Going into the last two weeks of the regular season, Head Coach Mike Burzawa’s team knew what had to be done to get Evanston to their first state playoff berth in years. Many fans thought that this year’s team was the most talented since the 2003 season, the last time Evanston made a run towards downstate. Coach Burzawa thought the same.
After winning two straight in September, the Wildkits fell hard against Maine South and New Trier on Oct. 3 and 9, which resulted in a losing record. The Kits did not get an offensive touchdown in either game and were in a big slump at a very important time in their season.
Coming into their game against Niles West on Oct. 17, Evanston had a 3-4 record and needed to win their final two games to have a chance for the playoffs. Knowing this, the Kits were motivated heading into Skokie, and they did not hesitate to make quick work of the Wolves.
Wildkit Junior Rendell Massie came into the game with no rushing scores since the Kits win against Waukegan on Sept. 26. That changed, though, when he scored all six touchdowns for the Kits in a dominant performance versus the Wolves. He ended the game with 208 yards on 26 carries, and caught two passes to add another 38 yards to his total. Massie may have had his best game so far on varsity, but he was quick to praise his team mates.
“The blocking was executed well and we stayed on our blocks. We were ready to win the game,” he said. Coach Burzawa agreed with his star running back.
“We wanted to finish (Saturday) and we were able to put the ball in the end zone. It takes 11 guys; it’s not just one person. But Rendell has a big heart,” Burzawa said.
Niles West started the scoring early in the first quarter after a fake punt was completed for a 35-yard passing play. After the Wolves scored and took the lead, 7-0, Evanston tied it up with a 15-yard run and never looked back. Massie went on to score three more touchdowns in the half, putting the Kits up at halftime, 24-7. The Wolves scored one more touchdown in the third quarter, but Evanston’s defense did a good job overall, forcing turnovers and preventing Niles West from making a dramatic comeback. Burzawa praised his defense for holding the Wolves in check.
“Our defense played well. We took a little time to settle in, but we were able to get all three phases (offense, defense and special teams) working today,” he said.
Starting the game at quarterback for Evanston was junior Byron Dawkins, who replaced senior Kevin Rosinski. Dawkins completed 9 of 14 passes, for 126 yards. Evanston won, 38-14.
Although excited about crushing the Wolves, the Kits knew they had a tough task ahead against Glenbrook South on Oct. 23, a team that came in with a 6-2 record. The Kits soon learned that getting to the playoffs is not easy, no matter how much talent they have on their team.
The game was also the regular season finale, and Evanston fans were hoping it was not the last time they would get to see their football team in Lazier Field this year. At the start of the game, the Titan’s running back, senior Michael Hirsch was a marked man because he has been a force in Glenbrook’s offense all year. Unfortunately, that did not stop him from having a great game against the Kits. Both teams traded touchdowns in the first quarter; Evanston scored on a great pass play when Dawkins hooked up with senior Josh Perryman from 45 yards out. The Titans, though, took a big lead when Hirsch ran the ball in two times, once from 1 yard and then from 6, to put Glenbrook up, 21-7, at halftime.
In the third quarter, Hirsch continued to score, running the ball in from the 2, and then on a 54-yard burst in the closing minute of the period to put the Titans up, 35-7. The Kits scored one more time when Rosinski came in and threw an 8-yard touchdown to Greg Otte, wrapping up the final trip to the end zone for those seniors.
The Kits ended their season with a 4-5 record, just missing the Illinois state playoffs and ending the season on a disappointing note. Coach Burzawa is proud of his team and what they achieved this season. Not only did the team improve, but the program is getting stronger, making next season a season to anticipate with hopefully a brighter future.