When assistant coach Keith Woodson came up with the idea for having a theme for each practice day of the week for Evanston’s football team, the rest of the staff and the Wildkit players immediately embraced the concept.
That’s how Turnover Tuesday was created. And that’s how the Kits became playoff eligible Friday night in Glenview.
A renewed emphasis on forcing turnovers enabled the Wildkits to score a 28-17 road victory at Glenbrook South and claim their 5th win of the season, the exact number needed to become eligible for the Class 8A Illinois High School Association state playoffs.
Now 5-2 overall and 2-1 in Central Suburban League South division play, Evanston blocked a punt for a touchdown and pitched a second half shutout thanks to a pair of fumble recoveries. Ben Easington burned the winless Titans (0-7) with TD runs of 18, 26 and 10 yards and carried 20 times for 152 yards to pace the offense.
A bend-but-don’t-break approach to defense in the ETHS program hasn’t produced many turnovers in the past few seasons, but all of that could change due to Tuesday practice sessions that are devoted to forcing miscues (on the defensive side) and ball security (on the offensive side).
GBS actually put the ball on the turf a total of 5 times Friday night, losing possession twice. Sophomore cornerback Trenton Bertrand’s recovery at the ETHS 40 on the first play of the fourth quarter foiled one GBS drive, and the Kits stopped the hosts twice on 4th down attempts later in the period to secure the win.
“We made some good sticks tonight on them and forced some loose balls,” said Evanston head coach Mike Burzawa. “We attacked the football and made plays. I thought it was a great idea when coach Woody (Woodson) said we should come up with a theme and make it Turnover Tuesday. Tonight we put some helmets on the football, and that’s what made the difference. You only get (results) what you emphasize, and it did take us a couple of weeks to get that idea rolling. But those turnovers were big for us tonight.
“It’s never easy for us to get a win here. Getting that 5th win was important, but 6 is the minimum that you want, so we’re still climbing that hill. We’re still taking it one step at a time.”
GBS led 17-14 at halftime behind an 87-yard TD pass from Brent Borrie to tight end Brandon Streb, a 24-yard field goal by Alex Vondersett, and a 93-yard kickoff return for a score by Demetrius Baldo. Baldo’s burst came after Evanston has taken the lead when senior Joe Downie blocked a punt at the goal line and backup lineman James Phillips fell on the loose ball in the end zone with 1 minute, 41 seconds left in the half.
The hosts gambled and failed on a 4th down try early in the third quarter when quarterback Borre (12-of-25 for 198 yards) missed on a pass. Evanston countered with a 9 play, 61 yard scoring drive as Easington squeezed down the left sideline to paydirt with 5:25 left in the third quarter.
Bertrand’s fumble recovery set up the game-clinching drive at the start of the final period. A key play in the 60-yard march was a 34-yard quarterback keeper by ETHS junior Drew Dawkins to set up Easington’s final TD run.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.