Evanston High School beats Niles West and prays to go to state playoffs

Evanston’s no drama Obama—Coach Burzawa

Completing his fifth year as football head coach at Evanston Township High School, Coach Burzawa (aka Coach Buzz) said after last night’s 28 to 21 win over Niles West, “I think we are going to have enough points to qualify for the state playoffs.” Evanston will know for sure by 6:00 pm this evening if this is the third year in a row that it is going to the big dance.

Like President Obama, aka as "no drama Obama," Coach Buzz (the nick name he inherited from his father) never gets too high or too low and this season has tested him on that score. After winning their first three games, the Wildkits only won one (Waukegan) of their next five, dropping two to the Glenbrook sisters (North and South) when they put the ball on the ground too often to win and dropping two to Maine South (the perennial powerhouse who they almost upset) and to the Trevians of New Trier (their long time North Shore rival who the Wildkits had beat until the last 90 seconds of last week's game).

Evanston responds to adversity: Winners never quit and quitters never win.

Coach Buzz told this reporter after the game, “It was nice to see our kids respond [to the 13-0 lead that Niles West took in the first quarter, on two scores by Nick Johnson, a 9 yard run and 9 yard touchdown catch ] and that’s what football is all about. And, that’s what we talk about and our guys responded.” [For another perspective on last night’s game, please go here]

But first, the Wildkits usually reliable field goal kicker, Patrick O’MaHoney, missed a 36 yard attempt, wide right, with about 9 minutes left in the 2nd Quarter. Soon after Niles West took over on its own 26 yard line, the Wolves put the ball on the ground and Evanston Linebacker Zack Smith picked it up on the Niles West 22 yard line.

Evanston starts its comeback

After a holding penalty pushed the Wildkits back, Junior Quarterback Chris Little (6’2”, 180) hit his favorite target Alex Zinneddine on a slant for a 7 yard pick up to the Wolves 21. Little than hit wide receiver Bordo, who took it to the 8 yard line.  Senior running back Marcus Hampton then punched it in for the Wildkits first score of the night with about 7 minutes left in the first quarter, making it 13-7.

Evanston takes the lead

The Widkits offense had barely caught its breath when senior defensive back Kameron Simmons-Gill intercepted and the Wildkits took over on the Wolves’ 33 with five minutes left  in the second quarter. Quarterback Little engineered a nice drive to the ½ yard line, with Little then taking it in, scoring easily on 4th and Goal, with 25 seconds left in the first half.  Suddenly, Evanston had the lead 14 to 13.

Evanston’s Coach Buzz said, “That’s what we were most proud of, getting knocked to our knees and then bouncing back.”

Little and Zinnedine play catch

With nine minutes left in the third quarter, Evanston began a drive on its own 32 yard line. Little converted on 3rd and 6, hitting 5’8” 150 lb, junior speedster,  Maalik Todd, for nine yards. Todd  has had many big plays during the  year, as a kick returner, running back, wide receiver and defensive back. Then Little found his favorite target, 6’0” junior, wide receiver Alex Zineddine for a 54 yard touchdown pass. The ball went through the hands of a Wolves DB, was caught by Zinnedine on the 15 and Zinnedine took it into the endzone, putting the Wildkits up 21 to 13.

Niles West’s  turn to come back

With eight minutes left in the third quarter, Wolves’ Sophomore Quarterback Tommy Galanopoulos directed a nice drive, starting on his own 28 yard line, and ending with a 10 yard run by Galanopoulos, as he went in almost untouched by the Wildkits. Senior running back Jake Glotzer (5’11”, 185) ran in a two point conversion to tie the game at 21.

Little and Zinnedine play catch again

With nine minutes left in the game, the Wildkits seemed to lose their way, as Khari Temple was caught retaliating in a player scuffle- and he drew a personal foul penalty and was ejected from the game. After Little completed a short pass to wide receiver Yarbrough, the Wildkits had a 3rd and 6 from the Wolves’ 38 yard line.  Junior receiver Zinnedine put a double move on the Wolves defensive back, who slipped, and QB Little, with a nice touch, found Zinnedine wide open in the end zone for a 38 yard touchdown pass, putting the Wildkits ahead to stay, 28 to 21.

Wildkits: Bent but not broken

As Coach Buzz said, “It came down to our offensive line and our offensive line was able to get the job done. And, Chris Little stayed in the pocket.”

The wolves still had seven minutes left to try for a comeback.  But, the Wolves came up short. Again, Coach Buzz had it right, “When we needed a stop at the end, we were bending but we didn’t break. “

The Wildkits’ prayer 

Then, with less than two minutes left, it looked like the Wolves (who had won their first five, and then lost the next three, coming into last night’s game) might get the ball back for one last drive. But, Maalik Todd ran the ball for a first down, and it was time to “turn out the lights, the party was over.” And now the Wildkits, who end each game with a team prayer, are praying they have reason to get healthy this week for at least one more dance this season.

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