Evanston football season preview

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2014 schedule
Aug. 29 at Proviso West 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 5 Crete-Monee 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 12 Highland Park 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 19 at Maine West 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 Niles West 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 2 at Glenbrook South 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 11 at Waukegan 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 17 Maine South 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 24 at New Trier 7:30 p.m.

Best game on the schedule: Evanston at New Trier, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 24

Although the Wildkits haven’t beaten longtime rival New Trier since 2010, this always is a hard-fought game that both teams circle at the start of the season. Being the last game of the regular season, it could determine playoff positioning for both teams.

Best-case scenario: Evanston has made it to the Class 8A playoffs in each of the last four seasons, but the Wildkits are 0-4 in the postseason during that stretch. The next step for Evanston is to win at least one game in the playoffs for the first time since 2003.

Best playmaker: While Evanston has many talented playmakers like senior receivers Rei Gaines and Brandon Hilliard, varsity rookie Travion Banks was the first person to come to coach Mike Burzawa’s mind. The 6-foot, 175-pound junior running back and defensive back has “game-breaking potential,” Burzawa said. “He has great speed on both sides, and he really attacks the ball on defense.”

Best student-athlete: For the first time in Burzawa’s seven seasons at Evanston, he said he has the perfect leader of the junior class: Immanuel Woodberry. The 6-0, 195-pound quarterback and safety is a role model in the classroom and on the field, the coach said. “He does a solid job in school, never has any problems,” Burzawa said. “You’ll see him [making plays] on the field defensively, and you will see him [leading] in the huddle offensively.” Banks and Woodberry were teammates on the sophomore squad last season, and Banks said Woodberry is an astute player. “Because he plays defensive back and quarterback, he’s able to understand and read the game better than most,” Banks said.

Best teammate: In one preseason practice last week, senior tight end and defensive lineman Ferris Ingraham went from working with the starting offense to playing on the scout-team defense without hesitation. That’s the kind of selflessness Burzawa likes to see from his players. “He embodies what it means to be an Evanston Wildkit,” the coach said of the 6-4, 220-pounder. “He always does what is best for the team, and that’s something we expect from all of our players.”

Best season: Under legendary coach Murney Lazier, the 1968 Wildkits went 8-0 and were inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

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2013 record: 5-5 overall, 2-3 CSL South

2013 playoffs: Lost 23-8 to Barrington in Class 8A first round

Head coach: Mike Burzawa, entering seventh season

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