Buffalo Grove pushes unbeaten Hononegah to the limit
ROCKTON -- Despite entering the playoffs with a 5-4 record Buffalo Grove coach Jeff Vik felt that having had a run that went to round two of last season's IHSA Class 7A playoffs would prove to be beneficial for his team.
"As a whole, I feel that it's not as overwhelming because you know what to expect. It's not a brand new experience," Vik said.
What was brand new for BG however was taking an 81-mile bus trip west to the Rockford area to face a Rockton Hononegah team that entered postseason play averaging 42 points a game while totaling 493 yards per outing offensively as it went through the NIC-10 Conference undefeated for a second consecutive season.
Buffalo Grove, the No. 30 seed, would battle for 48 minutes before falling to the host Indians in a back and forth nail-biter 21-20 in an opening round Class 7A match at Kelsey Field Friday night.
Third-seeded Hononegah (10-0) now awaits No. 14 Wheaton Warrenville South (9-1) to visit Rockton for next weekend's second round. The Tigers bested No. 19 Belleville West 20-12 in Wheaton Friday.
"It was a slugfest like Rocky out there," Vik said. "We had something to prove out there and we were able to give as good as they did tonight. I am so proud of the way our guys battled against such a great Hononegah team tonight."
The Bison (5-5) entered the fourth quarter even at 14 as both teams had traded touchdowns over the previous 36 minutes of action. The Indians would begin the final period of play with a first down by a defensive pass interference call which wiped out a bobbling interception by Carter Gledhill that left Hononegah with a first-and-10 on its own 40. Ten plays later Sam Tresemer would score from the 1 giving the Indians a 21-14 advantage with 9:03 remaining.
After both squads traded possessions, Buffalo Grove had the ball on its own 39 with 4:03 left, leaving Vik with an obvious decision to make -- that if they could score a touchdown it would attempt a game-winning 2-point conversion rather than a game-tying PAT attempt.
"Their linemen were starting to wear us down," Vik said. "I wanted to take the momentum that getting a touchdown would bring and I had complete confidence that we could get it done."
For Vik and his team it almost happened. The Bison would march 61 yards on 11 plays for the touchdown that brought them within 1 as senior Connor Adams (19-for-27, 194 yards) hooked up with Gledhill on a 15-yard strike on a fourth-and-11 with 2:29 left.
The Bison's attempt at victory fell short as Vinni Hoffman's halfback option pass was broken up in the end zone.
"Give Hononegah credit. They made the play they had to make," Vik said.
The Indians recovered Ryan Mueller's subsequent onside kick and ran out the clock with a quartet of running plays that gained a pair of first downs.
Hononegah junior Christian Gomez, who earned 92 yards on 17 carries and scored the Indians' first 2 touchdowns from a yard and 2 yards out, praised BG's effort.
"It was a very physical game," said Gomez, who started in place of leading rusher Isaiah Richardson who did not dress due to an ankle injury. The Indians finished the night with 237 yards on the ground and 429 total.
"Our offensive linemen made it happen for us up front and we were to step it up against a very good team."
For Adams, who finished his Bison career as the program's all-time leader in passing yardage, it quickly became a period of reflection of his four years in a program that finished with back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since the 2002 and 2003 seasons.
"We were fighting for our lives tonight," Adams said. "We came out here wanting to show not just ourselves but the entire state that we belonged here. We seniors take a lot of pride in having brought this program back. My teammates gave my everything they had the last four years as I gave back to them."
The senior signalcaller was among 35 seniors who dressed for the final time in the school colors of black and orange, a point not lost on Vik.
"You only have 22 starting positions, so its hard to keep kids around. But these guys were something very special and they played a huge role in bringing this program back to postseason play," Vik said.