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updated: 9/10/2016 12:19 AM

Evanston’s Easington spoils it for Conant

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By Jonathan Jones
Daily Herald Correspondent

Evanston and host Conant put together a fine show Friday night under the lights in the Cougars' home opener.

This nonconference battle had moxie and theatrics on both sides of the field.

Evanston remained undefeated as the Wildkits scampered for a total of 292 yards in a 24-17 victory.

The Evanston faithful certainly were entertained by senior running back Ben Easington, who dashed for 213 of those yards and a touchdown.

Following a Conant turnover in the third quarter, Evanston was pinned on its own 2. On the very next play, Easington scurried for an astonishing 98 yards to not only tie the game at 17-17, but to ultimately set the swing in momentum necessary for the rest of the game.

"We had trouble in the first half getting the run scheme down," Easington said. "Coach (Mike Burzawa), said I had to run weak side (on the 98-yard play). Our line crashed and (Conant) went to the strong side. I thought I was going to get a 6-, 7-yard run, but I did not expect that big of a run.

"When it came down to it, it was their big boys versus our big boys, and we won that battle."

In the first quarter, Evanston (3-0) was first to score with a 6-yard run from junior quarterback Drew Dawkins. Dawkins later connected with senior receiver Andrew Baumann for a 10-yard score for the game-winner.

Conant battled -- especially with special teams. The Cougars scored on consecutive possessions after senior wide out Jonathan Stumpf ran back a punt return for 52 yards.

On the ensuing kickoff, Evanston muffed the kick, and the Cougars' senior gunner scooped up the ball. Conant struggled on the following possession, but senior kicker Aris Catania put a foot into a 37-yard field goal to steal the lead.

Conant took a 17-10 lead into the locker room after junior tailback Jack Reiger bulldozed through the trenches with an 11-yard touchdown run late in the second half. Earlier in the second quarter, Evanston junior kicker Owen Ennis knotted the score at 10-10 with a 28-yard field goal.

Penalties were an issue for Evanston, as they were assessed 100 yards, including 75 in the first half.

"We had way too many penalties," Burzawa said. "We also had two miscues on special teams, I'm proud our guys didn't panic. We were down some starters. When you face adversity it's how you respond and I think we found out who we are today.

"The Easington run was big and it brought a big momentum shift."

With just over four minutes remaining in the game, Conant drove from its 20 to midfield. The Cougars were forced to go for it on fourth-and-2. The Wildkits were able to force a fumble and ultimately burned the clock out for the rest of the game to squelch any Cougar late-game heroics.

"We had a breakdown," said Conant coach Bill Modelski, with regard to the Easington run. "I'm really proud of my team in those trying circumstances. We made some changes (in practice), and it paid some dividends. It seemed to help move the ball and move the chains, but it was just not good enough.

"The reality is we have to keep working. I'm pleased with our improvement, but not pleased with the loss."

Evanston will move on to host Barrington, while the Cougars (0-3) travel to Maine South.

"(This win) gives us a lot of confidence, if we keep the train going," Easington said. "We'll go back home and we'll probably get more fans out there cheering us on."

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