The 2009 football season started last Friday when Evanston Township High School took on Loyola Academy in front of a packed Lazier Field. The outcome was one Evanston fans were not hoping for.

In the week leading up to the game, Head Coach Mike Burzawa, in his second season with Evanston, made his long-awaited decision on who would be the Kits starting quarterback. The man for the job is junior Byron Dawkins, who beat out fellow junior Thomas Rorke and former starting quarterback senior Kevin Rosinski.

Loyola Academy came into the game ranked in the top 20 in most major publications and with good reason. One of Loyola’s top players is Chance Carter, who many remember from the 2008 basketball sectionals when Carter was a force against Evanston; he was an equal force in football. Though the Ramblers have a strong defensive team, many questioned the strength of their offense with first-year quarterback William Forsyth starting, and 6 foot 8 senior tight end Robert Wennington as his main target.

Evanston fans swarmed into Memorial Stadium to see these North Shore rivals who have not faced off in nearly 20 years. The game started off slow as both teams seemed to battle on defense because the offenses could not get anything going. Even though Loyola had good field position throughout the first quarter, they could not capitalize on any of their early drives. Evanston also struggled, with Dawkins missing some passes, but the Kits running game backed him up, with Antonio Sanders, Darrell Sheppard, Rendell Massie and Chevy Daley all contributing to a ground attack.

Late in the first quarter Massie took matters into his own hands when he took off for a 65 yard burst all the way for a touchdown, giving Evanston a first quarter 7-0 lead. The Wildkits defense had a solid first quarter; they did not give up many yards on the ground and Forsyth could not get into a rhythm in the air.

Going into the second quarter Evanston’s defense held up their end. As the period progressed, though, Loyola slowly picked up the tempo on offense, with Forsyth appearing to read Evanston’s coverage and finding a lot of open looks down the field. Soon Forsyth capitalized on offense and drove 55 yards down the field and completed the drive with a 5 yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Bonner to tie the score at 7.

Right before the half a good punt by the Ramblers pushed Evanston to their own 1 yard line. The Wildkits desperately tried to get out from their own end zone but when Sheppard ran for a 5 yard gain, the referees called holding on Evanston in the end zone which resulted in a safety that put Loyola up 9-7 going into half time.

In the second half, Evanston’s offense did not seem to pick up much momentum and Loyola’s offense was just starting to open up. The Ramblers scored in the middle of the quarter after a Dawkins interception gave Loyola good field position. They quickly ran the ball in with a 7 yard burst by Addison Perry.

In the fourth period, Loyola put the game away. Forsyth ran for a touchdown and the Ramblers lead grew to 23-7. Evanston picked up a safety near the end of the game bringing the deficit down to 14. But bad news also struck the Kits as Dawkins was hit hard near the end of the game and suffered a possible concussion; his status for Evanston’s next game is unknown.

The game ended in a 23-9 loss for the Wildkits, who have dropped their fifth straight season opener. One of the many disappointing aspects of the game was that senior wide receiver Josh Perryman struggled throughout the game. Perryman, who is expected to have a breakout season, dropped 4 balls and only caught 2, with one lost fumble. Dawkins, the newly named quarterback, completed 6 of 19 passes for 17 yards and threw 2 interceptions before he was knocked out of the game.

Next for Evanston is Hubbard on Friday night. This time, the Kits think they will be ready.