Ben Easington (No. 40) finds a lane created by Christian Nielsen (No. 62) and Charlie Gruner (No. 41) in the Kits homecoming game against Niles West on Sept. 30. Ben ran for 335 yards in 43 carries. ETHS’s single game rushing record is 387 yards set by Siaka Massaquoi in 1997. Photo by Lynn Trautmann/LTPhoto Evanston
The Evanston Township High School football team came into its Homecoming game on Sept. 30 against Niles West looking for its fourth win of the season, and the Kits got it, prevailing 42-35.
The Wildkits struck first when senior running back Damairay Birge scored on a two-yard run with 7:28 left in the first quarter. Then after the Wolves tied it at 7-7, the Kits reclaimed the lead when junior quarterback Drew Dawkins took it in from one yard out on the first play of the second quarter. The Kits then extended the lead to 21-7 with 5:08 left in the half when senior running back Ben Easington scored on a four-yard touchdown run.
The Wolves responded with touchdowns on their first two drives of the third quarter to tie the score at 21-21 with 6:26 remaining. From there, it became a back-and-forth affair, The Kits scored two straight touchdowns. But the visitors responded each time, making it a 35-35 game with eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
On the Kits’ ensuing possession, Ben ran it 11 straight times, covering 55 yards, including a 10-yard run on fourth down, to get the Kits to the Niles West 10-yard line. Then on the 12th play of the drive, it was Drew, not Ben, who finished the drive by running it in for a score to make it a 42-35 game with 2:02 remaining.
That score meant the Wolves needed to respond with a touchdown of their own to force overtime, but senior Charlie Krause had other ideas, as he sealed the victory for the Kits with an interception with 1:17 left. With the victory, the Kits improved to 4-2 overall and 1-1 in Central Suburban League South Conference play.
“All week we worked on eliminating the penalties,” said Head Coach Mike Burzawa regarding his team’s performance, which included just one penalty. “We had a bunch of different ideas as coaches for what we could do, and we did that.” The Coach continued, “But bottom line, give Niles West a lot of credit. They came fighting back. They have a great offensive unit, but we just kept responding, and our theme is to finish and that is what we did, we finished. It was a courageous effort, and I am very proud of the kids.”
Coach Burzawa certainly must have been proud of Ben’s performance. He not only helped set up the Kits’ winning touchdown, he also carried the ball 43 times for a total of 335 yards and scored two touchdowns.
“I think I played well. The offensive line did a [great] job blocking, especially [junior offensive lineman] Charlie Gruner. …He really knocked it out of those linebackers,” Ben said. “I knew it was going to be a shootout coming in, so I was ready for that. They had a good offense, [but] I felt [their defense] could not stop our offense.”
Ben added, “[During the game-winning drive] I was just trying to play the clock. That was the only thing that was on my mind, because I knew if [Niles West] had four or five minutes [to score] I was a little worried about our defense on the backside. But [on the ensuing drive after his touchdown] they prevailed and they got a pick, so I cannot say anything about them. But I really have to give it up to the [offensive] line.”
When asked if he was tired after his 43-carry performance, Ben responded with a laugh, saying, “I am energized. I am energized after wins. I am not even tired.”
With the victory, the Kits also snapped a two-game losing streak, about which Coach Burzawa said, “It has been a bad taste in our mouth for two weeks, so it was big.” The Coach continued, “You want to win your home opener, your rivalry game, and you want to win your Homecoming game, and we were able to get two out of three. There is still a long way to go, but it was a big one for us.”
Next up the Kits travel to Glenbrook South on Oct. 7, followed by Niles North on Oct. 14. From there, they finish the regular season with a matchup with Maine South at Lazier Field in Evanston.