After a big loss to Loyola in the first football game of this season, the Wildkits squad knew it had to get focused quickly for two consecutive road games. Coach Burzawa used the Rambler blowout as a teaching tool for his team to learn from its mistakes. From the way they played in the next two games, they learned a lot.
The Kits’ second game at Zion-Benton was a pretty “special” one to say the least. It is debatable whether Evanston won the offensive battle or even the defensive clash in its non-conference showdown at the Zee-Bees’ home field.
But one thing is for certain: Evanston dominated the Zee-Bees on special teams, and that proved to be the difference in the Wildkits’ 32-15 victory.
And to say the Kits “dominated” is an understatement.
The Wildkits returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and notched a pair of safeties off Zion’s long-snapping troubles on punt attempts. Additionally, Evanston forced a fumble on a Zee-Bee kickoff return, setting up another easy score.
All told, 24 of the Wildkits’ 32 points came either directly or indirectly from special teams.
“We definitely caught a couple of breaks,” Coach Burzawa said. “This was one of those games that shows you how important special teams are, and we definitely take some pride in [ours].”
For Evanston, the special teams’ fireworks were just beginning.
After Zion’s second touchdown of the evening – a Carlton Reynolds 22-yard second-quarter jaunt – the Zee-Bees (1-1) made sure to keep the ball away from Xavier Levy on the kickoff by opting for a squib kick.
Unfortunately for them, the ball bounced straight to Ray Bahr. From the 23-yard line, the senior broke a tackle and cut to his left before making his way back across mid-field to go 77 yards for the Wildkits’ second consecutive kickoff return TD. Evanston’s special teams immediately struck again, as their kickoff unit forced a turnover just a few seconds later when ETHS junior Randy Pryor pounced on a Reynolds fumble.
That led to a 12-yard drive capped by Bahr’s 1-yard touchdown plunge.
In the second half, the Zee-Bees gave the Wildkits 4 points as a result of poor snaps on punt attempts deep in Zion territory, leading to two safeties.
The special team’s explosion more than made up for a fairly tepid offensive showing for Evanston, which gained just 167 yards on the evening. Quarterback Max Block completed 6 of 15 attempts for 51 yards, though he did connect with Ibrahim Mohammed for an 18-yard score in the third period.
Last Friday Evanston went to Maine East, especially familiar territory for one Wildkit player, Xavier Levy, who transferred from the Blue Demons to the Kits for his senior year.
That night, Bahr and Levy were just two of the offensive weapons the Wildkits unleashed as they scored on each of their first eight possessions in a 44-0 victory at Maine East in a rainy Central Suburban League crossover in Park Ridge.
Bahr scored three of Evanston’s four second-quarter touchdowns that built a 30-0 halftime advantage. He had 6- and 13-yard runs sandwiched around a 36-yard screen play for the one TD pass by quarterback Block, who completed 7 of 11 passes for 129 yards.
Levy, who had a team-best 49 receiving yards on catches of 21 and 28 yards, was named an honorary team captain for the game and joined teammates Block and Bordo for the pre-game coin flip. He said he talked to only two Maine East players prior to the game.
“You can see why, going to a different school and going to play them. I guess they got a little emotional about it, called me a traitor and what not, but it didn’t really faze me that much. My teammates have my back,” Levy said. “I just wanted to play against them and show them how much I’ve improved.”
“We wanted to tackle better on defense and … do a better job on offense and get a rhythm,” Coach Burzawa said.
“For a couple of weeks, we’ve kind of struggled a little bit. We sputtered along. I was happy we were able to get a rhythm on offense. Max had some big completions for us in the short passing game. That got it going and the line settled down after the first couple of series and started to get the push that we were looking for.”
Evanston (2-1) now has back-to-back home games, first hosting Glenbrook North this Friday night. The Kits then take on Glenbrook South the following Friday night for Evanston’s annual homecoming game.