After making the playoffs for a fourth straight time last season, the Evanston Township High School football team hoped to take a step toward a fifth straight appearance with a solid performance in their season opener on Aug. 29 against Proviso West.
But unfortunately that was not in the cards, as the Wildkits fell to the Panthers, 13-7. The Kits led 7-0, thanks to a six-yard touchdown run by senior Arrhian Monroe in the second quarter. The score remained at 7-0 until the fourth quarter, when Proviso scored two unanswered touchdowns to give them the lead at 13-7 with 2 minutes and 59 seconds remaining in the game.
The Kits’ ensuing drive stalled, allowing the hosts to escape with the victory. The Kits’ undoing in this game was penalties. They committed 13, costing them 125 yards, which prevented the offense from getting much going on a number of drives. Leading the way for the Kits was Monroe, who ran for 81 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown, along with junior quarterback Matt Little, who threw for 94 yards while completing 10 of 22 pass attempts.
The next week, the Kits looked to bounce back against Crete-Monee on Sept. 5 in their home opener at ETHS Athletic Hall of Fame game at Lazier Field. They did just that, prevailing 14-7 on a rainy evening in Evanston. The Kits also honored the memory of the late defensive coordinator Steve King with a ceremony and moment of silence before the game.
After a scoreless first half, the visiting Warriors took the lead with 9 minutes 16 seconds left in the third quarter after recovering a Kits’ fumble and taking it in for a touchdown. But the Kits responded and tied up the game with 2 minutes and 34 seconds left in the quarter, after Monroe scored on a three-yard run. That touchdown was a result of the Kits recovering a mishandled Warriors’ snap at the 3-yard line.
From there, the Kits took a 14-7 lead when junior Jalan Jenkins scooped up a Warriors’ fumble at the 38 yard line and took it all the way to the end zone for a touchdown with 9 minutes and 16 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Then after both teams failed to score for approximately 8 minutes, the Warriors had one final opportunity to tie it up. But Monroe intercepted a pass with 57 seconds remaining to seal the victory for the Kits.
“We asked our kids to give a perfect effort, and that is what they did,” said Head Coach Mike Burzawa. “I am just so proud of the kids on the effort, they laid it all on the line, and the kids played their hearts out.” He added, “It was a great victory, but there are a lot of things that we could have done better. But at the end of the day, our goal was to give Coach King’s family three hours of enjoyment, and I could not be more proud of the kids.”
The Kits’ defense forced three fumbles and one interception on the night and seemingly had Crete-Monee quarterback Frank Douglas scrambling all game long, which pleased Coach Burzawa. “The defense played their hearts out. We got a defensive score for the game-winner and you could not have written a better script.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the Kits had trouble getting much going, as they were limited to 139 yards with just one offensive score, but Coach Burzawa said this is a work in progress. “On offense we just have to finish drives. We will work on that.” The Coach added, “Everybody is working hard, doing their best, and we just have to continue to get better. I am just proud of the improvement that we made, and we were much more disciplined [compared to last week].”
When asked what can be taken away from this game moving forward, the Coach said, “Our week of preparation was very good, and it reflected in our effort. But I am just proud of our defense and all of our kids played their hearts out, so I could not have asked for anything else.”
With the victory, the Kits improved to 1-1 on the season. They will look for their second victory when they take on Highland Park on Sept. 12 in Evanston. That game is followed by a visit to Maine West on Sept. 19.