Late field goal lifts Hawks over inspired Wildkits
Maine South’s dominance in the Central Suburban League South division over the past 20 years in football isn’t solely because the Hawks have the best football players year in and year out.
Those players all seemed to have the knack for making opponents pay --- not just for some mistakes --- but for seemingly EVERY mistake committed by a foe.
Opportunity knocked for the opportunistic Hawks again Friday night at Lazier Field and Maine South escaped with a heart-wrenching 10-7 victory over Evanston.
Placekicker Johnny Sassan took advantage of a second chance after Evanston was flagged for running into him on an unsuccessful field goal attempt, and booted a 37-yard field goal with 3 minutes, 14 seconds remaining to pin the defeat on the hosts.
Evanston, now 1-1 on the season, hasn’t defeated the Hawks since 1999.
Close didn’t count Friday night despite an inspired defensive effort. The Wildkits forced a half dozen fumbles, recovering two of them, but allowed South to march from 20-yard line to 20-yard line to set up Sassan’s chance to be a hero in the fourth quarter.
A questionable targeting penalty against ETHS defensive back Mark Canon Jr. --- who actually made the tackle by lowering his shoulder --- kept the drive alive and kept the Hawks’ string of successes against the Wildkits intact.
Sassan’s 42-yard try fluttered in a line, well short of the goal posts. But the penalty moved the Hawks 5 yards closer, and this time his kick was true. Evanston wasn’t able to muster a first down on its last two possessions of the contest.
“We had heart, we stayed together, we played our tails off,” said Evanston head coach Mike Burzawa. “Those were two evenly matched teams and there were a lot of bright spots out there for us. That was a helluva high school football game.
“It’s tough to swallow because our kids did everything we asked them to do tonight. We played a brand of football that everyone in this community can be proud of. It just came down to some little things.”
The inability to finish off a couple of potential scoring drives, at the end of the first half and again in the fourth quarter, cost ETHS a chance to put Maine South in the position of having to play catch-up football. That’s a scenario the Hawks don’t often face against conference competition.
But the hosts couldn’t find a way to punch the ball into the end zone. Their only score came on a 3-yard plunge by Jamarhe Bowen (15 carries for 63 yards) with 4:40 left in the third quarter, and Fredrick Eberhart’s PAT kick.
A leaping catch by Kamau Ransom for a 27-yard gain on a pass from Sean Cruz (11-of-25 for 118 yards) set up Bowen’s TD run.
Maine South burned the Kits with a screen pass from Luke Leongas to Mike Sajenko that covered 54 yards early in the second quarter, and the Hawks scored on a 4th down run by Leongas for the only score of the half. ETHS tried to counter later in the period, but Cruz was sacked for a 6-yard loss with time running out, and Eberhart’s 44-yard field goal attempt didn’t come close.
The Wildkits mounted a threat following a fumble recovery by Valery Jean-Jacques that foiled a Maine South drive at the ETHS 36. But the drive sputtered at the 20, when Bowen was held to a 3-yard game, Cruz’s next pass attempt was tipped by a Maine South linebacker, and the ETHS quarterback was limited to no gain on a scramble on third down.
Eberhart missed a 34-yard field goal attempt with 7:43 to play, and that was as close as the losers came to scoring again.
The Wildkits will travel to play unbeaten New Trier for a Saturday afternoon contest next week.