Evanston football coach Mike Burzawa holds the current senior class in such high regard that hosting the school’s annual Senior Night at Lazier Field Friday night just wasn’t good enough.
Burzawa designated the days leading up to the Central Suburban League South division contest against Niles West as Senior Week, and the Wildkits responded with a 36-7 rain-shortened victory over the winless Wolves.
ETHS didn’t have to even play a full quarter to accomplish its first conference win. After Malik Ross’ 2-yard touchdown run with 53 seconds remaining in the first period, Mother Nature intervened with a lighting and rain storm that halted the action.
After a one-hour delay, the game was called as Niles West chose not to return to continue the game on Saturday. Evanston improved to 5-2 overall and 1-2 in league play while West staggered to 0-7 and 0-3, respectively.
Senior quarterback Ben Tarpey threw three TD passes covering more than 50 yards, two of them to Mike Axelrood, and junior safety Darius Hunt returned an interception 20 yards for a score as the Kits ended a 2-game losing skid.
Burzawa’s lone regret? That he couldn’t get more of the 40-plus seniors on the roster into the action.
Mike Axelrood (37) of Evanston breaks free of Niles West defender Christian Lewis on his way to the Wildkits’ first score.
“This (cancellation) hurts because we wanted to give everyone, especially the seniors, an opportunity to play under those Friday night lights,” said the veteran coach. “The starters came out and executed and put us right where we wanted to be (with a big early lead). I wanted this night for our seniors and I wish things were different, but sometimes things happen beyond our control.
“We made this Senior Week because I believe this is a special senior class, with great leadership. We had a really good week in terms of evaluating what we needed to get better at and we did what we had to do to fix some broken parts.”
Tarpey completed 4-of-7 passes for 185 yards, connecting with Axelrood for scoring strikes of 69 and 52 yards. He also hooked up with Gerrad Lamour for a 55-yard catch and run for a score.
Evanston head coach Mike Burzawa congratulates quarterback Ben Tarpey after his third touchdown pass in the first quarter.
West, after a pass interference penalty on the third play of the game, fooled the ETHS defense with a faked jet sweep on the next play. Quarterback Jack Lochner raced 56 yards up the middle and didn’t stop until he reached the end zone.
Evanston countered with the 69-yard bomb to Axelrood, then grabbed the lead for good when a bad center snap on a punt attempt by the visitors bounced out of the end zone.
The contest also marked the debut of the team’s third placekicker this season. Senior Caleb Hart, a former soccer player for the Kits, converted four straight PAT tries after a bad center snap prevented an attempt following the first TD.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.