When No. 2 Homewood-Flossmoor's Craig Buzea and his Bolingbrook counterpart John Ivlow met at midfield for the coin toss prefacing overtime of their Friday meeting in Flossmoor, the coaches of two of Illinois' best football teams hugged.
"Buzz said, 'You know, he did this on purpose,'" Ivlow said.
"He" would be Alec Anderson, who died in August shortly before he was to begin his second year as the athletic director at H-F after seven years in the same post at Bolingbrook. Friday's game, between the second- and third-ranked teams in Class 8A, was the first played for the Alec Anderson Traveling Memorial Trophy.
But, given the trophy was inscribed "Inspired By A Man Who Demonstrated Friendship, Leadership and Sportsmanship to All," Anderson couldn't have been pulling all the strings. If he were, H-F would have made it to overtime at full strength.
As it was, the Vikings, without key cog Deante Harley-Hampton in the second half and beyond, fell 31-24 to the Raiders in a pivotal SouthWest Suburban Blue matchup. With the loss, H-F (6-1, 4-1) must count on Bolingbrook (7-0, 5-0) to lose to Lincoln-Way East next week or Sandburg on Oct. 25 if the Vikings are to have a shot at a share of their first conference title since they split the old SICA Blue crown with East in 2003.
"I feel like I let my team down," Harley-Hampton, who ran for 40 yards and a touchdown on three first-half carries before being hurt just before the half, said. "I couldn't come back in. … But I'll be back next week."
Without Harley-Hampton, H-F, which ran for 106 yards in the first half, managed just 20 in the second and overtime, despite playing much of the way with a lead.
Bolingbrook rebounded from a 21-10 halftime deficit to forge a tie on a 10-yard fumble return by C.J. Clark and a 2-yard run by Quincy Woods (19 carries, 79 yards). The Raiders could have ended things in regulation if not for a fumble by Woods at the H-F eight with a minute left. As it was, after taking the ball to start the overtime, they scored on a two-yard run by Jaden Huff (15 carries, 100 yards).
H-F, after getting to the one-yard line on first down, failed to get in.
Harley-Hampton suffered a bone bruise on his left ankle while carrying for 15 yards and a touchdown with 2:22 to play in the first half. With the extra point, H-F went up 14-7, but there would be two more scores before intermission.
First, H-F forced Bolingbrook into its fourth punt of the first half, then Vikings quarterback Isaac Cutrara covered 55 yards with two passes, the first hauled in on a diving grab for 31 yards by Aaron Gooch, the second for 24 yards and a touchdown to Nicholas Atoyebi. Suddenly down 21-7 at the 1:05 mark of the second, Bolingbrook marched to the H-F 7-yard line in eight snaps, managing a 23-yard field goal by Adam Klein as the half expired.
No team other than Bolingbrook or Lincoln-Way East has won a SouthWest Suburban Blue title since the league began in 2006.