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If anyone had told Mike Burzawa prior to the start of this season that Evanston’s football team would hold long-time nemesis Maine South and New Trier to just one touchdown apiece in back-to-back weeks, the ETHS head coach would likely have bet the rent on a couple of victories.
But that’s not the way the 2021 season is unfolding for the Wildkits.
For the second week in a row Evanston wasted a brilliant defensive effort, as a last-minute drive fell 1 yard short of the end zone in a frustrating 14-7 Central Suburban League South division loss at New Trier Saturday afternoon.
Evanston, now 1-2, turned the ball over four times and couldn’t find the end zone again after marching 79 yards to paydirt on the opening drive of the game.
A pass interference penalty on the Trevians on fourth down gave the visitors one last chance from the New Trier 3, but the Trevs stopped Sebastian Cheeks at the 1 on a run off left tackle with 48 seconds left to preserve their unbeaten record.
New Trier, which averaged over 40 points in a pair of blowout wins to start the season, mustered just 125 yards of total offense, but prevailed thanks to two field goals by Jac Chiarelli and a 36-yard touchdown pass from Nevan Cremascoli to Dean Mlynek midway through the fourth quarter.
Evanston hasn’t defeated New Trier since the 2010 season but still leads the all-time series between the two rivals with 54 wins to 52 for New Trier. The two teams have tied six times.
Six offensive holding penalties prevented the winners from mounting any serious offensive threats following a 17-yard TD run by Jamarhe Bowen that climaxed an opening drive that covered 79 yards in 13 plays. Lost fumbles set up a pair of field goals by Chiarelli, from 25 and 30 yards, to pull New Trier within 7-6 at halftime.
A defense led by linebackers Ricardo Salinas and Cliff Janvier kept the hosts bottled up most of a sunny and windy afternoon in Northfield. But quarterback Cremascoli produced back-to-back big plays in the fourth quarter, just when his team needed them.
First the gangly junior rambled 41 yards on a keeper over the left side, and only a last-man tackle by Evanston’s Nick Jenkins kept him out of the end zone. But three plays later – after a New Trier timeout – Cremascoli found a wide open Mlynek down the middle of the field for a 36-yard scoring play.
That was all New Trier needed to escape with the win.
“We had opportunities to close the deal, and we didn’t do it,” said Coach Burzawa. “Let a team hang around on you like that, and it will come back to haunt you. When you only give up one touchdown, there should be a better outcome than this.
“We hurt ourselves with penalties. Every time we had a big play today, it seemed like it was coming back. This was our game to win. We lost the turnover differential (four to none), and that’s something we’ve really been working on. This one hurts because we couldn’t put it away.”
With Bowen (15 carries for 88 yards) sidelined by ankle injury in the fourth quarter, the Wildkits still powered their way from their own 29 following New Trier’s go-ahead score. Cheeks and Daeshawn Hemphill took over the rushing load, and three straight attempts by Cheeks brought the ball to the Trevian 4.
But two running plays lost a yard as the New Trier defense stiffened, and quarterback Sean Cruz (11-of-19 passing for 85 yards and one interception) couldn’t hit Kamau Ransom in the corner of the end zone on third down.
The Kits had new life, however, when defender Luke Stewart wrapped his arms around ETHS’s intended receiver Jack Neumann on fourth down. The pass interference play, however, wasn’t an automatic first down as it has been in the past. Instead, the ball was moved to the 3, and on fourth down Cheeks couldn’t get closer than the 1.
“That rule changed about 4 or 5 years ago, and that hurt,” admitted Coach Burzawa. “We went behind our seniors [in the offensive line] on that last play and we just came up a yard short.”