A key fumble by each team changed the game’s momentum as Evanston Township High School’s football team erased an early Giant lead for a 20-10 victory Thursday at Highland Park High School’s Wolters Field.
Before those fumbles, Highland Park led, 10-6, but two plays and four minutes after the second, Evanston took command, 20-10, with just over a minute to go in the first half and neither team scored again.
With the ball on the Highland Park 18, Evanston quarterback Chris Little completed a 16 yard pass to Michael Pope but Pope fumbled on the Giant 2. That is when Brandon Hilliard picked up the ball and carried it into the end zone to give the Wildkits a 13-10 lead.
“He knew where the ball was,” Evanston Coach Mike Buzawa said of Hilliard’s recovery. “It really rolled our way.” Four minutes later, Highland Park fumbled on its 23. On the next snap, Little ran 23 yards into the end zone to put his team ahead, 20-10.
Both Buzawa and Highland Park Coach Hal Chiodo credit the Evanston defense for shutting down a Giant attack that dominated the first quarter. “They took the wind out of our sails,” Chiodo said of Evanston’s defense. “They took away a lot of what we wanted to do. We couldn’t get anything going in the second half.”
It did not look like it would turn out that way in the first quarter. After pushing the Wildkits back five yards on their first possession and forcing a punt, Highland Park took the ball 41 yards in seven plays to go up, 7-0, as Tommy Sutker and Kelshawn Shields ran for 36 of them.
The turnaround was not immediate. Evanston did not get a first down in the openingt quarter as Highland Park scored on a 30-yard Josh Pollack field goal. He missed from 49 and 36 before Evanston dented the board. The first Wildkit score came on 41-yard pass play from Little to Sam Nevers.
After that, the game was all about Evanston’s defense. “Highland Park took it to us,” Buzawa said of the first quarter. “Our defense kept us in the ball game. Our defense really helped us.”
Both teams are 2-1 for the season.