When Hoffman Estates pulled up in the team buses with just over six minutes remaining for pregame warmups before their frame with Fremd in Palatine Friday night, the feeling was that something strange was about to happen.
And it did.
Hoffman Estates, which qualified a week ago for the state playoffs for the first time in 22 years, did not play any of its starters. Host Fremd then made quick work of the Hawks to win 51-0.
"There was nothing for us to gain," Hoffman Estates coach Mike Donatucci said. "Right now we are banged up. And to lose any of our starters in a game like this just wasn't worth it."
Donatucci said he and his staff explained the reasoning for the starters to sit for their final regular-season game.
"I thought our kids responded really well during the week," Donatucci said. "Our No. 1s prepared the 2s, and our 2s didn't back down."
The loss really didn't change where Hoffman Estates (6-3, 2-3) would be seeded when the playoff pairings are announced Saturday night. The Hawks, who are on the bubble between 6A and 7A, figured to be in the mid 20 seed in 7A and a 12-14 seed should they go 6A.
Fremd coach Lou Sponsel said he understood Donatucci's thinking.
"I feel bad for the team that draws Hoffman in the first round," Sponsel said. "They are the team you don't want to play.
"We prepared our guys to play their 1s. I understand his case because they need to be healthy. I think it is the right decision for their school, his program and his kids."
Fremd (6-3, 3-2) had all but qualified for the playoffs before the game began. The Vikings had the needed 5 wins to qualify and their playoff points easily had put them in as an at large qualifier. The victory should improve their seed just a bit in the 8A playoffs.
"We are excited to get back to the playoffs," Sponsel said. "And although we had a bad injury last week to Jake Haas, we are still pretty healthy going in."
Running behind an offensive line of Matt Payne, Jake Flemming, Ethan Hanson, Zach Nemec, Max Carver and Tyler Wascow, Alex Honickel found lots of room. Honickel gained 187 yards on 22 carries while scoring the Vikings' first 3 touchdowns.
"My line had a great game in front of me," said Honickel, who had touchdown runs of 1, 35 and 6 yards.
"It felt good to run out there today and get ourselves ready for the playoffs."
Wascow, who was able to earn some extra playing time with starting offensive line, said it was fun to be in the field on senior night.
"The goal was to get all the seniors in the game," Wascow said. "I look up to those guys who play out there and it was great to be part of them tonight."
Fremd quarterback Tom Josten had a perfect night in his 2-plus quarters of play. Josten was 10-of-10 for 176 yards and 2 touchdowns. Josten connected on a pair of TD passes to Mitch Kazmer from 5 and 23 yards out.
Matt Vannieuwenhoven had a 4-yard touchdown run and Rasheed Amos scored on a 61-yard burst for the Vikings other touchdowns. Luke Schoffstall had a 23-yard field goal to go with 4 conversion kicks.
The Fremd defense, led by Jimmy Walsh, Nemec, Myles Messner, Austin Schwantz, Luke Bilek and Will McCabe held Hoffman Estates to 6 first downs and 98 yards of offense. Nick Rattin's interception at the goal line late in the first half, turned away Hoffman's only scoring chance.
"It was a lot of fun out there," Walsh said. "We had a good game plan and we executed and it worked very well."