Evanston optimistic about the future

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BARRINGTON — While the Evanston football season is over, coach Mike Burzawa isn’t ready to shut the book on the year.

The Wildkits qualified for the playoffs for a fourth straight year, losing 23-8 to Barrington on Saturday to end the year 5-5. The loss was the team’s third straight and they were shut out in their final two regular-season games.

Despite coming up short, Burzawa spoke highly of the team.

“I’m not turning the page on this season until after Thanksgiving,” Burzawa said. “I’m so very proud of this team. I can’t say enough about the seniors. This team finished 4-1 at home, just short of our goal of being undefeated at home. They had three come-from-behind wins. They are fine young men who are doing right things in life.”

The season marked one of transition for Evanston, which moved away from a power run-based offense to more of a spread.

Senior linebacker Michael Pope thinks next year could be something special for the Wildkits because the system will be in its second season.

“Hopefully with this system being implemented this year, the younger guys who watched it this year will be able to pick it up better next year,” Pope said. “This was kind of a transition year, but next year, they should be able to take advantage of the speed the team has.”

There are high expectations for the current sophomore class, including running back Travion Banks and lineman Naquon Jones, both of whom were brought up to the varsity for the playoffs.

“We have some really talented sophomores and a group of juniors who learned what varsity football was about,” Burzawa said. “They just need to take the right steps in the offseason, beginning in the weight room. You have to prepare for the grind of weeks 7, 8, 9, 10. That’s when all the offseason training comes into play.”

With the departure of the senior class, which was led by two-year starting quarterback Chris Little, Burzawa also is looking to the junior class to provide the leadership a team needs when it is counting on inexperienced players to contribute right away. He highlighted junior receivers Brandon Hilliard and Rei Gaines, who gained a lot of experience this year, and junior linebacker Andre Wallace, who has started the last two years on varsity.

“I think it’s going to be important they take advantage of the offseason to prepare themselves,” Pope said. “Coaches talk about the importance of winning every day. Evanston has a good tradition of creating good athletes and I think they can do a lot next year.”

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