Hoffman Estates reverses pattern, lands in quarterfinals

By Lou Nunez, Jr.
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 11/4/2017 9:45 PM

For first-year Hoffman Estates coach Tim Heyse, the beginning of the Hawks' game at Lake Forest seemed to be following a familiar pattern.

And it was a pattern not to Heyse's liking, as his squad fell behind early on the road for a fourth straight time, trailing 7-6 at the end of the first 12 minutes of play.

However, unlike the two most recent games in which they trailed -- losses at Barrington and Palatine -- the Hawks rose to the occasion.

Hoffman Estates outscored the host Scouts 22-7 over the next 12 minutes on the way to a 48-28 victory in the second round of the Class 5A football playoffs Saturday afternoon.

Seventh-seeded Hoffman Estates (9-2) will travel to Belvidere North (7-4) next Saturday for the program's first quarterfinal appearance. The time of the game will be announced Monday.

The Blue Thunder, seeded No. 14, won at No. 11 Grayslake North 14-7 Saturday evening.

"We got our groove on," Heyse said. "We talked about how important it was to get off to a good start. However, we started slow again. But because of that interception we got late in the first we were able to put things on cruise control."

The interception Heyse is referring to was the first of two for two-way standout Jaylan Alexander. It came on came on the second-to-last play of the opening stanza as Alexander got to a Jack Mislinski pass ahead of Lake Forest tight end Ryan Marquis.

"It was just a matter of being at the right place at the right time," the Purdue commit said. "Our coaches spoke throughout the week about how they like to throw the football, and our d-line really did a nice job putting pressure where it gave us a chance to make plays."

Alexander's subsequent 5-yard return set the Hawks on the Lake Forest 12.

Two plays later on the first play of the second quarter, Austin Coalson found Trevon Hall from 7 yards out. The ensuing 2-point conversion completion to Jayvon Blissett gave Hoffman a 14-7 advantage just second into the period.

Still, the 15th-seeded Scouts (6-5) came back to knot the contest one last time at 14-14. They used a 9-play, 80-yard drive that reached pay dirt when senior Bryan Ooms (18 carries, 91 yards) took it in from the 2-yard line with 9:06 remaining in the first half.

Hoffman then scored 34 unanswered points to decide matters.

The streak began the Hawks' next possession.

Will Nune's 29-yard kickoff return placed the visitors on their own 36. The senior wideout found himself on the receiving end of Coalson's second TD toss (24 yards) that gave them the Hawks the lead for good at 21-14 with 8:37 remaining until halftime.

It was set up by back-to-back Coalson connections to Alexander which totaled 40 yards.

The Hawks' final score of the first half came off Alexander's second interception, which was the result of linebacker Jimmy Burks tipping a pass by Mislinski (10-of-20, 141 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions). Alexander snared it and returned it 7 yards to the Hoffman 42.

Eleven plays later, Coalson (26-of-30, 311 yards) found Blissett (10 receptions, 121 yards) for the first of their 3 touchdowns from 8 yards out, giving the Hawks a 28-14 lead with 1:40 left in the half.

The senior duo connected from 11 and 27 yards in the third quarter to give the visitors a 42-14 edge.

Coalson's sixth touchdown pass found Alexander (7 yards) with 9:14 to play to give Hoffman Estates its final points at 48-14. The Hawks QB credited his high-percentage day to gearing the Hawks' offense around Lake Forest's defensive alignment.

"We started small with our passing game," Coalson said. "Our offensive line gave me all the time I needed to make those throws. They helped give us some big opportunities, which we took advantage of."

Lake Forest closed out the scoring on Ooms' second TD run (2 yards) with 5:03 to play and a Spencer Yauch recovery of an errant snap in the end zone 20 seconds later.

As day turned to night, losses by fellow MSL teams Palatine, Hersey, Buffalo Grove and Barrington left Hoffman in the unique position of being the last area team left in the postseason.

As a result of advancement to next weekend's quarterfinal round, the Hawks are guaranteed at minimum an IHSA participation award for the first time in school history.

In football, the Illinois High School Association awards quarterfinalists a plaque equivalent to a regional championship, and semifinalists a plaque similar in size to the one given to both sectional and supersectional champions.

"It's a tremendous place to be," Heyse said. "It is a result of all the hard work we've done in the off-season."

"I'm feeling good," said Alexander, who made 12 catches for 147 yards. "We're in this position because of how we've played and practiced as a team. I'm so happy. I love this."

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