Things are a little different with Homewood-Flossmoor football this year: Summer camp is starting only a few months after the last season ended; there’s a new head coach who brought in a mostly new staff; the bulk of the starters on offense are new and many players are in new positions.
“I think we’re a team full of heart, a team full of guys who want to be here and want to be good,” said the Vikings’ new coach, Terrell Alexander. “If you’re starting there, you’ve got some good things going.”
Alexander comes over from Rich Central, replacing Craig Buzea, who built the program into a regional power. Buzea is now coaching in Indiana.
H-F will have to replace nine starters on offense, including last year’s most productive players at the skill positions. Running back Sean Allen graduated and is in camp with Illinois State. Wide receiver Will Pauling is playing for the University of Cincinnati.
“It’ll be by committee but make no doubt about it, our senior returner (wide receiver Myles Walton) is as good as anybody. He’s as good as anybody in the classroom, as good as anybody as far as character goes,” Alexander said.
Walton was one of the offensive leaders in the spring and looks to continue that, again. He said the whole team is playing with a chip on its collective shoulder, like it has something to prove with a new head coach.
Senior defensive back Khadari Kurns said the slogan for the season is “PTP,” or “point to prove.”
“(Alexander) brings us energy, for sure. He’s a coach that cares,” Walton said.
The quarterback position is key to everything on offense. H-F will have someone new under center this season replacing Alexander Pratt who is playing for North Central College. Coaches know his replacement but aren’t ready to make that decision public.
“I think we’ve got ourselves a QB1 but I don’t want to put that pressure on him. I think he’s got enough pressure being the QB1 at Homewood-Flossmoor,” Alexander said. “I think he’s developed and grown as much as anyone in the program in the last five or six weeks. We like him a lot.”
Walton’s been coming to practice early with the quarterback to work on their connection and do extra drilling. Senior center Juhsan Peebles is putting in time with the new signal caller over the summer, too.
“Our relationship is pretty OK. We had summer camp so we got a little bond going,” Peebles said.
Early success may be dependent upon the defense, which returns seven starters. It’s not lost on those players that Alexander’s background is on that side of the ball.
“Offense, they going to do they thing this year but I’m going to hold the defense to a very high level,” Kurns said. “We’re going to get a lot of stops.”
Cornerback Jyles Walton —not related to Myles— agreed.
“With (former defensive coordinator Zac) Wells and coach (Buzea) leaving, and Coach (Alexander) being a defensive guy, it helps the defense pick up more,” Jyles Walton said.
Alexander said playing a season in the spring due to the pandemic changed the usual order of things. Players didn’t get a full offseason in the weight room and had less time between the last game and the next summer camp to recover physically.
The Vikings roster has wrestlers, track athletes and baseball players, as well.
“You’ve got a ton of guys coming off a second season, which is highly unusual. That’s where the awkwardness of that situation comes in,” Alexander said. “We tried to get some football stuff in (over the summer), but the banging is where we pulled back a little bit. But we got some good football work going.”
The situation is the same for every team in the state, though, so goals at H-F haven’t changed. Every player said simply making the postseason isn’t good enough.
“The goal is a state championship, for sure,” Myles Walton said.