MIKE NIETO: H-F football team a team to watch

2012-09-06T19:00:00Z 2012-09-11T22:52:04Z MIKE NIETO: H-F football team a team to watchMike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
September 06, 2012 7:00 pm  • 

 Maybe the Homewood-Flossmoor football team's 35-27 win over Class 8A No. 7 Stevenson wasn't as much of a stunner as everyone figured.

Ron Johnson throwing three touchdown passes and the Vikings making big plays on both sides of the ball were definitely part of the reason for the Vikings' success.

The Vikings beat Marian Catholic 35-7 after being tied 7-7 at halftime, then they come back in Week 2 and take care of Stevenson. H-F put in a lot of work in the summer and not using the lack of experience as an excuse, but a reason to work that much harder. Last year's Vikings were inexperienced, but came together and made it to the Class 8A quarterfinals before falling to Naperville Central.

There is no question that under third-year coach Craig Buzea the Vikings are a team that is going to play to the end. That is a trademark of Buzea teams. His Portage teams were undersized, but were always near the top of the tough Duneland Athletic Conference. He changed a culture at Michigan City where winning barely existed before he got there. He instilled pride in the program and made the players take pride in their school and program.

When he came to H-F in Jan. 2010, the program was struggling and coming off two straight losing seasons. His first year, he made believers and made it to the Class 8A semifinals, falling to Mount Carmel. This year's team had just five starters returning and a lot of work to be done.

"This is my most inexperienced team ever as a head coach," Buzea said. "We knew we had good kids who were willing to work hard, but they were untried."

He made sure he stepped up his schedule as he was able to add rival Marian Catholic in Week 1 and Stevenson, replacing Senn and Deerfield.

"We want to play a tough schedule because it will get us ready for our conference," Buzea said. "We're 2-0, but we are not there yet. We have a long way to go. We want to see improvement each week."

The Vikings open conference play tonight as Lincoln-Way Central comes to Flossmoor. Next week, there is a showdown with Lincoln-Way East in Frankfort. Buzz will make sure his team is prepared for Central. One game at a time.

What H-F can do is beat you in different ways as running back Taje' Smith is a force who will gain a few yards and score a few touchdowns before its all over. Quarterback Ron Johnson has done a great job of running the show and the offensive line has moved people. There is big-play Willie Ross at tight end and a very tough defense which has size and athleticism.

This is a team and program to be reckoned with.

 

 This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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