There will be a Week 10 on Evanston’s football calendar this year.
But first will come Week 9 — a championship week if it has a happy ending and the Wildkits are able to end Maine South’s 14-year stranglehold on the Central Suburban League South division crown next Friday in Park Ridge.
Coach Mike Burzawa’s squad slaughtered Waukegan by a 48-8 margin Friday night in the final chapter of the long rivalry between the two schools at Lazier Field and qualified for the Illinois High School Association state playoffs by chalking up their sixth victory of the regular season.
ETHS (6-2 overall) reached the postseason for the first time since 2013, but the fact that the Wildkits now have the opportunity to claim their first conference championship since 1997 was uppermost on the minds of the winners after the final home game for the seniors.
Football is the only sport in the CSL where league officials use a tiebreaker to determine a championship, instead of just naming co-champs. So even if ETHS and New Trier win their regular season finales, the Wildkits can earn the outright title if they can defeat Maine South with the margin of victory three points or more.
Friday night Evanston played like a team that has no interest in sharing a title, even though the Wildkits were without starting quarterback Matt Little. He suffered a leg injury in a win over Glenbrook South and was replaced by sophomore Drew Dawkins, who threw three touchdown passes to Tray Banks in the first half when the hosts racked up 42 points.
Banks made three highlight film-type catches in the end zone and added a 76-yard interception return for a touchdown for the winners against a Waukegan squad that dropped to 2-6 on the season. The Bulldogs will join the North Suburban Conference next year after competing against the Kits in both the Suburban League and Central Suburban League since 1918.
Dawkins completed 7-of-11 passes for 113 yards, including TD tosses covering 4, 28 and 9 yards to Banks. Micquel Roseman (14-yard run), Jalan Jenkins (3-yard run) and King Cysko Gil (2-yard run) accounted for Evanston’s other scores.
“I thought the seniors really did a good job of rallying around Drew tonight,” said Burzawa. “That was a spectacular performance by Tray — it was really a great effort by him — and it was great to see them rally when they faced adversity this week. I thought Drew did a heckuva job even though he didn’t know until yesterday that he was going to start. He’s a kid who works hard every day with our service (scout) team and I’m always talking about this being a redshirt year for him because he never gets to play. But tonight the redshirt had to come off, and he filled in for Matt and really ran the offense efficiently.”
The Wildkits marched 69 yards in 12 plays on their opening scoring drive as Dawkins found Banks in the right corner of the end zone for a 4-yard TD pass. They scored again in the first quarter on a 3-yard plunge by Jenkins, and a fumble recovery by Damairday Birge set up another Dawkins-to-Banks connection for a score, this one from 28 yards out.
Later in the half, Banks out-jumped two Waukegan defenders on third and goal from the 9, and he finished off the half with a flourish, dashing through the entire Bulldog team for a score with no time left on the clock after picking off a pass from backup quarterback Daniel Hill.
“Now we control our own destiny, and this is a championship week for us,” Burzawa said. “We set out this year with a goal to be the best team we can be, and our goal is to honor Coach King (the late Steve King, a former assistant coach) with our effort and our dedication this year. That’s what the senior class has done this year.
“It’s been a long hard road for all of us and next week is a great opportunity, to play against a Maine South program that’s the best. We’re looking forward to that opportunity.”