Although most students are having fun on their summer vacations, a group of ETHS students is packing the football practice fields to prepare for a season in which fourth-year Head Coach Mike Burzawa is setting his sights on a second consecutive playoff appearance.
Last year’s team consisted of many senior playmakers who have now gone on to play college football, so Coach Burzawa’s incoming seniors will have some big shoes to fill. One player ready to step up is senior defensive end and tight end Leonard Garron, who last year played a big role in Evanston’s first trip to the postseason in seven years.
As a junior, Garron was a nightmare for opponents. On defense, he forced four fumbles, recovered two fumbles and had two sacks. He caught 16 passes on offense.
Last month, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Garron picked up his first official scholarship offer from Northern Illinois University after competing in the Huskies’ one-day camp.
The scholarship offer helped set a positive tone for the rest of his offseason.
“(The offer) meant that I can play somewhere which is a good feeling,” said Garron, who plans on waiting a while before making any decisions about college. “It took off a lot of pressure. To feel wanted by another school felt really great.”
Garron also played a big role in the success of Evanston’s basketball team last year, meaning he has to juggle both sports in a short span of time.
“It’s tiring, but if you want to be good at both sports, you have to put in the work,” Garron said. “With football being the next sport, I need to prepare a little more for football than basketball. But basketball isn’t completely out of the picture either.”
“He’s real physical on both sides,” Burzawa said. “He’s a kid who can do some dynamic things in open space. He also has that long reach and can cause conflicts with the way he comes off the edge.
“We are excited what he can do for us.”
Another question on the Kits’ squad that Coach Burzawa seems to have answered is the quarterback position. The top job this year is going to senior Max Block, who last season was playing on the defensive side of the ball as a free safety.
At a position where the Wildkits have lacked a true playmaker for much of the past decade, Block could emerge as a threat, both as a runner and a passer.
Block showed off his deep passing ability in matchups against Mid-Suburban League schools Hersey, Wheeling, Conant and Buffalo Grove. He threw eight touchdown passes, including five to senior receiver Victor Bordo, and completed 22-of-39 attempts overall.
“We’re really excited about what we’ve seen from Max,” Burzawa said. “He’s worked as hard as anyone in the offseason. He’s taken the same approach as Byron Dawkins did for us last year. He’s the first one in the weight room and the last one to leave. He really seems to be a student of the game, and he catches on quickly. He asks a lot of questions and really tries to understand what the coverage’s are.
“Quarterback is a critical position for us,” Coach Burzawa continued. “He’s the general of the offense out there, and hopefully he’s a guy who is a leader for you on and off the field. He needs to be mentally and physically tough. Max is a smart young man who will give us the ability to both throw and run because of his mobility in the pocket.”
Block started at quarterback for the sophomore team. He then focused on defense as a junior. Now he’s hoping to be the go-to guy on offense.
“There’s a lot of pressure on me – and I like it there,” Block said. “Today I did pretty well after a slow start. I know all the other guys are going to do their jobs, so if I do mine, we’ll be successful as a team. I know the coaches are going to put me into position to be a playmaker.
“Playing safety last year, I learned all of the coverage’s and that’s really helped me at quarterback, too,” Block continued. “That’s half the battle, knowing the coverages and knowing what the defense is thinking out there. We have a ton of great athletes on this team and I’m just trying to get things going in the right direction for the team.”
Coach Burzawa said that their summer practices end tomorrow afternoon and that next week their real training camp begins, when most positions will be filled by the middle of August.