Two turnovers in the last 7 minutes Thursday night at Lazier Field cost Evanston’s football team a chance to end a long losing skid against arch-rival New Trier.
But no one on the Evanston sidelines will ever point a finger at Drew Dawkins.
Evanston’s best playmaker was simply trying to make some plays.
A pair of uncharacteristic fumbles by the ETHS senior quarterback in the fourth quarter allowed New Trier to escape with a 27-17 victory in Central Suburban League South division action, and enabled the Trevians to pull off their program’s 7th straight win over the Wildkits in the head-to-head series.
Evanston (3-3 overall, 0-2 CSL South) still leads the all-time series with 54 wins to 49 for New Trier. There have been 6 ties in the series.
New Trier, now 4-2 overall and 2-0 in league play, hasn’t lost to the Wildkits since 2010. The visitors racked up an impressive 302 yards rushing, including a pair of TD runs by Brian Sitzer for 3 and 25 yards, and also counted a pair of field goals by Graham Dable.
Still, Evanston was positioned for what could have been one of the best comebacks in the long history of the rivalry, trailing just 20-17 after finally forcing the Trevians to punt midway through the fourth period.
But on a first down run from his own 13-yard line, Dawkins dashed up the middle and after a long gain lost control of the ball. New Trier defensive back Carson Kosanovich grabbed it in mid-air, and his return set up what turned out to be a clinching TD run by quarterback Carson Ochsenhirt.
Evanston linebacker Nate Romero (50) knocks New Trier halfback Brian Sitzer to the turf. (Ann Tarpey photo)
Three plays later, Dawkins turned the ball over again, this time after a dazzling 33-yard scamper. The Evanston quarterback finished with 16 carries for 58 yards, and completed 10-of-18 passes for 191 yards just one day after making a verbal commitment (along with his twin brother Trey) play his collegiate football at Denison University. He hooked up with Malik Ross for a 50-yard catch-and-run touchdown with 2 minutes, 13 seconds left in the first half to cut Evanston’s deficit to 10-7.
“Turnovers are a big part of the game of football,” sighed Evanston head coach Mike Burzawa. “We made some mistakes and those mistakes caught up with us tonight. I thought our effort was really good — we played some hard football, Evanston football — but at pivotal points in the game we either couldn’t get a stop or couldn’t make a play on offense.
“Drew Dawkins is a winner, and I still believe in him. He’s a great running back, a great thrower and a great leader for us. He’s the guy who will lead us to reach our goals for the rest of the season, and I have no doubt in my mind that he’ll bounce back. We win as a team and we lose as a team, and we’ll grow from this.”
New Trier marched 70 yards in just 7 plays on the opening drive of the second half, only to see the host Kits answer with a 79-yard drive of their own that resulted in a 33-yard field goal by Charlie Lindland.
After New Trier’s Dable converted a 3-pointer of his own, from 28 yards, Evanston again responded with a scoring march. A second effort at the goal line by sophomore Quadre Nicholson (17 carries for 92 yards) produced a 1-yard TD run with 9:51 to play to keep the Kits within striking distance.
“We were right there with New Trier tonight,” Burzawa told his players in the post-game huddle. “Now I have 6-3 (won-loss record) on my mind. Now we have no choice but to rally and win these next 3 games (against Niles West, Glenbrook South and Niles North).”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.