After qualifying for the IHSA State playoffs last season, the Evanston Township High School football team hopes to get to that point or farther this season, with a solid performance on the gridiron.

In order for that to happen, Head Coach Mike Burzawa said the Wildkits will need to take advantage of practice time and work to get better every day. “What we have to do is we have to be able to run the ball, stop the run, and on defense, get 11 orange helmets to the ball and show up in a bad mood,” the Coach explained. “But really, it starts with practice and with getting better every day. Whether you win or you lose, you have to improve each and every day.” The Coach continued, “With a young team, we are learning the game of football. There are going to be some growing pains, but I think with the character of this football team, we are going to battle through some tough situations because of our leadership.”

Coach Burzawa said leadership is going to be one of the strengths of this year’s team. He is counting on a number of players to provide leadership and solid performances on the field. “Overall, one thing I am really impressed with is our team chemistry and our leadership. This is by far the best leadership as a group and collectively with some individuals in a long time,” said Coach Burzawa.

“That starts with senior offensive/defensive lineman Christian Nielsen and senior Mo Brown, a three-year starter on both sides of the ball. So [having these experienced players] is nice, because they know how we function and how we operate, and they know the expectations. Those two are [also] our captains. Senior linebacker/running back Ben Easington is also a captain, and he will be playing linebacker and running back for us. The same with senior Charlie Krause. He was a linebacker for us last year and a fullback. Also, another lineman who is coming back is junior Trey Dawkins, so we have three guys up front coming back, so we are excited about that. As a group, it has been enjoyable to watch them taking pride in the process.”

The Coach added, “A couple of other players who emerged are senior running back Montell Wilburn, who has been doing a nice job, and senior outside linebacker Joe Downie. He saw a lot of time last year, and he will be a big part of our defense. I am also really excited about our senior kicker, Owen Ennis. He is our punter and our field goal kicker, so having him back is exciting too.”

Another key player on this season’s roster will be junior quarterback Drew Dawkins, who won the starting job with a strong offseason. Coach Burzawa said, “We are young in the skill positions, but I have been really impressed with Drew. He had an outstanding offseason, he had a year to develop, and he started a game [late last season] against Waukegan. But I like what Drew brings to the table. He has an outstanding arm, his mechanics are solid, he is crafty with the football back there, and we are going to have him do some different things to make him successful.”

When asked which teams he is looking forward to playing against, Coach Burzawa indicated the entire schedule includes tough matchups, but he feels facing this level of competition will make the team better. “It will be a real challenging schedule for us this year because of the merger with the Mid- Suburban League. So we have a real difficult schedule with playing at Conant [on Sept. 9] and at home against Barrington [on Sept. 16], a ranked opponent. So although we have been playing great competition for a long time [such as Homewood Flossmoor, Crete-Monee, and Loyola], we have been scheduling [games with non-conference teams] that make our program and our football team better.”

The Kits open the season on Aug. 26 against Hubbard at Lazier Field in Evanston, followed by a matchup with Foreman on Sept. 2 in Evanston. Coach Burzawa said, “We are looking forward to game week and the home opener against Hubbard, which is going to be a huge challenge for us.” The Coach continued, “We have to be a disciplined football team against Hubbard and avoid penalties on both sides of the ball. We have to be able to run the football, be efficient in the passing game, and defensively just not give up the big plays. I think special teams will play a big part in the game [as well].”

If the Kits are able to do all that, they should be in a position to earn many victories this season.