H-F ends Eagles’ season in playoff opener
The third time may be the charm, but the second time just meant more harm done to Sandburg.
Twice wasn’t any nicer for the Eagles, who had already dropped one game to Homewood-Flossmoor during the 2013 season. While Sandburg was able to recover from that Oct. 4 setback and soldier on, the Eagles’ latest defeat must be taken into the offseason.
That’s where the Vikings made sure Sandburg was headed after doling out a 49-14 loss Friday night in Flossmoor in a Class 8A playoff opener. Although the final score bore an eerie resemblance to H-F’s earlier 48-10 triumph, Eagles coach Dave Wierzal insisted things weren’t quite so bad for his squad the second time around.
And based on the first half of the rematch, that certainly seemed true. In fact, after Jim Robley raced 11 yards for a second-quarter touchdown, Sandburg found itself in arrears by just seven points.
Only 3½ minutes remained before intermission, but the Vikings made good use of it. Vashon Nutt tallied the last of his four TDs on a 2-yard run, Morgan Bohlman added the fourth of his seven conversion kicks, and the Eagles were left staring at a 28-14 deficit by the break.
“They went right down the field rocket-fast,” Wierzal said. “That definitely took some wind out of our sails for them to go down and score that fast.
“We were getting the ball to start the second half. If we were down 21-14 [at halftime], maybe we go down [on our initial series] and score and tie it up, or at least get a field goal.”
No scoring was forthcoming, though, either on Sandburg’s first possession of the third quarter or at any other juncture of the second half. The Eagles (5-5) did pin H-F down at its own 8-yard line following a good punt by Nick Chichi, but Nutt’s 81-yard burst got the hosts out of trouble and put them on the verge of scoring a fifth TD, which Devonte Harley-Hampton did on a 6-yard dash.
“All of a sudden, it’s 35-14 and we’re struggling to stop them,” Wierzal said. “It was all Nutt this time. He rushed 13 times for 231 yards — that’s a pretty special day.
“They’re playing very good defense on top of that [so it was] too many points to make up. That’s championship-caliber football they’re playing.”
The Vikings officially slammed the door on Sandburg by scoring two more touchdowns before the third period was over, one each by the defense and offense. Robert Anthony took care of the former by returning a fumble 27 yards into the Eagles’ end zone, while Aaron Gooch hauled in an 18-yard TD toss from Isaac Cutrara.
H-F, which again employed a single-wing scheme against Sandburg, gained 364 total yards, 254 more than the Eagles, who were using a third-string quarterback and second-string tailback.
“It’s not a full-time deal,” Vikings coach Craig Buzea said of the single wing. “But if it’s working, we’ll stay with it. If you have the speed we do and the misdirection … we haven’t hit everything, but we’ve stayed with it.”
Nutt’s big night got underway almost immediately, as his 54-yard gallop brought H-F’s first possession to full fruition.
“Sandburg’s defense plays hard and fast,” Nutt said. “We just tried to make sure we executed our blocks.”
Shawn McHale’s recovery of a mishandled Vikings punt snap allowed the visitors to set up shop inside H-F’s 30 later in the first quarter, and the opportunity wasn’t wasted. Robley’s 26-yard sprint stationed the Eagles just shy of the goal line, then quarterback Zac Zavod sneaked in from the 1 to even the score.
“The kids were excited and we felt good about it,” Wierzal said of Sandburg’s response to Nutt’s initial tally. “This game started out differently than the last one. The first time we played them, at this mark we were down 20-0.”
Nutt’s runs of 22 and 15 yards established some breathing room for H-F, which Robley reduced with his aforementioned touchdown that was immediately preceded by Rasheed Carney’s 28-yard catch. That was as close as the Eagles would get, however, so it’s the Vikings advancing to the second round to take on Naperville Central, a 36-0 winner over Downers Grove South last weekend.
“I feel bad for the kids,” Wierzal said. “I think our kids came to play, believed in themselves and believed in what they could do, but you can only absorb so many [personnel] setbacks and injuries.
“Coaches go back and forth all the time on which loss is the worst kind. I’ve kind of decided they’re all bad.”
One piece of good news involved offensive lineman Yanni Demogerontas, who missed all but the season’s first game-and-a-half because of injury. He recently gave an oral commitment to Oregon State University.
“I’m happy for him,” Wierzal said. “We’ll have other kids go on to play [college ball] somewhere, although I don’t know if anybody else will go D-I.”
Two guys who’ll return to Sandburg’s roster next fall, junior linebacker Graham Hevel and junior deep back Mike Saylors, were among the Eagles’ top defenders versus H-F. Both players registered seven solo tackles, while Hevel added three assists and Saylors had one.
Seniors Marty Micek (eight solo stops, one assist, one sack), McHale (four solos, one assist) and Dan Trentacoste (four solos) were other Sandburg notables.
Tim Cronin contributed to this story.
Sandburg 7 7 0 0 - 14
H-F 7 21 21 0 - 49
First downs 8 18
Yds. rushing 74 281
Yds. passing 36 83
Total yds. 110 364
Att./comp. 7-2 11-8
Fumbles/lost 5-2 1-1
Had intercepted 1 0
Penalties/yds. 4-40 5-35
Punts/avg. 5-33.4 1-13.0
HF — Vashon Nutt, 54-yd. run (Morgan Bohlman kick)
CS — Zac Zavod, 1-yd. run (Jonathan Milazzo kick)
HF — Nutt, 22-yd. run (Bohlman kick)
HF — Nutt, 15-yd. run (Bohlman kick)
CS — Jim Robley, 11-yd. run (Milazzo kick)
HF — Nutt, 2-yd. run (Bohlman kick)
HF — Devonte Harley-Hampton, 6-yd. run )Bohlman kick)
HF — Robert Anthony, 27-yd. fumble return (Bohlman kick)
HF — Aaron Gooch, 18-yd. pass from Isaac Cutrara (Bohlman kick)
Sandburg Rushing: Robley 14-78, Muno-Kohn 3-9, Johnson 2-8, Shuaibi 3-2, Reid 1-1, Verble 1-(-4), Zavod 6-(-20). Passing Zavod 7-2-36. Receiving: Carney 1-28, Robley 1-8.