Football hopes for quick learning curve as turned over roster prepares for the season
Despite showing promise of success, Evanston football let too many contests slip away in closing time last season. After the Kits opened the fall with a thriller 53-50 win over Indian Trail (WI), they lost their next four games, failing to put games away in the second half.
“We had four games go down to the final minutes. We were only able to win that opening night game and then we lost to top ranked Prospect in the closing seconds,” says Coach Mike Burzawa. “We lost in the closing seconds against New Trier, and let Barrington slip away too. There were some real tough losses for our team last year.”
While Evanston bounced back with wins over Niles West and Glenbrook North, they dropped their final two games against conference foes Maine South and Glenbrook South, eliminating them from playoff contention. Evanston (4-5) was officially given the win against Maine South months later, after the Redhawks were forced to forfeit all nine games in 2022 due to ineligible players on their roster.
With only two true returning offensive starters in RB Damarion Timberlake and OL Declan Boutross, Burzawa is embracing the role of having to teach fundamentals to a fairly inexperienced group.
“We have a really young group in terms of Varsity football, but I’ve really made a big commitment in the offseason to the weight room, and we had a very good summer. We’re looking forward to the fall,” Burzawa says. “There’s a lot of room for growth and development, and that’s the thing I preached with our staff. We’ll keep things real simple on both sides of the ball early on, and really install our playbooks as the season progresses. I just have to remind myself to be patient.”
Three-year starting QB Dylan Groff graduated in the spring, so Burzawa is expected to turn the ball over to junior Colin Livatino, son of Evanston Athletic Director Chris Livatino.
“Colin’s grown up around Evanston football from practically the day he was born. It’s obviously hard to replace nearly 25 games of experience with [Dylan Groff], but Colin is extremely smart. He can make second and third level throws and is very mobile in the pocket,” Burzawa says.
Over the summer, the Kits partook in summer practices, team lifts, and a team camp at Olivet Nazarene University, where the Kits played in drills and scrimmages against Nazareth Academy. Burzawa emphasizes the strong culture and team bond built during the camp.
“That camp was really about team building and leadership. You know, we enjoy softball, swimming, a lot of things above and beyond the game of football that really builds the camaraderie of the team and the team chemistry, which is really what it comes down to,” Burzawa says. “Every year, it comes down to seniors emerging as leaders, and they’ve done a really nice job so far.”
Evanston will take on Zion-Benton in their season opener at Lazier Field on August 25.