Written by Dennis Mahoney.
Mistakes and untimely penalties all took their
toll on Evanston’s football team in Saturday’s Central Suburban League South
division opener at Niles West.
An inability to field a pair of punts led to short scoring drives for Niles West, and penalties stalled a possible ETHS comeback bid as undefeated (5-0) Niles West escaped with a 23-17 victory.
Evanston, now 3-2 on the season overall, was flagged for 10 penalties overall, including key pass interference and defensive holding calls against the Kits late in the contest.
“We lost this game because we didn’t take care of the little things, the fundamentals,” Evanston coach Mike Burzawa said. “That was the difference in the game. We’re not going to beat good teams playing undisciplined football, and that’s what we did today.
“We’ve been saying for two or three weeks now that we have to eliminate the mistakes, and today those mistakes caught up to us. I thought we had a good game plan (shifting the focus to the running game on offense), but we made too many mental mistakes. I’ll accept the responsibility, as the head coach, for all of those unforced errors. We have to fix things.”
The losers limited West to 78 yards rushing and piled up 166 yards on the ground themselves, led by Maalik Todd with 12 carries for 82 yards. But two mistakes in the punt return game by the veteran Todd proved too much for Evanston to overcome.
With ETHS leading 14-7 on a pair of touchdown passes from Chris Little to Brandon Hilliard (26 yards) and Michael Pope (19 yards), Todd didn’t drop back far enough to deal with a brisk southerly wind and a 74-yard punt by West’s Jeremy Pignato pinned the visitors back on their own 6-inch line. Niles West scored six plays later after an ETHS punt to tie the score.
Todd fumbled away a punt in the third quarter and the Wolves capitalized with a 22-yard field goal by Filip Dominski to grab a 17-14 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Evanston turned the ball over on downs inside the red zone when a fourth down pass was dropped in the end zone. West used that break --- and a controversial pass interference penalty --- and countered with a game-clinching 51-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline from Tom Galanopolous to Quran Spillman with 6 minutes, 16 seconds remaining.
Evanston tacked on a 35-yard field goal by senior long distance kicking specialist Richard DeMaria before a third down defensive holding call against the visitors enabled the Wolves to chew up the rest of the clock.
Little completed 8-of-19 passes for 134 yards overall.