After a long, hot summer last year, Evanston Wildkit fans were ready for another exciting and jam-packed sports year.
It started in August 2008 with a revamped football program that included new head coach Mike Burzawa, some new players and a brand-new playing field. Expectations were higher for this season, but that was easy to think about after a final record of 1-8 in 2007.
Some hopes were shattered early on when senior quarterback David Hirsch tore a muscle in his thumb in the first game against West Chicago, sidelining him for the rest of the season. Junior George Sorenson substituted for Hirsch, as the Kits lost their first game 0-13. The Kits’ first home game the following week did not fare well either as Hubbard pounded their ground game against Evanston’s defense, leaving the Kits with a 0-2 record.
A historic game was played the following week against Maine West when Evanston football hosted its first Friday-night game in the newly renovated Lazier Field. Guests-of-honor included former ETHS great Emery Moorehead; Chicago Bears team chairman Michael McCaskey; and ETHS alum and star of the “Friday Night Lights” TV show on NBC, actor Zach Gilford. Evanston fans showed up in the hundreds and had something real to cheer about over and above the big ceremony – the Kits put on a show out on the field, winning their first victory of the year 21-7.
The Kits then stumbled through the rest of the season, losing five straight games to some tough opponents. The season ended, though, on a positive note, with a win against Waukegan 25-14.
After football, it was on to basketball, and once again, expectations were high, this time for a team that had made the class 4A final tournament and finished third in the state the season before. Head Coach Bobby Locke was entering his fourth year and would be coaching a younger team than in prior years, but it was one with a lot of talent to put on the court.
Evanston started 3-2 in their annual Thanksgiving tournament at Lane Tech, and won a few conference games leading up to the first Evanston-New Trier game at Welsh-Ryan Arena in December. The Trevians dominated this event, culminating in a 51-65 loss for the Kits. After a rough Christmas break for Evanston and a back-and-forth January, the Kits dominated the second match-up against New Trier, winning 58-43. The game also marked the first game featuring prized prospect and eventual University of Central Florida recruit Nik Garcia.
The most exciting moment of the see-saw season for Coach Locke’s Kits was the opening regional game in the state playoffs, when Evanston faced New Trier a third time on the Winnetka campus. The game started with Evanston taking the lead early on, led by junior guard Ryan Frazier-Chambers and Garcia, but New Trier stormed back in the second quarter with a barrage of 3-pointers by senior Sean Stanley and junior Alex Rossi. The Trevians led 30-24 at halftime. Evanston retook the lead in the second half, led by sophomore Garrett Jones, who scored 11 points in the third quarter. New Trier turned up the heat on the defense, holding Evanston without a basket for long stretches in the final period.
In the final minutes of the game, the teams traded leads. With 20 seconds to go, Evanston was down by 2 points and had the ball. In an amazing sequence of events, the Kits ran the play wrong and Garcia was forced to take matters into his own hands. He released a 25-foot shot and made the 3-pointer with no time left; Evanston won the game 56-55.
The Kits went on to lose their next game against Glenbrook North to end their season 15-13.
Spring came around, and it meant baseball time; once again, changes could be seen in more ways than one. With a revamped stadium and a seemingly new team, Coach Frank Consiglio had his work cut out for him. A team with mostly juniors and sophomores, the Kits could have used all the senior leadership they could get. But for most of the season, the Kits struggled against some very tough teams on the field and ended up with a 12-19 season.
Proud and loud Evanston fans will be looking forward to more success for the athletic department next school year – it starts with football once again in August.