A blocked extra point kick in the third quarter marked the final disappointment for Evanston’s football team in 2019.
Glenbrook South scored a come-from-behind 21-20 victory at Lazier Field in the season finale for both teams Friday night, sending the Wildkits to a final won-loss record of 3-6 in a season that resembled a roller coaster ride.
After an impressive start to the season with a 38-0 pasting of Saint Patrick, coach Mike Burzawa’s squad never could put it together in all three areas of the game --- offense, defense and special teams --- at the same time in the same game.
Senior running back Quadre Nicholson finished his ETHS career with a flourish, carrying 28 times for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Nicholson surpassed the 2,000-yard rushing mark in his career --- one of only a handful of ETHS backs to accomplish that feat --- but lost a fumble that led to the go-ahead score in the last two minutes of the third quarter.
Neither team found the end zone in the fourth period. The Titans finished their year at 4-5 overall and tied New Trier for second place in the Central Suburban League South division standings, but champion Maine South was the only team from the South to qualify for the Illinois High School Association playoffs that start next week.
The sting of that last loss for the senior class penetrated deep into the hearts of a squad that left it all out on Lazier Field Friday.
“We had two heartbreaking losses at home this year, against Fremd and GBS, and we just didn’t finish off those games,” Burzawa said. “We had leads in those games and we didn’t finish. Tonight we had the win in our hands many times, but it came down to the little things again. We played a good football game but it caught up with us when we didn’t do the little things.
“These kids poured their hearts and souls into it tonight and it’s heartbreaking when things don’t bounce your way. We had a lot of growing pains this year on offense and we never got to play what I call complementary football, we never got to work off of each other on offense and defense and special teams. You have to complement each other to win football games and we never did that.”
Nicholson, who missed the first month of the season with a hip injury, finally found his form in his last game in a Wildkit uniform. He contributed TD runs of 18 and 13 yards that provided leads of 14-7 and 20-14 for the hosts, the second score coming with 5 minutes, 55 seconds left in the third quarter to climax a 9-play, 68 yard scoring drive.
Nicholson worked some magic along the far sideline to earn that score, which turned out to be his last six-pointer for ETHS and the last touchdown scored by the Kits in 2019. He powered through a pile of tacklers who appeared to have him stopped for a short gain, but kept churning his legs and broke loose into the end zone.
South defender Clay Finzer sliced through to block Fredrick Eberhart’s PAT kick, however, and that miscue came back to bite the hosts at the end.
Nicholson fumbled the ball away at the Evanston 27 on the next possession, and GBS converted on fourth and 6 when star receiver Chris Demirlika (10 catches for 125 yards and 2 TDs) grabbed a short pass and muscled his way through four Evanston defenders for a 23-yard score. Tyler Hurst booted what turned out to be the game-deciding PAT with 1:11 left in the third quarter.
Evanston’s defense stopped the visitors at the 11 on fourth and 3 when the Titans failed on a reverse pass. But Demirlika intercepted a Sean Cruz pass at his own 34 to put the final nail in Evanston’s coffin.
Cruz threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to his brother, DeVaughn Bell, in the first quarter and finished the night with 11 completions in 23 attempts, for 159 yards, and a pair of interceptions.
Cruz, the first sophomore in the history of the program to earn the starting quarterback job at the start of the season, finished with 9 touchdown passes in 9 games.