Maybe the letdown was inevitable following an inspired performance by the Evanston football team in Week 2.
Or maybe Friday’s 24-7 spanking at the hands of unbeaten Highland Park at soggy Lazier Field was just an indication that the young Wildkits are still experiencing some growing pains.
Unable to muster much offense for the third week in a row, the Wildkits dropped the Central Suburban League crossover contest with a flat performance that included three turnovers against the 3-0 Giants.
Junior quarterback Matt Little put together the best performance statistically of his young varsity career by completing 16-of-27 passes for 212 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Hilliard in the third quarter. But he also lost two fumbles and ETHS mustered only 53 yards rushing as a team.
Highland Park’s Cole Greenberg rushed 33 times for 159 yards and a touchdown, and quarterback Sam Nevers threw a pair of TD passes as the visitors dominated time of possession with 17 total first downs. The Giants responded to the only ETHS score with a nine play, 71 yard scoring drive that put the game out of reach at the start of the fourth quarter.
“The bottom line is that team (Highland Park) was tougher than we were,” said Evanston coach Mike Burzawa. “They came out and took it to us right away. We weren’t able to stop the run and we weren’t able to run it very well, either.
“We tried to coach against a letdown all week, but Highland Park out-coached and out-played us tonight. We didn’t wake up until the second half. Highland Park is a strong team, a disciplined team and they deserved the win.
“We really do need to find a way to get our offense going. To be successful, we need to be able to run well and we need to be able to throw it well.”
The Giants struck for a score on their opening drive and it only required six plays for Nevers (9-of-20 for 73 yards) to hook up with Hallvard Lundevall for the first six points of the game on a 24-yard pass. In the second quarter, an errant lateral toss from Little wound up in Highland Park’s possession at the Giants’ 47, and when that drive stalled, Jacob Swartz kicked a 30-yard field goal for a 10-0 halftime lead.
Greenberg, who was held to minus yards on only three of his 33 carries, tallied on a 1-yard plunge with 5 minutes, 31 seconds left in the third quarter.
Six plays after that, Little heaved his first varsity TD pass, a 55-yard bomb to Hilliard. The senior beat the Giants’ safety and made a juggling catch at about the 20 before cruising into the end zone and Nathan Musso kicked the PAT to pull the hosts within 17-7.
Highland Park answered with a scoring drive that climaxed with a 1-yard TD pass from Nevers to Luke Norcia. Little led the Wildkits on a final march that began at the ETHS 13, but a third down pass to Xhavier Hilliard netted only 1 yard, and Highland Park stopped Arrhian Monroe (11 carries, 52 yards) at the 3 after a 4-yard gain with 38 seconds remaining.