Homewood-Flossmoor knows exactly what it’s in for when it takes on Lincoln Way East in the quarterfinals of the state series Saturday.
“East is the gold standard in Illinois football. They have had everybody’s number,” Vikings coach Craig Buzea said. “We are glad to have the opportunity to compete once again versus the best in Illinois and one of the premier programs in the nation.”
The Griffins (11-0) finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in 8A in every poll. They won state titles in 2005 and 2017 and were runner up in 2012.
East beat the Vikings 28-14 in a weather-delayed game on Sept. 27. H-F led that game early but the Griffins jumped in front with a 21-point second quarter and never looked back.
“We battled but didn’t have enough to beat the best team in Illinois,” Buzea said.
The Vikings (10-1) hope they can grind out a different result this time. Homewood-Flossmoor is run-first on offense with multiple schemes designed to wear down both the defense and the clock.
“I think the running game has been successful this year because of my great offensive linemen. They do a great job opening up holes for me to run hard through and make plays,” junior running back Sean Allen said. “Coach ‘Buzz’ does a great job with the schemes and play calling.”
Allen is the second 2,000-yard rusher in program history. He could pass Malik Norman for the all-time single-season yards lead this weekend.
Norman ran for 2,035 yards in 2010. Allen has 2,006 yards and 24 touchdowns on the season.
Buzea called Allen an “awesome kid” who works hard and remains humble.
“Sean’s greatest attributes are his vision, his ability to get out of cuts and get up to full speed in a short period of time, (be) football fast and his durability,” Buzea said. “We use him every way possible.”
Griffins running back A.J. Henning had 138 yards and three touchdowns on only 17 carries the first time the teams met. Buzea said the hope is the Vikings can control the ball and limit his touches.
Henning committed to Michigan in June. His other official recruiting visits reportedly included Georgia, Penn State and Notre Dame.
“When he has the ball, we must rally all 11. But we can’t forget about the rest of their team as they have all-state players surrounding their all-American,” Buzea said.
Henning isn’t the only one to worry about on the Griffins roster, though. Defensive end Sean McGlaughlin is committed to Northwestern. The other defensive end, Adrian Wilson, will play college football at Bowling Green.
East has another weapon in kicker Dominic Dzioban, who’s committed to Miami of Ohio.
“Field position is even more critical (than sustaining drives),” Buzea said. “They have the best kicker in the state, which makes it very difficult. We have to find a way to flip the field.”
H-F travels to Lincoln Way East in Frankfort Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.
“What me and the team need to do to win is execute and (just) do everything we need to do,” Allen said. “With the whole team being locked in and hyped, nobody can beat this group.”