All good things must come to an end.
All GREAT things must come to an end.
With a trip to Dekalb and a spot in the 6A championship game on the line, Hoffman Estates suffered its first home loss of the season on Saturday night in the semifinals, as visiting and defending state champions, Prairie Ridge, rolled to a 42-21 victory in front of a packed Garber Stadium.
Wolves senior quarterback Samson Evans proved to be every bit the real deal, and then some, as the Iowa commit gashed the Hawks (10-3) defense for 317 yards and 4 TDs on the ground while also adding a TD toss in the victory.
"Too much Evans tonight," said Hawks head coach Tim Heyse. "He'll probably be player of the year in the state."
Just a week after Hoffman Estates held Belvidere North and its triple-option offense to just 162 yards of total offense in the quarterfinals, Prairie Ridge proved to be a different animal altogether with Evans amassing 172 yards rushing and two scores on his own in the first half.
Still, the final score was not indicative of how tightly contested the game was until midway through the third quarter.
The Wolves took the opening drive of the game inside the Hawks 10, chewing up 6:40 of the clock in the process, but a fantastic defensive play by linebacker Jimmy Burks on third down for a loss of 5 yards forced Prairie Ridge to attempt a 31-yard field goal. The kick was high enough and straight enough, but wound up hitting the crossbar and was no good.
A quick 3-and-out by the Hawks put the ball right back in Evans hands and he wasted no time by taking the ensuing play 62 yards to the Hoffman 11. On 4th-and-1 from the Hawks 2, it looked as though the Blue and Orange stopped the Wolves, but a generous spot gave the visitors the first down.
On the very next play, it appeared as if Hoffman forced a fumble and recovered it as no whistle had been blown on the play, but again, the Wolves maintained possession and Evans scored on a 1-yard TD run to give Prairie Ridge a 6-0 lead.
The Hawks fought back in the second quarter when Austin Coalson (20- of-38, 263 yards, 3 TDs), hit All-State snub Jayvon Blissett (5 catches, 81 yards, TD) for a 64-yard TD toss with 6:33 left to go in the half for a 7-6 lead.
Just three minutes later, Evans hit a wide open Cooper Tomlin for a 26-yard pitch and catch to put the Wolves back on top at 13-7.
"Just when you think he's done it all … you take this game tonight and say 'what can't he do?'" said Wolves head coach Chris Schrempf. "He's just a phenomenal player."
That same question could also be raised when talking about future Big Ten product Jaylan Alexander.
The Hawks playmaker on both offense and defense helped the home team regain the lead on the next drive, hauling in a 30-yard pass and then topped that by snagging a 43-yard TD pass from Coalson while breaking 6 tackles on his way to the end zone for a Hawks 14-13 lead with 1:38 to go in the half.
"These kids are fighters; they're warriors," Heyse said. "When they're down, they never lose their composure … our seniors showed that we can do this at Hoffman."
The slim advantage for Hoffman was short-lived, as Evans answered on the Wolves next possession with a 64-yard TD just 17 seconds later and led 20-14 at the break.
Hoffman started at its own 39 to start the second half and back-to-back completions from Coalson to Will Nune put the Hawks at the Wolves 31 until Prairie Ridge linebacker Joe Perhats picked off an errant pass to end the drive.
"In the second half, we said the first series was huge," said Heyse. "We were driving and made one mistake and the tides turned."
Did it ever.
The Wolves reeled off 15 unanswered points after the turnover to take a 35-14 lead with 5:32 left in the third.
"That play gave our team confidence and showed that the defense could make a play," said Schrempf. "If there's one thing about these kids, it's that if you give them a little momentum, look out."
But there was no quit in Coalson and company as the senior signal caller hooked up with Alexander on a 5-yard TD pass with 2:00 to go in the third, cutting the Wolves' lead to 35-21.
Looking to get the ball back to the offense quickly early in the fourth quarter, the Hawks forced the Wolves into a 2nd-and-18 at the Hoffman 38. But no down-and-distance seems too much for a weapon like Evans as he scurried to the house for a 42-21 edge to close out the scoring.
With the win, the Wolves improved to 13-0, having now won 27 consecutive contests, and will face Nazareth Academy in the championship game.
For the Hawks, there were a lot of heads held high after the defeat thanks to the winning culture that has returned to Hoffman Estates football.
"It was a great season, it's what we thought we could accomplish and get to the title game," said Heyse. "In the offseason, we had a chart with 10 things on how to become an excellent program and we looked around at all the programs around here that have been excellent, like Barrington and Palatine. They hit all those consistently year in and year out…a lot of those things are not football related…it's in the weight room, how we act outside of school, how we practice, and by midseason, we had all 10 checked."