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Mother Nature provided most of the lightning strikes Friday night at Lazier Field in Evanston.

Ben Tarpey contributed his fair share, too.

Evanston’s football team rode the right arm of its red-hot quarterback as Tarpey delivered four touchdown passes in the first half of a rain-delayed 41-25 victory over Chicago Taft. The Wildkits improved to 2-0 with the non-conference win.

Tarpey tossed two long scoring strikes on Evanston’s first two plays of the game, then added a pair of short TD passes in the second quarter following a 90-minute weather delay. The senior quarterback completed 10-of-16 passes for a career-high 214 yards before turning the reins over to backup QB DeVaughn  Bell late in the third period.


Mike Axelrood (37) grabs his third touchdown pass of the game despite tight coverage by Taft’s Jesse Diaz.

For Tarpey, waiting out the rain/lightning delay wasn’t nearly as difficult as dealing with the anticipation all week of the first play scripted by the ETHS coaching staff. It resulted in a 70-yard bomb for a score to Mike Axelrood, who easily beat the Taft defense.

On Tarpey’s next throw, he hooked up with senior Gerrad Lamour for a 56-yard catch-and-run play to hit paydirt and the rout was on. Tarpey added TD passes covering 5 and 4 yards to the reliable Axelrood in the second quarter to bring the halftime lead to 28-6 for the hosts.

“We always script X amount of plays at the start, and from watching the film we knew what (defense) they’d be in,” Tarpey said. “A lot of preparation went into those calls and that preparation paid off for us tonight.


The foot race is on and Evanston’s Gerrad Lamour (6) has the edge on the Taft defense.

“When the coaches told me what that first play would be, I couldn’t wait for game time to come. That made me even more nervous. Taft packed the box tonight and dared us to run, so tonight we trusted the passing game and it worked. The offensive line kept me clean and did a great job giving me time to throw, and the receivers made some great catches.”

“Ben came out razor sharp tonight,” praised ETHS head coach Mike Burzawa. “And the coaches did a great job of designing plays they thought would work against Taft. We were able to execute in the air early and get some big plays and that helped because this was a strange game because of the timing (delay).”

Leading by a comfortable margin at halftime, Tarpey only attempted one more pass as the Wildkits focused more on their ground game. Cion Miller-Smith scored on a 13-yard burst with 2:53 remaining in the third quarter, and Bell scored on a 5-yard run after Danny White’s fumble recovery set up a two-play drive with 43 seconds left in that period.

Taft (0-2 overall) scored three times against Evanston’s reserves in the fourth quarter.

Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.

Dennis Mahoney

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

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