His nickname is “easy” and that’s just how Ben Easington made it look for Evanston’s football team in the season opener Friday night at Lazier Field.
The senior, who for most of his football career has tried to make things difficult for opposing runners as a linebacker, found out how the other half lives — and thrived.
Easington scored two touchdowns and rushed for 115 yards on 15 carries to lead the Wildkits to a solid 28-13 victory over Chicago Hubbard.
Easington’s first touch on offense in his high school career resulted in a 51-yard gain and he tallied on runs of 4 and 2 yards while helping the Wildkits pile up a total of 231 yards on the ground. He might have scored more except for the fact that ETHS was whistled for a total of 7 holding penalties on the night.
He stepped up when fellow tailback Montell Wilburn (12 carries for 62 yards) was banged up in the second quarter. And for someone who’s not a natural running back, he certainly looked at ease operating behind a dominant offensive line that featured Christian Nielsen, Mo Brown, Trey Dawkins, Marcus Hopson and Eliazar Mendoza-Cabrera.
“I’m not going to lie. I like scoring more than I like trying to stop people from scoring,” Easington said with a smile. “Our offensive line did a great job tonight and they really fired off the ball. It was a good game for all of us. I always used to play fullback and running back in practice (for the second team) and I knew we didn’t have any junior running backs coming back this year, so I was ready to step up.
“I think seeing things from the flip side (as a defender) helps me as a runner. I know the defense so well and that helps me see where the lanes are and where the linebackers will be. But I wasn’t expecting that many carries tonight. When Montell got hurt we were already up 14-0 and I told the coaches good, let him rest. We’ll need him later in the season.
“This was a great opener for us. In high school football, confidence is a really big thing. If we keep our heads high and keep the positivity going, we can do well as a team this year.”
“We told Ben back on June 9th that he was going to be a tailback this year,” said ETHS head coach Mike Burzawa. “The coaches really liked his power, his athleticism and his speed. He showed that he’s a downhill, north-and-south runner tonight and he’s a great complement to Montell, who’s more of a slasher.
“We stuck with our running game tonight because it was so effective. We had a lot of guys playing in their first varsity game who really rose to the occasion, and I’m really proud of our effort tonight.”
Evanston marched 90 yards in 10 plays to open the game, with Easington scoring on a 4-yard burst. Elyjah Williams’ fumble recovery two plays later set up the next score, a 21-yard TD pass from Drew Dawkins (7-of-10 for 90 yards) to Andrew Baumann.
Hubbard cut the deficit to 14-7 and had a chance to pull even with a first down at the Evanston 11 early in the second quarter. Instead, the visitors went backwards, committing 4 penalties on the next 5 plays. The drive finally fizzled out when Brown tackled Hubbard’s Tyrique Williams, whose fumble resulted in a 12-yard loss.
After an exchange of punts, Evanston only had to maneuver 22 yards for another score, as Easington added a 2-yard TD run.
Senior Damariay Birge added a 2-yard plunge with 4 minutes, 36 seconds left in the third quarter for the winners.