Monday, November 16, 2015

I could tell you...

...that I thought Loyola would beat Homewood-Flossmoor by a touchdown on Saturday, but since I didn't write it down anywhere you might not believe me.

Or I could tell you that I envisioned three possible scenarios: Loyola in a rout, or a close win by either team, but not a blowout by H-F. Loyola's offense was just too potent for that last possibility.

But I don't think I wrote that one down anywhere either.

Fine. But here was my final thought on Twitter just minutes before the kickoff:

...expect a high-scoring affair -- take the Over.

Now, while I never found the Over/Under in any sports book in Las Vegas, I would have certainly thought it would have been more than 62. I was thinking the final score would be more in the neighborhood of 49-42. So I was wrong. But I wasn't the only one.

On Thursday my brother, whom I dragged to the Loyola - Providence game back in October, texted me:

I'm picking H-F in an upset over LA. Too much speed for that Rambler defense.

He was wrong too. Turns out that H-F's speed really wasn't as big a factor as he (or I) would have thought.

One of my business partners, who's never seen an Illinois high school football game but is a Denver Broncos season-ticket holder, told me on Friday she'd take the team with the better defense (Loyola).

But the Rambler defense wasn't that dominant either. In fact, the game really could have gone either way. And while I told someone on Saturday night that Loyola would beat H-F four out of five times, I think I'd revise that down to three out of five. Or even fifty-fifty. These two are that evenly matched.

What if, for example, H-F's long touchdown pass in the fourth quarter hadn't been called back for holding? According to Mike Helfgot's piece in the Tribune:

"The call was unexplainable, absolutely unexplainable," [H-F coach Craig] Buzea said. "We still don't know who the hold was on. They wouldn't tell us."

Or what if that Deante Harley-Hampton catch in the end zone a few plays later had been ruled a touchdown? From where I was sitting I couldn't tell, but I received a tweet on Saturday night with this picture:

Did he, or didn't he?

But we had a term for that kind of thing down at the Merc: wouldacouldashoulda.

The fact of the matter is that the refs are part of the game just like the weather and sometimes they make good calls and sometimes they make bad calls. And if you're good enough it shouldn't matter.

And the fact of the matter also is that the Vikings couldn't score from Loyola's three-yard line and the Ramblers then rambled 97 yards down the field for the go-ahead touchdown. It was the turning point. Helfgot is right when he says:

Loyola responded with the drive of the year, staying on the field for 19 plays and converting five third downs...

And how did H-F respond? They fell apart on the next set of downs and Loyola scored the winning touchdown with 1:22 left.

Now, you have to give credit to the Vikings for coming back and scoring that last TD and making it all come down to an onside kick with 30 seconds to go, but I really believe the better team won on Saturday. Like I've been saying all season, Loyola is probably the best high school football team I've ever seen.

I don't claim to be an expert (far from it!), but I would have to give the edge to the Wilmette squad's offensive and defensive lines. As Buzea noted in Michael O'Brien's article in the Sun-Times:

They [had] us outmanned by maybe 80 pounds on the line.

And it's true. Loyola's O line was probably the key to that 97-yard drive. And the Rambler D line seemed to disrupt H-F's offense all day as well. Even though Deante Harley-Hampton had four touchdowns, he and his twin brother were not as dominant as I had seen them against Sandburg in Week Eight or New Trier last week. H-F was forced to pass a little more than usual, and even though it was mostly effective, the Vikings impress me as a run-first offense that just couldn't do that on Saturday.

So Loyola won, 34-28, and travel to Palatine this Saturday. I think they'll win fairly easily and end up defeating either Waubonsie Valley or Marist for the championship. But the Ramblers already won the 8A title on Saturday by beating the other best team in the state. The final two games will be just a formality. 

(If the weather holds out I just might take in that Marengo - Phillips contest at Gately. More on that later.)

What's really crazy, though, is that the Tribune, Sun-Times and MaxPreps dropped H-F to Nos. 7, 4 and 5, respectively. I'd still rank the top three like this:

1. Loyola
2. Homewood-Flossmoor
3. Glenbard West

Now if only Loyola could play the Hilltoppers...

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