Preps Talk

Vikings' offensive 'machine' hitting on all cylinders


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."

34 Days to Kickoff: Bartlett

34 Days to Kickoff: Bartlett preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Bartlett

Head coach: Mark Erlenbaugh

How they fared in 2017: 2-7 (2-3 Upstate 8 Valley Conference), Bartlett failed to qualify for the 20127 IHSA state football playoff field.
2018 Regular Season Schedule:
Aug. 25 @ East Aurora
Aug. 31 vs Glenbard East
Sept 8 vs Glenbard South
Sept. 14 @ Elgin
Sept. 21 @ West Aurora
Sept. 28 vs West Chicago
Oct. 5 vs Larkin
Oct. 13 @ South Elgin 
Oct. 19 @ Streamwood

Biggest storyline: Can the Hawks soar in the newly realigned Upstate 8 conference?

Names to watch this season: QB Dean Kotsovetis WR Austin Gates

Biggest holes to fill: The Hawks will need to fill in several spots this summer especially upfront on the offensive and defensive lines due to graduation losses.

EDGY's Early Take: Bartlett new head coach Matt Erlenbaugh comes in from Chicago Solorio and takes over the Hawks football program. Look for Bartlett to have a chance to challenge in the newly realigned Upstate 8 schedule. The Hawks schedule this season won't include the likes of several 2017 state playoff teams like Lemont, Prairie Ridge and St. Charles East.

35 Days to Kickoff: Oak Forest

35 Days to Kickoff: Oak Forest preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Oak Forest

Head coach: Brian McDonough

How they fared in 2017: 4-5 (3-3 South Suburban Conference). Oak Forest failed to qualify for the IHSA state football playoff field.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 vs Pekin
Aug. 31 @ Niles Notre Dame
Sept. 7 @ T.F. South
Sept. 14 @ Hillcrest
Sept. 21 @ Eisenhower
Sept. 28 vs T.F. North
Oct. 5 vs Tinley Park
Oct. 12 @ Bremen
Oct. 19 vs Lemont

Biggest storyline: Can the Bengals get back into the IHSA state playoffs this season?

Names to watch this season: LB Anthony Kluk and OL/DL Julian Ramirez

Biggest holes to fill: The Bengals will need to reload on both sides of the football especially on offense with the graduation losses of several starters including QB Tyler Morrison and RB Waitari Wilson.

EDGY's Early Take: It was a rare season for the Bengals in 2017, having missed the IHSA state playoff field for the first time since 1999. Look for Oak Forest to rely on its defense while a newer group on offense develops. The Bengals and veteran head coach Brian McDonough will need to get out to a good early start with a front-loaded regular season schedule.