HARVARD – Harvard’s football players watched with admiration in recent years as rival Richmond-Burton made one long playoff run after another.
Some season, the Hornets aspired to pull off something similar.
“You’ve seen the success from Richmond’s teams and stuff like that where they’ve gone deep,” Harvard senior tight end-linebacker Tate Miller said. “It’s nice to set yourself apart in the history of this program and the teams before us.”
Harvard (10-0) won a playoff game last week for the first time since reaching the quarterfinals in 2007. The No. 2-seeded Hornets can advance to the quarterfinals again with a victory against No. 7 Chicago King (8-2) in their IHSA Class 4A second-round playoff game at 7 p.m. Friday at Dan Horne Field.
Harvard missed the playoffs in 2008, 2010 and 2012. The Hornets lost in the first round in 2009 and 2011.
“It’s nice to be playing, especially looking back to our sophomore year when we had that tough game at Sandwich [a 24-23 loss] on a last-second field goal,” Miller said.
Harvard tied the school record for victories with its 40-22 win against St. Edward last week. King defeated No. 10 Aurora Central Catholic, 36-6, on Saturday, so the Hornets get to host again.
“Most teams don’t get a chance to play two games at home in the playoffs,” senior wide receiver-defensive back Justin Nolen said. “We’re going to make the most of it. We’re going to do our best to come out with a ‘W’.”
Harvard’s defense shut out R-B in the regular-season finale, then held running back Davonte Elam, a 1,300-plus-yard rusher, to 44 yards last week. This week’s challenge will be King’s speed.
Quarterback Nate Powell ran for two touchdowns and threw for three last week as the Jaguars got their first playoff victory in school history for coach Lonnie Williams, who has been at the school for 44 years.
“They have kids who are fast and athletic, but I don’t know if it’s any more than what our [Big Northern Conference] has prepared us for,” Hornets coach Tim Haak said. “No doubt, they have some skilled kids. I was glad we got to see them [in person]. Sometimes on film you can’t tell their speed.”
The Jaguars shared the Chicago Public League Land of Lincoln Conference title with Phillips and Raby, and while they have good speed, Haak thinks Harvard will have a size advantage.
“A lot of the Public League teams run the spread [offense] a lot,” Nolen said. “They don’t really have anybody running right at them, and we’re going to run right at them. We’ll see if that holds their speed down a little bit, because they don’t have that size.”