Ben Easington rushed for more yards in a single game than anyone except legendary running back Siaka Massaquoi Friday night at Lazier Field.
And Evanston’s football team needed every single yard — plus a last minute interception by Charlie Krause — to escape with a 42-35 Homecoming victory over Niles West in a Central Suburban League South division shootout.
In only his sixth career game as a running back, Easington powered his way to 335 yards on 43 attempts. The senior standout got stronger as the shootout progressed — and sent a message to future opponents that it might not be such a good idea to make him mad.
Operating behind a veteran offensive line that was led by Morgan Brown, Easington turned in a dominant offensive performance on a night that also included a pair of rushing touchdowns and a TD pass from junior quarterback Drew Dawkins for the winners.
Massaquoi, a former All-Stater, amassed 387 yards (on 52 carries) in a 1997 victory over New Trier and still owns the single game school record.
Evanston ended a two-game losing skid and improved to 4-2 overall, 1-1 in league play. Niles West exited with the same record.
Easington is usually as even-tempered as any of his teammates. So Niles West’s trash-talking backfired on the visitors as he racked up 182 yards in the second half. He converted a pair of fourth down runs — for gains of 9 and 10 yards — to set up the game-winning score, a 10-yard scamper by Dawkins with 2 minutes, 2 seconds remaining.
“I knew I had over 200 yards for sure tonight, but really I was just going play by play,” Easington said. “Then Niles West started talking crap at me, and that’s what got me going in the second half. I got a little heated and ran a little harder because of that. I was ready for a shootout tonight.
“Last week I had a pretty bad day (in a loss to New Trier) and I worked hard this week to bounce back from that game. On those fourth down plays, I was just trying to play the clock a lot because I thought if Niles West ended up with four or five minutes to score, that would be hard for the defense. I was just shooting for 4 or 5 yards at a time until we ran that 23-flip (for a 9-yard gain) that was a nice little surprise for them. And they couldn’t stop our 25 power play all night, either.
“Our offensive line blocked tremendously and I think (assistant coach John) Pullia is going to take us all out to dinner after this.”
“Easy was out there dancing a little too much in the first half of that game last week, and we said get your 200-pound frame running downhill tonight,” said ETHS head coach Mike Burzawa. “It was a heroic effort by Ben — really an amazing effort — but it all starts up front. Our offensive line played a powerful game and we really executed well. And we got the one turnover when we needed it, too.”
On the fourth play of Niles West’s final drive, ETHS defensive end Elyjah Williams batted a pass attempt by quarterback Johnny Pabst (16-of-22 for 244 yards and three TDs, plus two rushing touchdowns) high in the air at the line of scrimmage. Linebacker Krause grabbed the ball before it fell to the artificial turf and the victory was secured.
Evanston seized a 21-7 halftime advantage on touchdown runs by Damaraiy Birge (2 yards), Dawkins (1-yard sneak) and Easington (4-yard burst on a direct snap from center). The Wolves pulled even at 21-21 but never did lead in the second half, thanks to Krause, who took a screen pass from Dawkins for a 54-yard score, and Easington, who barged into the end zone from the 6.
On the night, Evanston totaled 448 yards rushing and 79 passing. The winners were penalized only once, a 15-yard facemask call just before halftime that prevented them from building a bigger lead.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.