0
This Week: vs Lake Forest
EDGY's Take: The Wildcats will begin their 6A journey. Up first: a very solid and battle-tested Scouts team that is coming off a win against Stevenson.

14. Willowbrook 9-0 (14)
Last Week: Beat Downers Grove South, 42-20
This Week: vs Lincoln Park
EDGY's Take: The Warriors get bumped up to 7A and open up against Lincoln Park.

15. Oak Park-River Forest 7-2 (18)
Last Week: Beat Lyons Township, 48-0
This Week: vs New Trier
EDGY's Take: Could it be one of the best round one matchup in the state? The Huskies match up against the Trevians in 8A.

16. Warren Township 8-1 (19)
Last Week: Beat Mundelein, 43-7
This Week: vs Neuqua Valley
EDGY's Take: The Blue Devils defense will get another test this week against the Wildcats.

17. Glenbard West 7-2 (20)
Last Week: Beat Proviso West, 35-6
This Week: @ Bartlett
EDGY's Take: The Hilltoppers wind up on the road in the first round. They take on a 7-2 Bartlett team.

18. Hinsdale Central 7-2 (23)
Last Week: Beat Hinsdale South, 21-12
This Week: vs Conant
EDGY's Take: The Red Devils will need to bring their A-game this week against an up-and-coming Conant program.

19. Rolling Meadows 9-0 (24)
Last Week: Beat Buffalo Grove, 34-7
This Week: vs Alton
EDGY's Take: The Mustangs will host downstate Alton this weekend to open up play in 7A.

20. Naperville Central 6-3 (15)
Last Week: Lost to Cary-Grove, 55-41
This Week: @ Plainfield South
EDGY's Take: The Redhawks will need to solve Plainfield South's power option running game this week.
 
21. Hillcrest 9-0 (21)
Last Week: Beat Bremen, 43-6
This Week: vs Jerseyville
EDGY's Take: The Hawks landed a top seed in 5A and will now look to make some serious postseason noise.

22. Bolingbrook 8-1 (16)
Last Week: Lost to Lincoln-Way East, 31-0
This Week: vs Waubonsie Valley
EDGY's Take: One of the most intriguing 8A matchups will be when the 11-seed Raiders host the 22-seed Warriors of Waubonsie Valley.

23. Montini 8-1 (17)
Last Week: Lost to Brother Rice, 31-0
This Week: vs Woodstock North
EDGY's Take: The Broncos will be just fine in 5A despite the 31-0 loss to Brother Rice.

24. Glenbard East 9-0 (NR)
Last Week: Beat Larkin, 42-14
This Week: vs Prospect
EDGY's Take: Can the Rams be more than just a "happy to be here" team in Class 7A?

25. IC Catholic 9-0 (NR)
Last Week: Beat Riverside-Brookfield, 49-0
This Week: vs Raby
EDGY's Take: The Knights will host an always-dangerous Raby team in the opening round.

2018 IHSA Football Playoff Pairings

2018 IHSA Football Playoff Pairings

The 2018 IHSA Football Playoff pairings have been unveiled as teams from all over the state begin their postseason journey. 

Be sure to check our Twitter, @NBCSPreps, or the IHSA's Twitter, @IHSAState, for the latest IHSA Football updates. 

EDGY TIM PICKS CLASS 5A AND 6A

EDGY TIM PICKS CLASS 7A AND 8A

PANEL PREDICTS THE STATE FINALS FOR ALL EIGHT CLASSES

CLASS 8A

CLASS 8A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. Brother Rice (9-0) vs. 32. Zion-Benton (5-4)
16. Oak Park-River Forest (7-2) vs. 17. New Trier (7-2)
8. Warren (8-1) vs. 25. Neuqua Valley (6-3)
9. Hinsdale Central (7-2) vs. 24. Conant (6-3)
4. Homewood-Flossmoor (8-1) vs. 29. Fremd (5-4)
13. Oswego East (7-2) vs. 20. Barrington (6-3)
5. Marist (8-1) vs. 28. Stevenson (6-3)
12. Plainfield South (7-2) vs. 21. Naperville Central (6-3)
2. Lincoln-Way East (9-0) vs. 31. St. Charles East (5-4)
15. Bartlett (7-2) vs. 18. Glenbard West (7-2)
7. West Aurora (8-1) vs. 26. South Elgin (6-3)
10. Evanston (7-2) vs. 23. Edwardsville (6-3)
3. Oswego (9-0) vs. 30. Taft (5-4)
14. Minooka (7-2) vs. 19. Loyola (6-3)
6. Maine South (8-1) vs. 27. Huntley (6-3)
11. Bolingbrook (7-2) vs. 22. Waubonsie Valley (6-3)

CLASS 7A

CLASS 7A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. Simeon (9-0) vs. 32. Rockford East (5-4)
16. Harlem (7-2) vs. 17. Lincoln-Way West (7-2)
8. Nazareth (8-1) vs. 25. Andrew (6-3)
9. Hersey (8-1) vs. 24. Lincoln-Way Central (6-3)
4. Batavia (9-0) vs. 29. Granite City (5-4)
13. Moline (8-1) vs. 20. Glenbrook North (7-2)
5. Willowbrook (9-0) vs. 28. Lincoln Park (5-4)
12. Maine West (8-1) vs. 21. Benet Academy (6-3)
2. Glenbard East (9-0) vs. 31. Prospect (5-4)
15. East St. Louis (7-2) vs. 18. Hoffman Estates (7-2)
7. Mount Carmel (8-1) vs. 26. T.F. South (6-3)
10. DeKalb (8-1) vs. 23. Lake Zurich (6-3)
3. Hononegah (9-0) vs. 30. Buffalo Grove (5-4) 
14. Wheaton Warrenville South (8-1) vs. 19. Belleville West (7-2)
6. Rolling Meadows (9-0) vs. 27. Alton (5-4)
11. Normal Community (8-1) vs. 27. St. Charles North (6-3) 

CLASS 6A

CLASS 6A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. Cary-Grove (9-0) vs. 16. Wauconda (5-4)
8. Kaneland (6-3) vs. 9. Von Steuben (6-3)
4. Phillips (7-2) vs. 13. Lake Forest (5-4)
5. Prairie Ridge (7-2) vs. 12. Hinsdale South (6-3)
2. Antioch (9-0) vs. 15. Reavis (5-4)
7. Lakes (7-2) vs. 10 Belvidere North (6-3)
3. Kenwood (8-1) vs. 14. Crystal Lake South (5-4)
6. Niles Notre Dame (7-2) vs. 11. St. Ignatius (6-3)
1. Richards (9-0) vs. 16. Rock Island (5-4)
8. Yorkville (7-2) vs. 9. Dunlap (7-2)
4. Normal West (8-1) vs. 13. Peoria Notre Dame (6-3)
5. Shepard (7-2) vs. 12. Springfield (6-3)
2. Washington (9-0) vs. 15. Providence Catholic (5-4)
7. Sacred Heart-Griffin (7-2) vs. 10. Quincy (7-2)
3. Glenwood (8-1) vs. 14. Lemont (5-4)
6. Bloomington (7-2) vs. 11. Crete-Monee (6-3)

CLASS 5A

CLASS 5A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. Payton (9-0) vs. 16. Evergreen Park (5-4)
8. Elmwood Park (7-2) vs. 9. Back of the Yards (6-3)
4. Montini (8-1) vs. 13. Woodstock North (5-4)
5. Sycamore (7-2) vs. 12. Rochelle (5-4)
2. Sterling (8-1) vs. 15. Phoenix Coop (5-4)
7. Hyde Park (7-2) vs. 10. Brooks (6-3)
3. Boylan Catholic (8-1) vs. 14. Glenbard South (5-4)
6. St. Francis (7-2) vs. 11. Amundsen (5-4)
1. Hillcrest (9-0) vs. 16. Jerseyville (5-4)
8. MacArthur (6-3) vs. 9. Morton (6-3)
4. Cahokia (8-1) vs. 13. Mt. Zion (6-3)
5. Carbondale (7-2) vs. 12. Champaign Central (6-3)
2. Highland (9-0) vs. 15. Rich Central (5-4)
7. Mattoon (6-3) vs. 10. Mascoutah (6-3)
3. Metamora (8-1) vs. 14. Joliet Catholic (5-4)
6. Marion (6-3) vs. 11. Rich East (6-3)

CLASS 4A

CLASS 4A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. IC Catholic (9-0) vs. 16. Raby (5-4)
8. Dixon (6-3) vs. 9. Stillman Valley (6-3)
4. Urban Prep Bronzeville (8-1) vs. 13. St. Edward (5-4)
5. Marengo (7-2) vs. 12. Sullivan (6-3)
2. Coal City (8-1) vs. 15. Wheaton Academy (5-4)
7. Ag. Science (7-2) vs. 10. Johnsburg (6-3)
3. Richmond-Burton (8-1) vs. 14. Plano (5-4)
6. Genoa-Kingston (7-2) vs. 11. Clemente (6-3)
1. Taylorville (9-0) vs. 16. Illinois Valley Central (5-4)
8. Columbia (7-2) vs. 9. Freeburg (7-2)
4. Rochester (8-1) vs. 13. Breese Central (6-3)
5. Pontiac (8-1) vs. 12. Herrin (7-2)
2. Paris (9-0) vs. 15. Salem (6-3)
7. Breese Mater Dei (7-2) vs. 10. Effingham (7-2)
3. Bishop McNamara (8-1) vs. 14. Richland County (6-3)
6. Murphysboro Coop (7-2) vs. 11. Prairie Central (7-2)

CLASS 3A

CLASS 3A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. Byron (9-0) vs. 16. Rock Island Alleman (5-4)
8. Elmwood-Brimfield Coop (6-3) vs. 9. Princeton (6-3)
4. Lisle (8-1) vs. 13. Dwight Coop (6-3)
5. North Boone (7-2) vs. 12. Mid-County Coop (6-3)
2. Dunbar (8-1) vs. 15. Herscher (5-4)
7. Clark (6-3) vs. 10. Hall Twp. (6-3)
3. Eureka (8-1) vs. 14. UP/Englewood (5-4)
6. Monmouth-Rosevl. (7-2) vs. 11. Wilmington (6-3)
1. Monticello (9-0) vs. 16. St. Joseph-Ogden (5-4) 
8. Anna-Jonesboro (7-2) vs. 9. West Frankfort (7-2)
4. Farmington (9-0) vs. 13. Greenville (6-3)
5. Beardstown (8-1) vs. 12. Pleasant Plains (6-3)
2. Carlinville (9-0) vs. 15. East Alton-Wood River (6-3)
7. Vandalia (7-2) vs. 10. Paxton-Buckley-Loda (6-3)
3. Fairfield (9-0) vs. 14. Newton (6-3)
6. Williamsville (8-1) vs. 11. DuQuoin (6-3)

CLASS 2A

CLASS 2A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. Gibson City-MS (9-0) vs. 16. Watseka (5-4)
8. Hope Academy (7-2) vs. 9. Knoxville (6-3)
4. Illini West (9-0) vs. 13. Mercer County (5-4)
5. Newman C.C. (8-1) vs. 12. Rockford Christian (6-3)
2. Orion (9-0) vs. 15. Fieldcrest (5-4)
7. Clifton Central (7-2) vs. 10. Rockridge (6-3)
3. Eastland-Pearl City Coop (9-0) vs. 14. Harlan (5-4)
6. Collins Coop (8-1) vs. 11. Chicago Christian (6-3)
1. St. Teresa (9-0) vs. 16. Staunton (5-4)
8. Eldorado (7-2) vs. 9. Athens (7-2)
4. Pana (8-1) vs. 13. Oakwood (5-4)
5. Nashville (8-1) vs. 12. Tri-Valley (5-4)
2. Maroa-Forsyth (9-0) vs. 15. Routt Coop (5-4)
7. Warrensburg-Latham (7-2) vs. 10. Chester (6-3)
3. Tuscola (8-1) vs. 14. Villa Grove-Heritage Coop (5-4)
6. Bismarck-Henning (8-1) vs. 11. West Hancock Coop (6-3)

CLASS 1A

CLASS 1A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. Princeville (9-0) vs. 16. Polo (5-4)
8. Annawan-Wethersfield Coop (6-3) vs. 9. Aurora Christian (6-3)
4. Lena-Winslow (8-1) vs. 13. Lewistown (5-4)
5. Orr (8-1) vs. 12. LeRoy (5-4)
2. Ottawa Marquette (9-0) vs. 15. Orangeville (5-4)
7. Stockton (7-2) vs. 10. Dakota (6-3)
3. Milledgeville (9-0) vs. 14. Fulton (5-4)
6. Forreston (7-2) vs. 11. Hiawatha (6-3)
1. Argenta-Oreana (9-0) vs. 16. Cerro Gordo-Bement Coop (5-4)
8. Fisher (7-2) vs. 9. Cumberland (7-2)
4. Red Hill (8-1) vs. 13. Central A&M (6-3)
5. Madison (8-1) vs. 12. Edwards County (6-3)
2. Camp Pt. Central (8-1) vs. 15. Greenfield-NW Coop (6-3)
7. Sesser-Valier Coop (7-2) vs. 10. Carrollton (6-3)
3. Triopia Coop (8-1) vs. 14. Georgetown-RF (6-3)
6. Arcola (7-2) vs. 11. Salt Fork (6-3)