At Homewood-Flossmoor High School, they call it the football program’s Decade of Excellence. With the wrap-up of the 2019 season, the decade is moving the coach into into legacy territory.
Under the leadership of head coach Craig Buzea, the school’s football program has set a school record by making 10 consecutive IHSA playoff appearances. Players and staff reached six quarterfinals, two semifinals, the state 2014 championship game and two South West Suburban Conference championships.
Buzea’s overall record with the Vikings is 94 wins and 24 losses. Only former coach John Wrenn won more, with 99 victories.
The season ended with a 26-7 loss to the Lincoln-Way East High School Griffins in a IHSA Class 8A quarterfinal game on Nov. 16. The Griffins have beaten the Vikings each of the three times the teams met in the regular season since 2017.
On fourth down with one yard to go in the third quarter, H-F quarterback Dominic Jones scored on a 70-yard touchdown run to make the score 13-7.
Buzea said the game’s momentum changed on that play, but ultimately the Griffins, who he called the team’s “nemesis,” maintained control of the game.
“We just couldn’t hold them off,” Buzea said.
In regular season play, Buzea’s record is 76-14 throughout his tenure at H-F, and 41-4 in the last five years. Even with so many wins on the board, Buzea said he’s especially proud that 150 H-F students who played under his leadership went on to play college football.
The coach said the team’s 23 seniors have been “a very, very good senior group —not only from an athletic standpoint but in character and the things they did not only on the field but off the field with community service. They’re an awesome group to work with.”
Buzea and his staff try to design the program so that younger players will follow to take their place.
“That’s why it’s not a team, it’s a program,” he said. “They step up and take the next guy’s spot.”
Buzea credits the success of the program to “really good players, administrative support and an outstanding coaching staff: Tom Cicero, Zac Wells, Alex Pratt, Matt Ramos, Josh Forney, David James, Eric Schreiber Sr., Terrance Terry, Eric Schreiber Jr., Josh Ling and Bart Czachor.
“We set our expectations high and we expect our guys to do everything in their power to get to those expectations. We want to tow the line and make sure they’re disciplined and do things right on the field and off the field. I think that correlates to a good program,” he said.
Juniors Sean Allen and Will Pauling were selected to the all conference team and coaches hope they will take leadership roles in the 2020 season.
Allen, a running back, broke a school record that had stood for 10 years, running for 2,043 yards. He also notched 25 touchdowns.
“That was a record I didn’t know would ever be broken. And he’s only a junior,” Buzea said.
Pauling, a wide receiver, had almost 1,000 yards receiving and “was just electrifying when he had his hands on the ball,” the coach said.