CHICAGO HEIGHTS | A FieldTurf gridiron littered with penalty flags failed to obscure the salient point from Homewood-Flossmoor's 35-7 beating of Marian Catholic on Friday night: The Vikings are very good.
Their opening night victory was not without its question marks – Marian forged a 7-7 halftime tie and hung around longer than Vikings coach Craig Buzea would have preferred in the second half – but once opening-night jitters receded, H-F came on.
"We had only five players with varsity experience," Buzea said. "And (quarterback) Ron Johnson is new to our system. We just wanted him to get his feet wet."
The senior transfer from Sandburg doused the Spartans with 12 completions on 18 attempts for 144 yards and a pair of touchdown passes, including a 36-yard dart to Patrick Sheehan, and that wasn't the half of the H-F attack. Senior running back Taje Smith, all 5-foot-7 of him, burst off right end for a 44-yard touchdown on the Vikings' first play from scrimmage. That roused the H-F portion of the 4,000 fans on hand.
"We worked on that play all summer," said Smith, who lowered his time in the 40-yard dash to 4.43 seconds from 4.58 last year. Smith added H-F's last touchdown, the third score in a span of 3:32, on a 10-yard run midway through the fourth quarter, and he finished with 104 yards on 10 carries.
"I give it all to my line," said Smith, who grabbed 30 yards on the first play of the third quarter, a play identical to his big scoring play.
The Spartans, dressing 48 players to H-F's 96, were outmanned from the start, but game enough to keep it competitive. Backup quarterback Ki-Jana Crawford's 7-yard touchdown run came three plays after Patrick Swanson picked off Johnson to tie the game with 59.8 seconds left in the first half.
Crawford was in because starting quarterback Patrick Schmidt was temporarily knocked out of the game midway through the second quarter. He had just gotten the rhythm of his receivers, connecting on a 12-yard pass to Lorenzo Aldridge as he was hit. He returned in the second half, but the Vikings' defense was too much for Marian.
"We were never able to keep in sync," Spartans coach Dave Mattio said. "Our kids played hard, but they capitalized on a couple of mistakes."