(Editor’s note: The original story has been updated with pictures of Friday night’s game from RoundTable photographer Saul Lieberman.)

The Wildkits saw their fourth quarter rally fall short and stumbled to their fourth consecutive defeat, bowing 17-10 at New Trier in the Central Suburban League South division opener for both squads.

Wildkits Thomas Jackson (55) and Joseph Erickson (60) at the end of a hard-fought game. Credit: Saul Lieberman

New Trier’s Miles Cremascoli intercepted a Dylan Groff pass at the goal line as time ran out to preserve the triumph for the Trevians, who were outplayed for most of the game but found a way to improve to 2-3 overall.

Evanston, now 1-4 overall, will have to win out to qualify for the Illinois High School Association Class 8A state playoffs. The Wildkits will host Niles West next Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the school’s Homecoming game, then will finish up against Glenbrook North, Maine South and Glenbrook South.

New Trier, Evanston rivalry

New Trier closed the gap in the all-time series between the two rivals with the victory. ETHS still holds the advantage with 55 wins to 53 for New Trier. There have been six ties in the head-to-head rivalry.

The Wildkits racked up 150 yards rushing in the first half, out-gained the winners by a 377-223 margin in total yards and had 22 first downs to just 10 for the Trevians.

But for the second week in a row, the Kits got almost nothing done on offense in the third quarter and put themselves in a position where they needed to stage a comeback in the final period.

Quarterback Dylan Groff passes the ball with plenty of protection. The Wildkits racked up 22 first downs in the game. Credit: Saul Lieberman

Evanston’s last possession began with just 41 seconds remaining on the game clock. Groff drove ETHS from his own 23 yard line – with no timeouts available – down to the New Trier 23 before Cremascoli cut short the rally with his pick.

The frustration is reaching a peak for the Wildkits, who have to regroup quickly and put together the kind of execution on both sides of the ball that brings wins.

“It’s one of those years,” sighed Evanston head coach Mike Burzawa. “That’s three losses for us now in games that have come down to the final seconds. We’ve just been unable to finish games. We’re putting ourselves in too many situations where we have to be perfect to win.

“At the end of the day, we were able to run the football much better [217 yards on the ground]. But once again we were not able to get anything done in the third quarter. It just came down to a handful of plays and New Trier made more plays than we did. We have to execute better.”

With the return of Elijah Hardigree from injury, Evanston’s offensive line turned in its best performance of the season. Hardigree and his cohorts up front – Gabe Rosen, Charlie Kremin, Cam Wellington-Knibbs and Declan Boutross – created running lanes for quarterback Groff (22 carries for 129 yards) and Demarion Timberlake (12 carries for 71 yards).

But the Wildkits also turned the ball over on downs three times – on fourth and three at the New Trier 29, fourth and three at the New Trier 17 and fourth and four at the New Trier 42 – and the inability to keep those drives alive kept them out of the end zone.

Evanston’s only scores came on a 19-yard run for a touchdown by Groff with 2 minutes, 47 seconds left before halftime, and on a 41-yard field goal by Evan Siegel with 4:10 left to play.

Burzawa and the ETHS coaching staff kept the faith in a veteran offensive line by sticking to the ground game. But even that success at moving the chains only produced one score in the first half.

“We wanted to take our chances tonight behind our O [offense] line,” said the coach. “We still had faith in them. We had kids grinding out there on both sides of the ball for us and the defense only gave up one big play. But we were NOT able to get our ground game going in the third quarter.”

Coach Mike Burzawa meets his players at the end of the game. “It’s one of those years,” he said. Credit: Saul Lieberman

New Trier, which lost its first three games of the 2022 campaign, countered when the Kits came up short on fourth down in devastating fashion.

The first time, sophomore quarterback Patrick Heneghan (12-of-16 for 204 yards) completed a 33-yard pass to Cremascoli that eventually led to a 47-yard field goal by a sophomore with a big leg, Nikola Dugandzic.

New Trier’s defense stopped Groff at the 14 on a running play and, following a delay of game penalty on the hosts, Heneghan uncorked a 91-yard pass to Cremascoli – one of the longest passing plays in the long history of the rivalry – to make it 10-0 midway through the second quarter.

The Wildkits strung together consecutive first downs at the end of the third quarter, moving to the New Trier 42, but on fourth down Evanston’s planned play broke down and Groff had to throw a pass away. Nine plays later, the Trevians got on the scoreboard again on a three-yard run by Jackson McCarey.

“Absolutely it’s disappointing to lose to New Trier,” Burzawa added. “It’s another tough pill for us to swallow.”    

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