October 20, 2021

Progress Report: Can Hoffman Estates challenge for the Mid-Suburban West title?

Hawks have intriguing blend of returning talent, fresh faces

Hoffman Estates made the playoffs for the third straight season last year, after experiencing a 21-year drought. Coach Tim Heyse has been at the helm for the past two seasons, winning more than seven games each season, the school's first seven-win seasons since 1993.

Heyse knows that Hoffman Estates’ journey back to prominence has been impressive, but he thinks that the Hawks still have room to grow from here.

“Our motto is TPW, tough people win,” Heyse said. “Physically we’ve gotten there, the mental part, we’re still growing in that area.”

Head Coach: Tim Heyse (3rd year)

Last Year's Record: 7-3

Biggest question:

Can Hoffman Estates win the Mid-Suburban West?

The Hawks made a run all the way to the state semifinals in Class 6A in 2017, but lost in the Class 7A first round in both appearances in 2016 and 2018.

Heyse thinks that the jump up to 7A is not a big departure from the competition they face in conference competition.

“We play in a conference with a bunch of 8A teams, so it’s not much different,” Heyse said.

Heyse is not intimidated by the size of Hawks' opponents, and has set his sights on another milestone that Hoffman Estates hasn’t accomplished in a long time.

“Our one goal is we haven’t won a conference championship in 25 years,” Heyse said. That’s our first goal.”

Players to watch:

The Hawks return 12 starters, and they bring back both halves of their rushing attack in senior Max Lock and junior Mekhi Williams.

Heyse said that Williams got around 45-50 carries last season but will see an expanded role this season as he and Lock lead the Hawks’ ground game once more.

Not only do the Hawks bring back their ball carriers, but they’ll have an experienced front opening up holes for the duo.

Four of the five linemen have prior varsity experience. Last year’s center Marcos Bustos, now a senior, will be sliding over to guard and sophomore Eddie Recendez will start in his place. Senior left tackle Jeff Meyer joins Bustos as a returning starter, juniors Miguel Bonilla and Kahmari Chaney will slot in at guard and tackle this season.

Newcomers you need to know:

Although Hoffman Estates’ running game has lots of veterans, its aerial assault will star a lot of fresh faces.

“We have a quarterback that no one knows of that I think is going to open a lot of eyes this year in Jojo Lovelace,” Heyse said.

Lovelace will take the reins of the Hawk offense for the first time as a senior with a pair of outside weapons.

“He has a big arm,” Heyse said. “We like to stretch the field side to side and we never got to stretch the ball down the field last year at all. This year we have two burners on the outside, one of them is (6-foot-4) and Jojo can chuck it 65-70 yards.”

Those burners are sophomore Jashawn Johnson and junior Jonah Walton. Heyse sees Johnson as a big name in the conference for years to come, and is excited about Walton’s opportunity to step up this season on offense.

“He actually punted for us last year as a sophomore, but he’s had a tremendous summer and I think he’ll be a big time contributor this year," Heyse said.

Walton is a man of many talents, he also finished fifth in the Class 3A high jump at the state meet last year.

2019 Schedule Analysis:

The Hawks face two fellow Class 7A playoff teams, and three Class 8A playoff teams. While Week 1 vs. Elk Grove and Week 4 at Vernon Hills offer respites from their standard fare of stiff opposition, Week 2 at Prospect and Week 3 vs. Maine West are dangerous. Prospect is going into its second season under new coach Dan DeBeouf and could surprise the Hawks. Maine West is also building momentum as a player in 7A, and is a tough draw for Hoffman Estates' Central Suburban crossover after a 9-2 season.

The Hawks face rival Conant in Week 5, who they knocked off by two last year, They face Schaumburg and Palatine in Weeks 6 and 7 and close with Barrington and Fremd, who they lost to by a combined score of 72-24 last season.

An early take:

Hoffman Estates brings considerable young talent and enough returning veterans to continue their playoff streak, but Heyse’s goal of conference champions will be tough to achieve.

If the Hawks can survive their schedule, they could get that 7A playoff win they’re searching for.