“One down, four to go.”
Those were the sentiments expressed by Hawks senior wide receiver/running back/linebacker Jaylan Alexander shortly after Hoffman Estates ran roughshod over the De La Salle Meteors, 34-0 Saturday night, in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.
Alexander rushed 6 times for 106 yards and a TD and added 3 catches for 41 yards and a score, helping the Hawks win their first playoff game since 1993.
"This is an exciting time," said Alexander. "We used to have these shirts that read '9 months for 9 weeks' and I'm glad all the hard work we put in during the offseason is starting to pay off."
Coming into the contest, the Hawks football program had just a 2-7 record all-time in the postseason, but they made it abundantly clear early on that no one was going to get in their way in registering its third.
After Alexander galloped into the end zone at the 6:04 mark of the first quarter to give the home team a 6-0 edge, Hoffman Estates quickly got the ball back thanks to a stellar group effort by the defense at the 4:40 mark.
Just over two minutes later, the Hawks cashed in with a superb pitch and catch from Austin Coalson (206 yards, 3 TDs) to MSL West TD catch leader Jayvon Blissett (3 catches, 140 yards, 2 TDs) from 28 yards out to give the Blue and Orange a 13-0 lead with 2:23 to go in the first.
"We saw on film that they (De La Salle) ran a Base 5-2, Cover Zero and that left their DBs man-on-man," said Blissett. "With the weapons we have on offense, we knew we could exploit that matchup."
Still ahead by a 13-0 margin, the Meteors mounted a drive down to the Hawks' 14 and looked as if they would make a game of it, but quarterback Rob Simental fumbled, and the Hoffman defense, which had 7 sacks on the evening, pounced on the loose ball, closing the door on that drive.
"They came to play tonight," said Hawks head coach Tim Heyse. "Playing in the MSL West prepares you for this. We were scared of their speed and their size, but we see it every week when we play the West."
Prepared would be an understatement.
The Hoffman Estates defense allowed just 129 total yards the entire evening while racking up 391 of its own on offense and lead at the break 13-0.
That lead ballooned quickly in the third just 1:03 into the period when Coalson, playing behind a few new faces on the offensive line, connected for a 78-yard strike to Blissett to give the Hawks a 20-0 advantage and some additional breathing room.
"(Coach) Heyse's motto is 'Next man up' and he stresses that every practice," said Coalson. "And those guys were ready and stepped up tonight."
Jaylin Johnson scored with 3:56 left in the third from two yards out, and Alexander added a 17-yard TD catch at 11:05 of the fourth to close out the scoring in a convincing 34-0 whitewash.
Next up for the 7th-seeded Hawks (8-2) will be a second-round playoff matchup against 15-seeded Lake Forest on their turf next weekend, where the program hopes to continue on its history making quest.
"Our coach our freshman year told us that we would be the class to turn around the program," said Blissett. "After losing in the first round of the playoffs last year, it left a sour taste in our mouths, so our goal was to get off to a fast start this year and we did. But we still have a lot left to accomplish and higher goals to obtain."