Last Friday evening was one of those nights in Evanston where everyone knew something special was bound to happen. Evanston Township High School got the taste of Friday night lights for the first time in school history, and what a time to shine.
Maine West had the unfortunate task of being the opponents on a night where all of the attention was focused on Lazier Field at Memorial Stadium. The capacity crowd held some standouts: former Chicago Bears tight end Emery Moorehead; current Bears Nick Roach, Brandon McGowan and Josh Beekman; and Zach Gilford, a 2000 ETHS alumnus and star of the NBC hit show “Friday Night Lights.”
But with all the big names shown before the game, one stood out during the game, Antonio Sanders. Sanders stole the show late in the game, helping the Kits win 21-7 against Maine West. The 5’7″ junior made two straight touchdown runs in the fourth quarter to give Evanston the lead. Sanders – and the fans – thought he had made it into the end zone a third time, only to find it was called back on a holding penalty.
The Kits started off the game looking to just control the ball and not complicate things. They stuck to their plan on the opening drive, using up the first seven minutes on the clock, which eventually led to a Darrell Shepherd one-yard score. The rest of the first half was just as action-packed, as the score stayed 6-0, Evanston, at the half.
The third quarter was highlighted by some trickery shown from Maine West, which proved to be their only offense. With 5:16 left in the period, quarterback Frank Hess tossed the ball to WR Nick Abramsan, who raced towards the sideline before throwing it downfield to a wide-open WR Tom Solis, who ran into the end zone. This gave the Warriors a 7-6 lead going into the fourth quarter.
The Evanston defense did a solid job all night, giving Hess and the offense all kinds of trouble. Hess was sacked twice by John Tinkham and Joshua Dabney and intercepted three times by Alton Belcher, Chevy Daley and Paul Valukas. The Warriors also suffered from mental errors, causing many penalties throughout the night.
Sanders’ winning score was set up earlier by a spectacular punt return by Lacory Cork, who caught the ball on a bounce with defenders in his face. With a huge pancake block by Jordan Fleps, Cork dashed his way into enemy territory. Sanders ran the very next play up the middle, and he took off past the secondary to put the Kits up 12-7. A two-point conversion caught by Josh Perryman made it 14-7. On the very next drive, Evanston delivered the coup de grace, when Sanders scored from 45 yards, putting ETHS up 21-7, and it would end that way.
George Sorenson, who made only his second start for the varsity squad, managed the game when it counted.
If you ask any quarterback whether he wants those big stats next to his name or a win for his team, chances are he will take that victory anytime.
This was also a great night for Coach Mike Burzawa, who picked up his first win at the helm for Evanston – and the team’s first win of the season.
The weather called for an overcast and rainy night, but that did not stop the rowdy Kits fans from doing what they do best: starting a massive party. Overall, Sept. 12 will be remembered as a testament to how much the school, the sponsors and the Evanston people wanted this event.
Might I say congratulations to the team and a big thank you to the people who made “Friday Night Lights” possible, because, lord knows, this City deserved it.