Spread offenses have revolutionized high school football over the past decade, with more of an emphasis than ever on the passing game, and have made the game more fun to watch for fans. But the path to playoff success still starts on the ground.
Unbeaten Homewood-Flossmoor scored six rushing touchdowns and piled up a total of 406 yards on the ground Saturday night in Flossmoor as the Vikings ran over — and away from — Evanston by a 49-21 margin in the first round of the Class 8A Illinois High School Association state playoffs.
H-F (10-0) was forced to punt just once and again displayed the overwhelming offense that helped them score 50 or more points in four games during the regular season. Evanston, which finished 6-4 overall, had no answers on defense.
Senior running back Tyrice Richie ran for three touchdowns — covering 64, 70 and 6 yards — and amassed 200 yards on 11 carries for the winners. Quarterback Bryant Wright ran for two scores and passed for another.
“Playoff football always comes down to running the football, and being able to stop the run,” pointed out Evanston head coach Mike Burzawa. “And we didn’t stop them many times on defense tonight. Give H-F’s offensive line a lot of credit, because that’s how you win in the playoffs.
“We let it slip away right before halftime (the Vikings scored twice in the final 3 minutes, 43 seconds), but we competed with them right to the end. I’m proud of our effort and I’m proud of these kids. We fought our tails off and this one just got away from us.”
Two short touchdown runs by ETHS standout Ben Easington pulled the Wildkits into a 14-14 deadlock early in the second period. An 86-yard kickoff return by sophomore Gerrad Lamour set up Easington’s second score, a 1-yard plunge.
The Vikings, however, countered with a 14-play, 80-yard march that was climaxed by quarterback Wright’s 3-yard TD run.
After an Evanston punt, Wright burned the Kits again. This time he scrambled 70 yards down the left sideline on a broken play that began as a pass play. That score came with just 42 seconds showing on the clock and broke the game open.
Evanston got on the scoreboard one more time in the second half, when junior quarterback Drew Dawkins hit sophomore Mike Axelrood with a 12-yard scoring strike. Dawkins finished the game with 7 completions in 14 attempts for 102 yards and that lone score. As a team, the losers only mustered 107 yards rushing.
Knocked out of the playoffs in the first round for the second year in a row, this Wildkit squad definitely over-achieved. Burzawa started three sophomores in the defensive backfield and the only starters returning from last year were the offensive linemen, team leaders like Christian Nielsen and Morgan Brown.
“This senior class only won 2 games as sophomores,” the coach noted. “They really over-achieved all season for us. They bought in and did everything the coaches asked them to. Their leadership was just outstanding. I couldn’t be more proud of the senior class. These are high character kids and that kind of character starts at home. They’ve been a blessing to coach.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.