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Evanston’s seniors put the fun back in football Friday night in what could be their final appearance at Lazier Field, bouncing back from devastating losses to Maine South and New Trier to demolish Niles West 46-6 in a running clock victory.
Two-way lineman Zach Myers, an Air Force Academy recruit, scored the first offensive touchdown of his career and Connor Groff caught a 1-yard TD pass from his sophomore brother, Dylan, as part of the celebration as Evanston improved to 2-2 on the season.
The Wildkits have one remaining road game – next Friday at Glenbrook South. A possible crossover game against a Central Suburban League North division opponent is in doubt now because COVID-19 issues on that side of the conference might force a makeup game in the final week to determine their final standings.
There was no doubt about the fact that the 23 seniors who were recognized prior to Friday’s game had fun, though. A victory song-and-dance on the sidelines in front of the home crowd after time ran out put an emphatic stamp on their Senior Night.
“This was a real special night for our seniors, and they deserve it,” pointed out ETHS head coach Mike Burzawa. “To see the smiles on their faces, and the way they definitely enjoyed themselves tonight, it really worked out well.
“We have 23 seniors, who along with the underclassmen, care about each other and they truly have a brotherhood and a family. Those were two of the most devastating back-to-back losses [against Maine South and New Trier] that any of us have ever been a part of. But Coach (Eddie) Conley reminded them this week that we can work hard – and still have fun.
“No doubt, we had fun tonight.”
Both Myers and Groff benefited from special plays specifically added to the playbook – “Air Force” and “Pick 2” – this week to find the end zone. You could have a long debate about which player was a bigger longshot to score a TD, for Myers – except for one play as a sophomore when he went in as a blocker in the backfield – has spent his entire outstanding career in the trenches.
Groff was also a lineman until he shifted to tight end this season. He’d never played on the same team as his younger brother, and Dylan’s promotion to the varsity ranks as a sophomore was also unusual, because the Wildkits don’t typically carry three quarterbacks on their roster.
But it all added up to a happy finale for the outgoing seniors.
“I asked the coaches if there was any way they could get me a TD in my last game, and they had been talking all season about getting me a touch. We just put that play in yesterday during practice,” said Myers, who scored the first TD of the game on a 2-yard run. “They really wanted to make my last game special for me and I’m so appreciative, so thankful to all the guys.
“We had a good week of practice and the guys were able to rally around the seniors one last time. I’m just so glad about the way it worked out.”
Groff’s 1-yard scoring catch in the second quarter was only part of a big night for the brothers. Dylan completed 4-of-6 passes – three of them for TDs – and his very first varsity pass attempt resulted in a score when Gio Milam-Pryor took a screen 80 yards to paydirt in the first quarter.
Dylan Groff threw for 145 yards and starter Sean Cruz (8-of-10 for 2 TDs) added 107 yards, one of the rare times in the history of the ETHS program that two quarterbacks have thrown for over 100 yards in the same game.
“Those last two weeks were two of the hardest I’ve ever experienced in my life,” said Connor Groff, “and I just wanted to have some fun tonight. We’ve been practicing that play all week, and for me, it was a once-in-a-lifetime pass. It felt awesome! This is the most fun you can have.”
Evanston also counted TDs from seniors Jamari Jenkins (5-yard catch), Jack Neumann (20-yard catch), Jeremiah Lasley (54-yard catch-and-run) and Jalen Murray (10-yard run).
On defense, the Wildkits limited the winless Wolves to only 12 yards rushing and 112 passing. Mark Canon Jr. and Jett Watson both grabbed interceptions as the Kits built a 33-0 halftime lead, and Jenkins added a fumble recovery for the winners.