After securing a spot in the IHSA Class 8A playoffs with a 6-3 record, the Evanston Township High School football team drew the task of beating unbeaten Homewood-Flossmoor in the first round on Oct. 29 in Flossmoor.
But unfortunately, winning was not in the cards, as the host Vikings beat the Wildkits by a score of 49-21. In that game, after trailing 7-0 early, the Kits tied it after senior Ben Easington scored a touchdown from two yards out. Ben’s touchdown was set up after sophomore Gerrad Lamour’s 89-yard kickoff return put the Kits two yards from the end zone. From there, after the Vikings regained the lead again at 14-7, Ben once again tied it at 14 with another touchdown run early in the second quarter.
Then the Vikings delivered the big blow as they scored two unanswered touchdowns to take a 28-14 lead just before halftime. That lead proved to be the difference, as the hosts unfortunately rolled to victory, ending the Kits season on a sour note. With the loss, the Kits finished with an overall record of 6-4.
“We just were not really able to stop their run game,” said head coach Mike Burzawa, alluding to his team allowing over 400 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the ground. “They are a strong, physical team and they were very good offensively.” The Coach added, “I thought our kids played really well, we competed. It just got away from us late in the second quarter and early third quarter and we were just never really able to recover. But in general, I cannot say enough about our seniors, how proud I am of their efforts.”
In addition to Ben’s two touchdown performance to lead the offense, junior quarterback Drew Dawkins went 7 for 14 for 102 passing yards and threw for a touchdown when he found sophomore Mike Axelrood from 12 yards out late in the fourth quarter to complete the scoring for the Kits.
Regarding Ben’s performance, Coach Burzawa said, “Ben had a heck of a year and it all starts up front with our senior linemen. They did a heck of a job paving the way.” The Coach explained, “He had about 1,200 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. He was a linebacker for us last year, but we had no junior running backs [this year], so we converted him to running back and he had a heck of a year.” The Coach continued, “He is strong and physical and he was able to move the pile for us and we had a nice balance of him and senior Montell Wilburn, but he was the primary guy and he did an excellent job for us this year stepping up and I am very proud of him.”
Coach Burzawa was also proud of his team’s ability to come together and qualify for the postseason, despite having such a young roster which included three sophomores starting on defense, and a junior quarterback, along with only a handful of returning starters from last season’s team.
“We had a group this year that really overachieved from day one. This group of seniors, as sophomores, only won a couple football games, so to win six games in the regular season was a great accomplishment for us,” said the Coach. “We were young in the secondary, but I thought senior Jacob Greifer did a heck of a job. Obviously, [Assistant] Coach Keith Woodson did an awesome job developing the guys all year long. But Jacob was back there as the game was going on and was really able to mentor and lead those guys in the secondary so it was nice to see.” The Coach explained, “We were [also] young in the skill spots, but it all starts up front in football and our linemen, seniors Christian Nielsen, Mo Brown, and junior Trey Dawkins playing both sides of the ball in Class 8A football, they gave it everything they had each and every play and it was great to see the courage they displayed. But the character of these guys is what I am going to remember and how they made a difference.”
Even though the Kits came up short in the postseason, given the amount of youth on the roster and the amount of success they had this season, the future certainly looks bright for the Kits looking ahead to next year and beyond.