Evanston’s inexperienced football team learned a hard lesson Friday night in New Lenox.

Lincoln-Way West owned the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and punished the Wildkits with big plays on offense, handing Evanston a 38-24 defeat to drop the losers to 1-1 on the season.

Lincoln-Way running back Caleb Marconi burned the ETHS defense with touchdown runs covering 15, 63 and 79 yards and the losers never led on their first road trip of the season. The Wildkits are back on the road next Friday with a non-conference test at Palatine.

Evanston sophomore quarterback Sean Cruz answered with three TD passes but also threw a pick six midway through the third quarter, just when it appeared that the Kits had momentum in their favor.

Two of Evanston’s top players — linebacker Sebastian Cheeks and running back Quadre Nicholson — didn’t suit up because of injuries, but ETHS head coach Mike Burzawa knew that the game was decided in the trenches as the winners outrushed Evanston 280 to 86 and also totaled 96 yards passing.

“We didn’t have a good week of practice, and the old adage is that you play the way you practice,” Burzawa pointed out. “We didn’t have a sense of urgency tonight and we didn’t execute.

“You need to run the football and you need to stop the run to win in high school football, and we did neither. Lincoln-Way took it to us tonight. We couldn’t run the ball because physically they controlled the line of scrimmage. They capitalized on our mistakes, and we were playing catch-up the whole way.”

Evanston dug its way out of an early 14-0 hole, partly created when a bad center snap set up the Warriors’ first score, and earned a 14-14 tie at halftime on a catch-and-run play covering 43 yards from Cruz to Jeremiah Lasley for a score and a leaping catch in the end zone by DeVaughn Bell for a 27-yard TD pass just before the intermission.

But a 39-yard field goal by Lincoln-Way’s Damian Chowaniec and Brett Carberry’s 26-yard TD return of an interception boosted the hosts back on top, and that’s where they stayed. Marconi (15 carries for 195 yards) burst untouched up the middle for a 79-yard score and Joel Madrigal added a 13-yard TD reception for another score.

Evanston scored again through the air, on a 60-yard hookup between Cruz and Lasley, and Fredrick Eberhart contributed a 27 yard field goal for ETHS.

Cruz completed 16-of-32 passes for 265 yards in his second varsity start, but Evanston mustered just 86 yards on the ground in 31 attempts, led by junior Tyron Innis with 13 carries for 44 yards.

Dennis Mahoney

Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for Evanston Township High School.

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