Preseason No. 13: Homewood-Flossmoor

Last season: 10-3 overall, 6-1 Southwest Suburban Blue, lost in the Class 8A semifinals to Mount Carmel, ranked No. 18 in final ESPNChicago.com 2010 poll

Season ahead: In Homewood-Flossmoor coach Craig Buzea’s first season, he turned the Vikings around from 1-8 in 2009 to reaching the Class 8A state semifinals in 2010.

“I knew we had some talent,” Buzea said after last year’s semifinal loss to Mount Carmel. “There were a lot of things to fix. The least of our worries were football related. There were some things that we really had to fix quickly to get where we were. We still got a long way. The kids who hung in here got to play in an atmosphere like this and I’m very, very proud they were able to do so.”

Now moving forward, the question is what will he do for an encore?

The next step would be getting the Vikings to make back-to-back playoff appearances. The program did so in 2005 and 2006, but you would have to go back to the 1990s to find it before that.

With senior quarterback Tim Williams, one of the area’s best, and a handful of other returnees back, Homewood-Flossmoor is hopeful it can continue to move forward.

Star power: Williams is one of the best two-sport athletes in the state, starring in basketball and football for the Vikings. The football team does hope he won’t be joining the hoops team until late November this year. Williams, who is 6-7, was key to the Homewood-Flossmoor’s late football run late season. He’s agile for his size and has a good arm. He was 15-of-21 passing for 169 yards in the state semifinal game.

Breakout performer: Tight end Willie Ross was the only sophomore on last year’s varsity roster. While he had some ability last year, look for the 6-4 Ross to have an even bigger role in the Vikings’ offense this season.

Keep an eye on: The Vikings return plenty of experience at wide receiver. Keith Smith, Sean Jones and Sheldon Jones are all back and will be capable targets for Williams again.

Schedule breakdown: The Southwest Suburban Blue put five teams in the playoffs last season, and it looks to be on the verge of that again this season. The Vikings will be tested plenty during the conference season. They should benefit by playing Lincoln-Way East and Bolingbrook at home.

Key game: Sept. 16 vs. Lincoln-Way East – Homewood-Flossmoor’s only conference loss came to Lincoln-Way East last season. The Griffins won 31-21 at home and went onto go undefeated in conference. This game could decide the conference championship again.