New Trier beats Evanston in last two minutes: Of character, young men and football

Jeff Berkowitz: “When you threw it, you knew Devin Boehm would catch it, right?”

Nick Hendricks [QB, New Trier High School]: Yes.

Berkowitz: You had no doubt?

QB Nick Hendricks: No doubt.

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The Drive to win

It is hard to know what explains the difference between a winning and losing effort.  In professional football, it is often the drive of one individual. Who can forget that “Monday  night football game,” of  long ago when Chicago Bears QB Jim McMahon, held out of the game in the first half, due to injury, came running up on the sidelines to Coach Ditka, screaming at him—telling Ditka he had to put McMahon in a game the Bears were losing badly, so he could lead his team to victory. Ditka at first tried to ignore McMahon, then screamed back at him, yelling that he was not going to play McMahon, and that was that. Ditka was old school and he did not like the idea of players telling him what to do—even if they made much, much more money than he did.

And then an exasperated Mike Ditka finally relented, almost going crazy with his own rage--   but then throwing his clipboard on the ground and pointing at McMahon to get in the game. The TV cameras stayed glued to this exchange and the announcers, doing some lip reading, were delighted with the outcome, as was every Chicago Bear fan.

The QB motivator

And McMahon, who almost never disappointed,  proceeded to throw several touchdown passes in 15 minutes, motivating the offensive line to block like they had not done that entire evening, motivating the defense to a takeaway or two, and his team to victory.  McMahon would zone out the fans, the pain, the injury, whatever and concentrate on one thing and one thing only: execution and winning. He could motivate his line, with head butts, to block; his receivers, with his confidence, to get open and he could do whatever it took to win.

 Of  Football and Dementia

Now, of course, McMahon, is suing the National Football League, with many of his former NFL player opponents, for not doing enough to protect his head from injury, resulting in early dementia and other grave problems.  But, at the time, McMahon didn’t give a damn about dementia—never gave it a second thought. Perhaps he should have.

Brick by brick

Blocking, tackling, good offense, good defense, good special teams, execution and not putting the ball on the ground. These are the basics that Coach Burzawa (aka Coach Buzz) has been emphasizing as he has been rebuilding football, like a wall—brick by brick-- at Evanston Townhsip High School in Evanston, IL (A city just north of Chicago, on the North Shore).

Do all of the Coach Buzz basics and want to win more than your opponent and you will win, almost for sure. More importantly, for Coach Buzz, you will be a young man of good character.

The human spirit

Skills count, but never underestimate the importance of the human spirit, of being coachable, of being a quarterback, like McMahon, who not only has “the touch,” but the drive to win. Throwing bullet passes is nice, being able to uncork a sixty yard pass downfield is pretty, but it is “touch,” and drive that wins football games, week after week.

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Play-off time

Two weeks ago, Evanston beat Waukegan at Waukegan, going to 4-2.  With three games left, the Wildkits knew if they won two, they would cinch a playoff berth. Last week, playing against powerhouse Maine South at home, they led 14-13 at half, and came back in the second half to tie it at 21.. But, Maine South, 58-0 in conference games in the last seven years, was just too much and won 31-21.

The one hundred year war

Last night, playing the New Trier Trevians at New Trier West in Northfield (the former stomping ground of Chicago Mayor and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm (Afro) Emanuel, NTW ‘77) in a rivalry that goes back almost one hundred years, Evanston led until the end of the first half, 6 to 0.  RB, DB and WR Maalik Todd had a thirty yard reception to set up a three yard score by running back Marcus Hampton at the beginning of the second quarter. Todd also had an interception during the first half.

Speedster, Junior Maalik Todd (5’ 8”, 150) has come into his own over the season, as a runner, receiver, “breakaway kickoff and punt returner,” and “take a way,” DB. Last night, Todd almost had a hundred yards running on eleven carries, second on his team for running yardage only to Junior, QB Chris Little, who also averaged nine yards per carry on 13 runs.

Nick Hendricks’ night

But last night belonged to Trevian senior back-up quarterback Nick Hendricks (5’11”, 175), who had only two starts this year going into the game.  Hendricks was stepping in for Junior Frank Nicholas, who went out with a concussion last week.  Nicholas will learn a lesson from McMahon and not play injured.

With less than a minute left in the first half, Hendricks hit 6’ 1” wide receiver Skylar Norris at the  7 yard line, and followed it with a touchdown pass to 6’4” wide receiver Spencer Cotton, with twenty-nine seconds left, sending the New Trier Township High School (Winnetka) Trevians off the field at the end of the half with a 7 to 6 lead. Cotton came down with the pass, barely getting both feet in bounds at the top of the end zone.

A kicker’s moment

In the 4th Quarter, with less than eight minutes to play, New Trier punted from its own 38 to  dangerous returner Maalik Todd, who fair caught the ball on Evanston’s own 32 yard line. In the next five minutes, the Wildkits drove 50 yards to the Trevians’ 18 yard line, with Todd and Marcus Hampton taking turns running and catching the ball, and 6’2’ QB Little navigating a nice drive.

With 3:12 left in the game, Kicker Patrick O’Mahoney split the uprights with a 35 yard field goal, giving the Wildkits a 9 to 7 lead.  However, the Wildkits, who were solid on defense all night, could not contain the Trevians.  They came right back, with Conor Kolstad returning the kick-off to the Trevian 31 yard line. Then, with two minutes left, Hendricks hit his favorite target, Cotton, at mid-field.and followed-up quickly with another 15 yarder to Cotton at the 35.  The Wildkits jumped offside, putting the ball on the Wildkit 30.

Hendricks’ time

Hendricks dropped bacHk and his favorite target, 6’4’’junior wide receiver Spencer Cotton, was running a 10 yard out to the sideline, and he slipped; an inside receiver was running a 5 yard out and 6’ senior Devin Boehm just ran a “go” downfield into the end zone.  Hendricks, with his offensive line blocking well, had plenty of time to set up, saw Cotton slip, and with the crowd going silent, threw a nice 30 yard touchdown pass to Boehm, who was wide open in the end zone. After making the two point pass conversion, the Trevians had had a 15-9 lead. .

With 1:39 left in the game, the Trevians avoided giving Maalik Todd a chance for a big run-back, kicking it out of bounds at the Evanston 27.

The Wildkits started at their own 35 yard line and needed a touchdown to tie or a touchdown and point after to win. After being sacked and having an incomplete pass, Chris Little picked up nine yards by hitting Todd, bringing up a 4th and 4 from the Wildkits 41. On the next play, Little’s pass was deflected by a Trevian DB and the Trevians ran out the clock. Turn out the lights the party’s over.

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Blown coverage?

After the game, this reporter asked Coach Buzz if the last touchdown was a matter of blown coverage. He said he didn’t know—he would have to watch the film.

Trevian receiver Devin Boehm said, “It doesn’t get much better than that. We had run that same concept, called a Florida switch, a couple of times earlier in the game, with a 5 yard out and a 10 yard out, and I am running pretty much a go—it is more to get the out routes open and they expected Nick to throw to one of the outs and left me open. Nick saw me late in the play, great job by the offensive line—gave Nick time to see me open downfield.

Trevian Coach Dan Starkey said, “We’re just excited about this game tonight. The team made plays when they had to. I am really proud of our kids.

Inside Coach Starkey’s mind

What was going through Coach Starkey’s mind, down 9 to 7, with three minutes left, and the ball on the Trevian’s own 31 yard line? “We had a couple of time outs left and it’s just execution. We had some kids who made some great plays and I have to hand it to our offensive coaches—they made some great calls—and they put our kids in a position to win.”

More reflections last night from New Trier Coach Starkey: “Evanston has a good team. Their kids played hard, but home field advantage helped a lot. Our kids are starting to take a lot of pride in defending their home turf.  I want our kids to really not want to ever lose on their home turf. I want them to never want to lose, but especially not on their home turf.”

Trevian Coach Starkey added:  “Our strength at New Trier should be the depth of our team.  Frank Nicholas, a junior, was out with a concussion and Michael Thomas, a senior, broke his collarbone. These are two of our top rushers and we came out okay tonight, with Nick Hendricks and Jordan Garrett stepping in. If we beat Waukegan [next Friday night there, they are bringing in lights], we cinch the playoffs. We have huge momentum going forward

Reflections from Coach Buzz

As for Evanston’s Coach Buzz, “It was a disappointing loss, but we played hard. We can still make the playoffs. It all comes down to points. We will come back next week against Niles West, which is a very good football team and we’ll try to get a win at home. Senior night.”

Character and football

Coach Starkey, is this about building character or playing football?

“I think it’s both. We talk to our kids aobut how character wins football games. Being a good person on and off the field  and working hard—and those values that will make you successful in life , whether you are playing football or if you are in the real world.”

Coach Starkey: “Our kids were down 9-7 with three minutes left--  so you are right – I give our kids a lot of credit for  believing. I was pretty confident in the last three minutes.”Final thoughts last night from QB Hendricks: “Spencer [Cotton] was my main target on that play.”

Zoning out

Berkowitz: With the crowd cheering before the snap on that last play, did you zone out and look only at the players on the field?

Hendricks: I just look at the players and my coaches, not the crowd.

Berkowitz: “When you threw it, you knew Devin would catch it, right?”

Hendricks: Yes

Berkowitz: You had no doubt?

Trevian QB Nick Hendricks: No doubt

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  • What is this? WTTW – as in "Winnetka Talking To Wilmette"? Too funny, but congrats to New Trier. Nice passionate writing. Loved it.

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