Homewood-Flossmoor running back Justin Hall is a blur with the football. The NIU recruit has incredible speed and elusiveness, but he isn’t just a jet. The 5-11, 190-pound senior has a tough edge to him. He can pound the ball in from the one and break tackles.
He’s also a talker, and that may have been the special skill that the No. 7 Vikings needed in their 48-20 win against Bolingbrook on Friday in Flossmoor.
The Raiders (3-1, 1-1 Southwest Suburban) led 20-13 at halftime. Hall decided to address the team in the locker room.
“I told them we played like we were weak, like we weren’t the best team in the state,” Hall said. “I told them we had to pick this up. I said it with emotion and they felt it from heart to heart, we are like brothers. We came out and executed and that was all she wrote.”
Hall had 19 carries for 171 yards and three touchdowns. He caught six passes for 161 yards and an 81-yard touchdown. That score put the Vikings ahead for good at 27-20. It was the result of some talking.
“Right before the play I told the defender that if he blinked it was over with,” Hall said. “He must have blinked, because as soon as I got past him the quarterback put it on the money and I knew he couldn’t tackle me, I was getting in the end zone.
“I was tired of being quiet. I’d been silent the whole game, you don’t want the refs to flag you. But there comes a time when you have to say some slick stuff to get in their head and that’s what I did.”
Hall has the ability to create something out of nothing. Most of his receptions were short dump-offs that turned into big plays.
“I try to make sure that the first two people can’t tackle me,” Hall said. “Even if they grab me completely. I keep my legs moving and stay balanced. It’s like second nature now.”
The Vikings defense deserves as much credit as Hall. Homewood-Flossmoor sacked Bolingbrook quarterback Anthony Vespo seven times, six in the second half.
“We sent more pressure than in the first half, but I think we just wanted it more as a group,” Vikings linebacker Justin Whiteside said. “Once we started getting to the quarterback their linemen started getting tired and we started dominating. We feed off their weakness.”
Whiteside and lineman Nathaniel Lynn each had two sacks. Homewood-Flossmoor running back Leon Tanna had 12 carries for 52 yards and two touchdowns and also caught a 50-yard touchdown pass.
Vikings quarterback Dominick Jones, just a sophomore, was 9-for-16 for 267 yards and two touchdowns.
H-F (4-0, 2-0) opened the season with wins against two out of state teams and then crushed Stagg 48-0 in Week 3. They were respected in the area, but needed a signature victory.
“We definitely needed to make a statement,” Hall said. “We knew we could prove ourselves in this game.”
Vespo finished 11-for-24 passing for 188 yards and one touchdown, a 59-yard strike to Anthony Williams Jr.
Williams, a Simeon transfer, had 13 carries for 64 yards before leaving with an injury in the third quarter.
Bolingbrook has a pair of outstanding receivers. Senior I’Shawn Stewart caught five passes for 107 yards and one touchdown and sophomore Antonio King had five receptions for 65 yards.