Daring Dylan Groff to punch you deep is one strategy opposing coaches can use to try to stop Evanston’s football team.
But that wasn’t the right choice for Glenbrook North Friday night at Lazier Field.
Evanston’s junior quarterback threw 4 touchdown passes – all in the first half – and made a likely Illinois High School Association playoff offer as the Wildkits blitzed the Spartans 41-10 for their 5th win of the season.
Strictly speaking, the 5-2 kits are still only playoff-capable, as head coach Mike Burzawa quickly reminded them in the post-game huddle. Maine South and Glenbrook South, the die-hard Central Suburban League South divisions, stand in the way of the automatic bidding process that goes to every 6-win team.
But with Groff moving forward and burning enemy defenses, as he did on Friday night when he completed 12 of 18 passes for 248 yards, there’s no telling how deep he can take the wild kits into the postseason.
Glenbrook North’s decision to fill the “box” with 7 or 8 defenders in the first half allowed Groff to unleash TD passes from 27 yards at Kamau Ransom; 75 meters to Sean Cruz; 19 yards to ransom again; and 12 yards to Mark Canon Jr.
The Wildkits haven’t made many deep shots in the previous 6 games they played, but that changed against the Spartans (2-5 total, 0-3 CSL South).
“We wanted to come out immediately and attack them,” stressed Burzawa. “We missed one early because of a drop, but after that we were able to stretch her defense and then make her really soft for the run. You always want to take whatever the defense gives you, and that’s what they gave us tonight. “
“We came up with a big game plan with lots of smash routes against this Cover 3 defense,” added quarterback coach Ryan Healy. “I was surprised that they had 7 or 8 guys in the box and they didn’t really come out until the second half.
“Dylan’s got a really good arm, but he’s missed a lot of time working with the receivers this summer (because he also plays lacrosse) so his timing really wasn’t there until training camp. After the Palatine game, I told him that we needed vertical passing if we were to advance this offensive. He has made great strides and I think he will be an absolute stallion by next year. “
Three of Groff’s first four completions on Friday scored points. It was part of another efficient night for the Wildkit offensive – Evanston never stabbed a single time in the game – despite Groff throwing an endzone interception between all of those TDs.
Groff chose a long distance in Scrimmage’s first ETHS game, but Cruz failed to complete the catch of a 50 yard attempt. Six games later, the Wildkits still scored a goal when the elusive ransomware caught a screen pass and sped 27 yards untouched into the paydirt.
After Josh Van Overmeiren blocked a GBN field goal attempt, Groff and the offense looked long again. This time Cruz grabbed the 75-yard bomb and extended the lead to 14-0 with 3 minutes, 6 seconds to go in the first quarter.
Evanston’s next score came at the end of a 6-play, 86-yard drive. Groff contributed a 30-yard run on a scramble that would have made Russell Wilson proud, then sent a 44-yard TD pass to Ransom to make it 20-3.
The Wildkits still had time for another score before halftime. Groff threw a pick to end a drive, but he dropped Canon Jr. a dime in the right corner of the end zone in a game not many high school quarterbacks could make for a 12 yard score with only 39 seconds left on the clock.
Evanston stayed mostly on the ground in the second half, crossing on touchdown runs from Gio Milam-Pryor (13 yards) and Skylar Lee Jr. (80 yards).
On defense, Evanston recorded three quarterback sacks and kept the heat on North quarterback Murphy Mulvihill (6-of-19 pass for 63 yards) all night. Mulvihill also carried 21 times for just 19 yards as the winners had a 491 to 139 lead in overall length.
“Technically, with 5 wins, you have the opportunity to qualify for the (state) playoffs. But six wins are the decisive factor, ”emphasized Burzawa. “One of the things I love about high school football is that you have to earn your way into the playoffs.
“In the next two weeks we’re going to be playing against two teams that have amazing seasons and it’s going to be really a challenge for us. We just have to keep improving and taking care of the little things, on and off the pitch. ”