The Evanston Township High School football team opened the season in wild fashion as the Wildkits beat Proviso West, 39-38, in triple overtime on Aug. 30 as part of the second annual Hall of Fame game at Lazier Field in Evanston.
The Kits trailed 8-0 early on in the game, but got back to within 8-7 after running back Maalik Todd scored on a 66-yard touchdown run with seven-and-a-half minutes remaining in the first quarter. From there, the Kits took a 10-8 lead after making a 22-yard field goal with just over three-and-a-half minutes remaining in the quarter.
In the second quarter, the Panthers responded with 10 straight points to take an 18-10 lead thanks to a field goal and then a touchdown after a Kits’ fumble with less than three minutes left in the half. The score remained 18-10 at halftime, when a ceremony was held in honor of the 2013 ETHS Hall of Fame class. Then, after both teams were unable to score in the third quarter, the Kits came back to within two points when senior quarterback Chris Little ran the ball in from four yards out with just under eight-and- a-half minutes remaining in the fourth. The point after try was no good, keeping the score at 18-16.
On the very next possession, the Panthers extended the lead to 24-16 with five minutes remaining. But the Kits responded once again as they tied it, 24-24, when Little connected with wide receiver Tyler Igunbor for a 20-yard touchdown and the Kits made a two-point conversion with just under three-and-a-half minutes left on the clock.
From there, both teams were unable to score before regulation time expired, which meant overtime. In overtime, after the Panthers scored first to take a 31-24 lead, Little hit wide receiver Rei Gaines for a 25-yard touchdown to force a second overtime. In the second overtime, neither team scored.
In the third overtime, the Panthers took a 38-31 lead after a fake field goal attempt resulted in a touchdown. But, the Kits answered once again as Little found receiver Sam Bordo for a six-yard touchdown pass to get the Kits back to within 38-37. On the point after try, instead of trying to tie the game and go to a fourth overtime with an extra point conversion, the Kits went for two and the win. The risk paid off. Gaines took a pitch from Little and ran it into the end zone to give the Kits a, 39-38, victory.
Regarding the decision to go for a two-point conversion and the win in triple overtime, head coach Mike Burzawa said, “It was a crazy game. Two years ago I blew that call at Waukegan (to go for the win in overtime) and we talked about it before the game and the situation called for it and we were fortunate enough to get across the goal line and it was a great effort by Gaines.” He added, “Little stepped up and delivered. It was just a great effort all the way around.”
Little led the Kits with 146 passing yards and four touchdowns including a rushing score as the Kits earned their first victory of the season. Regarding Little’s performance, the Coach said, “Chris made big plays and big throws. He is our senior, a two-year starter. The ball was in his hands to make some plays and he did. The situations we had to overcome were amazing down the stretch.”
Coach Burzawa added, “There were a lot of struggles, a lot of things we have to clean up. We had to burn some time outs, so that was disappointing. But we told our kids at half, it is 18-10, and they (Proviso West) have got every break in the book, every call. No excuses, but we were in the game. Our red zone offense stalled in the third quarter but we just kept fighting and kept battling.
“Proviso West deserves a lot of credit, they are a heck of a football team,” the Coach continued. “Our team played with a lot of heart and determination and I am really proud. It was a heck of a ball game, lots of ups and downs and we just kept battling. We went through a lot of adversity in the football game but our kids (responded) and it showed the heart of our kids.”
For their next game, the Kits traveled to Crete on Sept. 6 to take on last season’s IHSA Class 6A State champions, Crete-Monee. Unfortunately, the Kits were unable to carry the momentum gained against Proviso West into that game, and the Warriors won, 42-15. The Kits opened the game with a 7-0 lead when Little connected with Bordo for a 35-yard touchdown pass less than two minutes into the game. But from there, the Kits were outscored, 42-8, as the Warriors handed the Kits their first loss of the season. Little led the Kits with 234 passing yards while throwing for one touchdown. Todd added a three-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to complete the scoring for the Kits.
Next up, the Kits take on Highland Park tonight and then they return home to take on Maine West on Sept. 20 at Lazier Field.