Coming off of two straight close games that ended in victories for Evanston, Head Coach Mike Burzawa knew his defense had to step up if the Kits were to compete against tougher opponents later in the season. The defense took notice and picked up their game.
Going into their match up against Deerfield, the Kits had momentum on their side especially on the offensive side of the ball with senior quarterback Byron Dawkins taking the offense down the field, and being effective passing the ball. Evanston’s defense came up big, too, actually outscoring Deerfield’s offense, 12-10, and helping the Kits secure a decisive, 39-10, road victory for their third straight win.
Evanston’s senior defensive back Mark Williams II knew the defense had a big weight on their shoulders and felt like they had something to prove to not only Wildkit fans but to themselves.
“It was definitely personal,” Williams said. “We had a chip on our shoulder, but we finally got it together.”
Williams put an exclamation point on Evanston’s evening, stepping in front of a pass by Deerfield’s quarterback Brad Holway near the 2-yard line and racing up the sideline for a 98-yard score for the Kits. It was the second-straight Warriors possession that ended in a touchdown for the Wildkits. Safety Tony Kerrington recorded a pick-six of his own on the previous possession.
Williams’ and Kerrington’s scores came at the end of an offensive explosion in which Deerfield’s Jeffrey Johnson capped a 12-play, 70-yard drive with a 21-yard field goal and left the Kits trailing, 10-7, with 6:51 left in the third quarter. Evanston’s offense woke up, however, scoring on three of its next four possessions.
First, quarterback Byron Dawkins dropped in a perfectly thrown pass to James Brown, who was double covered, for a 38-yard score that gave the Wildkits a lead they never relinquished.
Dawkins, coming off a two-interception performance the previous week, completed 11 of 17 passes for 180 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
“[Quarterback Ryan] Healy really challenged Byron this week,” coach Burzawa said. “They put together a good game plan with plays he was comfortable with and we communicated well offensively.”
In the final two quarters, Evanston outscored Deerfield,32-3. Rendell Massie cracked the 100-yard barrier for the third consecutive game, finishing with 147 yards on 20 carries. Jeremy Kritt led the Warriors with 90 yards on 16 attempts. Holway added 76 yards on the ground.
Evanston’s ‘D’ stole the show, however, allowing just one completion for 12 yards.
“The coaches made the adjustments, the players executed,” Burzawa said. “That’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
So with three consecutive wins, the Kits were as confident as ever going into Waukegan the next week, a team many believed Evanston would defeat handily. Unfortunately,that did not turn out to be the case.
The Waukegan defense harassed the Evanston offense throughout the contest, forcing four turnovers and putting relentless pressure on Dawkins, who opened the second half by misfiring on seven of his first eight pass attempts.
Dawkins finished the day completing 15 of 30 passes for 188 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions, missing the final drive, however, with an undisclosed injury.
From the beginning, Evanston’s offense looked uncomfortable against Waukegan. Of its four first-half possessions, three ended in turnovers. However, Waukegan’s offense lost two fumbles of its own in the first two periods, but the Bulldogs held on to a slim, 7-6, lead at the break.
That advantage turned into a two-point deficit after Evanston knocked home a 36-yard field goal late in the third quarter. To that point, the only offense Waukegan generated had been on its first possession of the game when quarterback Reggie Richter found Jaleel Atta with a 54-yard touchdown pass.
With 65 seconds left to play in the game, coach Burzawa had a decision to make, with the Kits down, 21-22.
His team had just pulled to within a point after the Kits’ backup quarterback Max Block, who was taking his first snaps of the season following an injury to starter Dawkins, connected with Rendell Massie for a 64-yard scoring strike. Evanston needed only the extra point to tie the game at 22. But there was one small issue – dating back to last week, the Wildkits had failed to convert on their previous five extra point kicks.
Still, Burzawa decided to try for the extra point. The kick hooked wide left, however, leaving the Bulldogs to celebrate their homecoming with a, 22-21, conference victory.
The loss gave Evanston a, 3-2, record for the season. They have a tough two weeks ahead, first hosting defending state champion Maine South on Friday and then going to Winnetka to face New Trier.