While the ETHS football team wanted to make a statement, this was not the one they wanted to make. Early defensive struggles, inconsistent offensive play, and injury problems were the main stories of Evanston’s 13-0 loss to West Chicago last Friday. The loss also brings the first defeat of Mike Burzawa’s coaching career at ETHS, making it only the second loss in his overall coaching record. The loss also marked the fourth straight season opening game defeat for Evanston.
The game started off the way Evanston wanted: On the opening kickoff junior Antonio Sanders returned the kick for 61 yards downfield, giving the offense great field position. But on their first drive Evanston turned the ball over on downs by going for it on fourth down and failing to move the chains.
The remainder of the first quarter was not very action-packed until things got a little scary for Evanston and their fans. Starting QB David Hirsch was forced to come off the field after injuring his thumb during a play where he tried to run for a first down himself and hit his thumb on a West Chicago player’s helmet. Hirsch told the RoundTable his thumb hurt so badly he could not even hold a football properly. “I ran into a defender pretty awkwardly and my thumb hurt so bad, I knew I couldn’t stay in,” he said. Coach Burzawa brought in backup QB junior George Sorenson, who looked pretty surprised to be playing so early on in the season.
In the second quarter, it looked as though both teams would go into halftime scoreless until West Chicago figured it was time to capitalize on offense. They let out a mix of passing plays along with some good-looking running plays, and that paid off with a two-yard touchdown run by Chris Jackson. On their next offensive series West Chicago looked just about dead and ready to go into halftime when QB A.J. Romanelli threw a 10-yard pass to Jackson. The latter was in the process of being tackled when he made a heads-up play by tossing it off to WR Alex Pirela, who dashed downfield for a 54-yard gain. With only two minutes left in the quarter, West Chicago worked fast, scoring on a one-yard QB sneak, putting West Chicago up 13-0 at the half.
After a cool and collective pep talk by Burzawa at the halftime break, Evanston was fired up and ready to take their season-opener. West Chicago, on the other hand, seemed to focus more on keeping its lead and wasting as much time on the clock as possible. Evanston’s defense bounced back and had a strong second half. They allowed no yards passing and 96 yards rushing and even forced two fumbles, both recovered by the Wildkits, giving plenty of chances for the offense to strike the end zone.
But scoring seemed to be Evanston’s Achilles heel the whole game, moving into the red zone only once, and that chance came in the first quarter with Hirsch as QB. But after substituting, Sorenson could not seem to manage the game well enough to get the ball into field goal range, let alone the endzone. Sorenson showed inconsistency as well as inexperience in his first varsity game, throwing 13/23 for 111 yards, 0 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Expect Sorenson to get more repetitions in practice in upcoming weeks, as Hirsch’s injury may be serious. Hirsh told the RoundTable the team doctor said he might have torn a ligament in his thumb, which would probably require surgery, but there is also a possibility it is a bad sprain. Either way, Hirsh could be seeing a lot of football this season from the sidelines.
In the meantime, the coaches know that there is much to be done this week in practice, and they are also aware that school starts this week. They will make sure the players can separate their two responsibilities properly. The Kits need some fixing on both sides of the ball and need to make sure it happens by Saturday when they take on Hubbard in their home-opener. Next Friday they play in their first-ever home night game against Maine West. The team and the fans hope they will shine under those lights and quickly turn this season around.