Another school record receiving performance by senior Brandon Hilliard for Evanston’s football team threw a scare into state playoff-bound New Trier Friday night in Northfield.
But in the end, even Hilliard’s 4 touchdown catches and 191 yards — both of them single game school records — weren’t enough in a 44-30 loss to the Trevians in front of a capacity crowd.
After spotting the hosts a 23-0 lead, the Wildkits came roaring back in a display of pride typical for one of the state’s longest-enduring rivalries and outplayed New Trier (8-1) in the second half. Evanston ended its season with a 3-6 mark but still leads the all-time series between the two programs with 54 wins, 46 losses and 5 ties overall.
Hilliard broke the single game record for TD receptions he shared with Montel Wilburn with scoring grabs covering 5, 8, 35 and 51 yards. His 191 yards wiped out the single game mark of 157 set by Jody Ellis, also against New Trier, in 2004.
Hilliard, a 5-foot-7, 155-pound senior, didn’t even play organized football until his sophomore year of high school. But the speedy receiver built on his athletic gifts and hockey background to develop into one of the premier receivers in the Central Suburban League.
He still plays hockey for ETHS and also runs track during the outdoor season.
“He’s played hockey his whole life, and one of Brandon Hilliard’s best characteristics is his toughness,” praised Evanston head coach Mike Burzawa. “He has physical toughness and mental toughness and that’s because of hockey.
“Brandon has great speed, combined with quickness, and he was a threat to go to the house (score) every time he touched the ball. He’s the real deal.”
New Trier’s ball control attack ground out 297 yards rushing with two Trevians surpassing the 100-yard mark. Charlie Schoder, the quarterback in New Trier’s gimmick “Wildcat” formation, carried 8 times for 112 yards and notched TD runs of 14 and 37 yards for the winners. Kevin Mulhern added 111 yards on 20 attempts.
The Wildkits trailed 23-7 at halftime but closed the gap to 30-22 with 1 minute, 37 seconds remaining thanks to Hilliard’s 35-yard touchdown catch in a crowd from quarterback Matt Little (14-of-25 for 282 yards, 1 interception). Little also completed a pair of 2-point conversion tosses, to Ferris Ingraham and Rei Gaines.
New Trier answered — after Little’s interception throw — with a 67 yard drive in 10 plays that climaxed with a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Clay Czyznski that effectively put the game out of reach.
“When you spot a team like New Trier 23 points right off the bat, that’s tough to come back from,” said Burzawa. “But we were able to climb back into it, and I’m extremely proud of the way our kids competed and fought in a tough environment on the road. It got to the point where it was anybody’s game, but we couldn’t catch a break or two there. That’s how it goes.”