The Evanston Township High School football team has had its share of ups and downs this season. The Wildkits got shut out in the season-opener against Loyola but won the next three games against Zion-Benton, Maine East and Glenbrook North. In those three, the Kits outscored their opponents 111-22.
The Kits were 3-1, but were unable to maintain momentum and lost two of the next three games. These included defeats by Glenbrook South and Maine South, who finished the regular season 9-0 and ranked No. 1, according to a Sun-Times poll. After the Maine South game, the Kits took on archrival New Trier on Oct. 14 and lost, 24-7, on Senior Night at Lazier Field at Memorial Stadium.
The Kits trailed 10-0 at halftime but came out and scored on the first drive of the half to make it 10-7. But from there the Trevians shut out the Kits the rest of the way to hang on for the victory. The Trevians turned four Kit turnovers into 14 points, which proved costly. Senior Ray Bahr led the Kits with 96 rushing yards and scored the Kits’ lone touchdown.
“We put the ball on the turf too many times. That was the difference in the game,” said head coach Mike Burzawa. “The ball did not bounce our way. But I was proud of the heart and dedication we showed.”
With the loss, the Kits’ record stood at 4-4 heading into the final week of the season against Central Suburban League South rival Niles West in Niles. The Kits needed a victory to become eligible for the postseason. All non-conference champions must win at least five games to be eligible for the postseason based on playoff points, which are combined victories by their opponents.
Against Niles West, senior quarterback Max Block went 12 for 15 with 157 yards and threw for four touchdowns, including three to senior Victor Bordo to lead the Kits. On defense, the Kits forced six turnovers, including one where senior Leonard Garron recovered a fumble and ran it back 60 yards for a touchdown. The Kits limited Niles West to less than 120 yards in the game.
The Kits ended the regular season on a high note with this game, shutting out Niles West 34-0. This was their fifth victory of the season, and made them eligible for postseason play. The next day, the Kits got the news: They would be playing postseason football as one of 256 playoffs-bound teams.
“He epitomizes what it’s like to be a Wildkit player,” said Coach Burzawa regarding Garron, who finished with five and a half sacks on the season.
“That was a tight ball game early,” said Burzawa. “Block found Bordo three times and that was set up by our defense. That ignited us. Six turnovers were created by our defense and that was the difference in the game.” The Coach added, “We played with a lot of energy on the defensive side of the ball.”
Regarding Block’s performance, Burzawa said, “He throws a nice ball. He’s grown and developed in the last two years. “[Quarterbacks coach] Ryan Healy has helped develop Max. Max has become an extension of Healy. He has helped him with understanding coverages and defenses. Their relationship has been critical.” Burzawa added, “He is strong and mobile and he has been able to run a bit which adds another dimension to our team.”
With the win, the Kits became eligible for the postseason for the second straight year. Even though it happened on the final week, they are pleased to be in the playoffs but have high expectations this year after losing to Fremd in the first round last year.
“We did not want it to come down to the final week but that is the position we put ourselves into. We felt good about our playoff points [going into the Niles West game],” said Burzawa. It is a good feeling but by no means are we satisfied with making the playoffs. We want to compete and be able to do something in the playoffs.”
The Kits take on Loyola in a rematch of the season opener in the first round of the Class 8A playoffs. The date of the game has not been announced.