With 7:49 left in the fourth quarter, the momentum had completely shifted Simeon’s way against Homewood-Flossmoor in a Class 8A semifinal Saturday at Gately Stadium.
The Wolverines scored on two consecutive drives to tie the Vikings, the last set up by a successful onside kick.
“It was time for us to put our big-boy pants on,” Homewood-Flossmoor coach Craig Buzea said.
They did. The Vikings responded with a game-winning drive to earn a 35-28 victory and a first trip to the state final since 1994. The Vikings (11-2) will meet undefeated Stevenson at 7 p.m. next Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
Devonte Harley-Hampton scored the winning touchdown, a 1-yard run with 2:06 left. The score was set up by a 17-yard run by Bryce Gray. The Wolverines (11-2) drove to the Vikings’ 32-yard line, but two incomplete passes in the end zone with time expiring ended the threat.
Harley-Hampton had 14 carries for 76 yards and three touchdowns, including a 1-yard run to start the scoring and a 26-yard TD reception from Gray (8-for-15, 99 yards). His twin brother, Deante Harley-Hampton, finished with 20 carries for 133 yards and two touchdowns (28, 12 yards).
“This is a good feeling going Downstate seeing I’m only a junior,” Devonte said.
The Vikings took a 14-0 advantage into the second quarter but led 14-7 at the half after Matt Flemming caught a 13-yard pass from Timon Watkins (21-for-36, 252 yards). Both teams exchanged touchdowns in the third quarter before the Vikings took a 28-14 lead with 9:49 left in the fourth on the touchdown pass to Devonte from Gray.
Dion Earls Jr. began the comeback with a 50-yard TD run after gaining just 21 yards on his previous 14 carries. After a successful onside kick, the Wolverines tied the game on a Watkins 13-yard run.
“We played with a lot of heart this year,” said Simeon coach Dante Culbreath, who was trying to get the Wolverines Downstate for the first time. “We believed in each other. It was a hard loss but I’m proud of them. All and all we gave our heart out here.”