Evanston’s Homecoming football game against Glenbrook North will be televised next week.

The Wildkits may not really be ready for prime time yet. But they’re getting closer.

With a performance that was both encouraging and discouraging all at the same time, Coach Mike Burzawa’s squad fell short with a fourth quarter rally and dropped a 19-15 decision to Palatine Fremd at Lazier Field Friday night.

Evanston had first and goal at the 8 yard line in the final minute of play, but sophomore quarterback Sean Cruz missed on four straight passes and the Wildkits suffered their third straight defeat, falling to 1-3 overall.

Cruz engineered what could have been a season-defining drive when the Kits got the ball at their own 25 , following a Fremd punt, with just over 3 minutes remaining. He completed passes to four different receivers for first downs, including a 4th down toss to Peter Braithwaite good for 15 yards, and a 24-yarder to Jack Neumann to set up the hosts inside the red zone with 1:07 to play.

But the rally died there.

Cruz finished with 211 yards passing (14-of-23), including an 83-yard TD bomb to his brother, DeVaughn Bell, just before halftime that lifted the Kits to a 15-6 advantage. But with star running back Quadre Nicholson still sidelined with a succession of injuries, ETHS mustered only 40 yards rushing.

In contrast, the Vikings (2-2) piled up 171 yards on the ground and chewed up the clock in the third quarter (and part of the fourth) with a six and a half minute drive that produced the winning touchdown on a 4-yard run by Cade Cheripka.

Fremd finished with 24 first downs to just 12 for the losers, as running back Brian Hardy accounted for 147 yards on 22 attempts.

 Burzawa was discouraged by the final result but was encouraged by a strong week of practice and the way both the offense and defense pulled together during the week.

“We could have closed the door on them in the third quarter, but we let them back in it,” said the ETHS head coach. “But we played our hearts out and I’m really proud of our effort. With all the pressure we had on us at the end of the game, we had a very good drive. We just didn’t finish.

“We had a very good week of practice and I think our kids are coming together as a team. It shouldn’t have come to that last drive, but it did. We just didn’t finish the last 10 yards. This is a tough one to swallow, but there’s still a lot of football left to be played.”

Bell’s spectacular interception and subsequent 45-yard return for a touchdown got the hosts on the board first, and later placekicker Fredrick Eberhart made up for missing the PAT kick by booting a 43-yard field goal in the second quarter for a 9-0 lead.

Fremd answered with a pair of field goals from sophomore Connor Cox, covering 33 and 19 yards, before Cruz found Bell streaking down the sideline for the biggest play of the game.

The Vikings opened the second half with a 10-play, 39-yard scoring drive after a touchdown saving special teams tackle by James Martin kept Fremd’s Connor McCarthy from running all the way (90 yards) on the kickoff.

Fremd found the end zone anyway when quarterback Ryan Saxe dodged a tackle and skirted around end for a 7-yard scoring run.

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

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