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As the ETHS Wildkits went into their season-opener against Loyola at home in Lazier Field, fans were eager to see the progress made by Head Coach Mike Burzawa’s team this summer – and to see if their team could beat a strong Rambler squad.
Evanston’s senior quarterback Max Block learned a lot this summer, having switched from the defensive safety position he held last year to his new position as leader of the team. Going up against Loyola’s defense was a tough way to start.
Across the field stood Loyola’s quarterback, senior Malcolm Weaver, an Evanston resident who went to King Lab School with Block and several other ETHS team members. In middle school, Block said, Weaver dominated in flag football competitions. Despite Weaver’s local origins, he showed no mercy Friday night for his fellow Evanstonians as he threw three touchdowns in the first half. He sat out the entire second half, with Loyola dominating the Kits in a 40-0 win.
While Weaver enjoyed the first-half spotlight, Block didn’t fare as well in his varsity debut on offense. It was mostly downhill for the Evanston senior after he completed his first two passes for 32 yards. He finished 7 of 19 passes for 82 yards and was sacked six times overall as the Kits finished with a minus six yards on the ground.
After the two old pals embraced at the conclusion of the game, Weaver said, “That’s the toughest defense you’ll play against this year.”
Block did not disagree.
“I could use a tub of ice right now,” Block said after game. The Ramblers were also called for roughing the quarterback twice in the second half, in addition to all of those sacks. “Loyola used a lot of tricks, a lot of loops and stunts, and their pressure really got to us. They’re fast on defense and I didn’t have much time back there,” he said.
One would think Weaver would be claiming bragging rights over his hometown, but he preferred to be humble after his great performance.
“I know people talk about this being for bragging rights, but I don’t feel like I should brag on this,” Weaver said. “I know their quarterback and a bunch of the other Evanston guys. It does feel special to come in here and play well. I’m just proud of our team effort. If the team’s clicking, then I’m clicking. I think the offense executed really well tonight.”
“Evanston will be a good team once they get a couple of their guys back,” Loyola head coach Holecek said. “This is a good start for us, because we had some guys step up and stay with Evanston’s speed.”
Evanston coach Mike Burzawa’s first task will be to remind his players that the Wildkits still qualified for the state playoffs last year following their lopsided loss to Loyola at the start of that season.
“It’s painful. But the game of football is about overcoming adversity, and now we have to move on and go 1-0 next week,” Burzawa said. “The bottom line is that this is just one game in a nine-game season. “Loyola was much more physical than we were. They dominated in the offensive and defensive lines. We just got pushed back, and our pass protection broke down a lot. We also did a terrible job of tackling. We didn’t protect Max very well, and he didn’t get a lot of help tonight.”
Block’s third pass attempt of the game was intercepted by Loyola linebacker Lars Lopatka. Willie Palivos (132 yards, nine carries) raced in for a 47-yard touchdown on the first play following the turnover and the rout was on.
The Ramblers (1-0) used their reserves for most of the second half, but the “slaughter rule,” which keeps the clock moving after one team builds a 40-point advantage, went into effect when Dylan Brennan tallied on a 7-yard run in the final minute of the third period.
Evanston (0-1) now goes on the road for their next two games, this Friday night at Zion-Benton and Maine East next Friday night.