Highland Park’s defense holds down Evanston

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SHARE Highland Park’s defense holds down Evanston

EVANSTON — Mike Harrison, Highland Park’s defensive coordinator, needed his team to finish. And after entering halftime with a 10-0 lead, that’s exactly what the Giants did.

They held on for a 24-7 win and had a special treat waiting for them back at Wolters Field in Highland Park: a “3”-shaped piñata, representing their third win in three games.

“With a piñata, you beat it ‘till there’s nothing left,” Harrison said before the game. “That’s what we need to do against Evanston. We need to finish.”

Back in Evanston, Hallvard Lundevall caught a 24-yard pass from quarterback Sam Nevers on a fourth-and-4 to get things started for the Giants.

Harrison’s defense then kept the momentum going. They forced a three-and-out on Evanston’s opening drive. And after the defense started the second half with another stout three-and-out, the Giants knew they were on the verge of something special.

“The defensive stop coming out of halftime was huge,” Highland Park coach Hal Chiodo said. “That got us the ball right back. We talked about that at halftime, that we needed to stop them right away.”

Running back Cole Greenberg, who finished with 162 yards on the ground, scored from 1 yard out midway through the third quarter. Leading 17-0, the Giants’ theme was “don’t let up.”

Nevers looked at his team and relayed the message. “We’re not done,” he told them on the sideline.

After Brandon Hilliard caught a 55-yard pass from Matt Little to narrow Highland Park’s lead to 17-7, Luke Norcia hauled in a 1-yard toss from Nevers to extend the lead to 24-7.

“Evanston may be a bigger team and a faster team,” Chiodo said, “but we are the better team.”

For the Wildkits, it was a lack of execution that doomed them in the end.

“Our coaches always talk about the little things,” defensive end and tight end Ferris Ingraham said. “We didn’t do the little things in practice this week, and it’s that stuff that will come back to haunt you on game day.”

For Evanston, Little completed 15-of-28 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown, and Hilliard finished with nine receptions for 162 yards and the 55-yard score.

The last time Highland Park started a season 3-0 was 1985, the Giants started 5-0.

Last year, the Giants blew a 10-0 lead and fell to Evanston, 20-10, at Wolters Field. This year, there was no letting up. Avenging last year’s loss is something that the Giants had their sights set on from day one.

“The Evanston game was something we had marked down on our calendar after they beat us last year at our place,” said Nevers, who threw for 73 yards and two touchdowns. “To go and beat them on their turf was major and we expect good things going forward.”

An earlier version of this story misstated the last time Highland Park was 3-0. It was 1985.

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