The Illinois High School Association’s decision to seed the complete playoff brackets in Class 7A and 8A finally moved Evanston’s football team away from a geographic matchup against a state power like Loyola Academy for postseason play.
But all it really did was steer the Wildkits into the path of another buzzsaw.
Once-beaten South Elgin piled up 42 points in the first half Friday night and handed the Wildkits their worst playoff defeat since state postseason play began back in 1974, slaughtering the Kits by a 62-10 margin at Streamwood High School’s Millenium Field.
Storm running back Shawn Griffin ran for 5 touchdowns and quarterback Jake AmRein ran for one score and threw two touchdown passes for the winners, who advanced to a second round matchup with Brother Rice.
Coach Mike Burzawa’s squad couldn’t shake off the lingering effects of a devastating loss to Maine South in the final week of the regular season and finished 6-4. The Wildkits were without the services of Central Suburban League South division MVPs Travian Banks (offense) and Jalan Jenkins (defense), who both suffered knee injuries against Maine South.
And starting quarterback Matt Little was injured early in the second quarter and didn’t return. He was hurt after tossing an interception, one of 6 turnovers on the night for the frustrated visitors.
Any resemblance between the Wildkit squad that was blown out of the Class 8A playoffs Friday night and the one that overcame adversity time and again during the regular season –- and came within 10 minutes of winning a conference championship — was purely coincidental.
Even Burzawa didn’t recognize the team that took the field and suffered the program’s fifth straight first-round playoff loss.
“This was not who we are. It was tough to come out like this and not play our best game,” the ETHS coach admitted. “By far, we were a different team tonight than we were during the regular season, in terms of our toughness and our physicality. We didn’t come out ready to play. We just weren’t able to bounce back from that devastating loss last week. To lose that game like we lost it was tough.
“We didn’t plan on it ending tonight. South Elgin took it to us, and there are no excuses. They were able to get some big plays on us early (including a 90-yard touchdown pass), and then we had a turnover or two and everything unraveled on us. But I am proud of this senior class and of everything they’ve meant to this program.”
A 38-yard field goal by Owen Ennis pulled the Wildkits within 7-3 with 3 minutes, 36 seconds remaining in the first quarter. But two plays later, AmRein connected with wide receiver Andrew Kamienski for a 90-yard catch-and-run down the right sideline and the rout was on.
Little (4-of-10 passing for 36 yards) departed early in the second quarter and sophomore Drew Dawkins took over at quarterback. He completed 6-of-11 passes for 29 yards and one interception.
Kendale Coleman carried 16 times for 61 yards for the Kits, who only mustered 12 first downs. Evanston’s only touchdown came on special teams, when Damairay Birge blocked a punt and Mo Brown ran 19 yards with the loose ball with just four seconds left in the first half.
That play cut the deficit to 42-10 and the running clock was in effect after the Storm scored on its first possession of the second half.
For South Elgin, Griffin racked up 159 yards on 20 carries, including TD runs of 4, 31, 19, 9 and 13 yards. Quarterback AmRein connected on 11-of-14 passes for 208 yards and two scores.