Prairie Ridge senior OT Shane Evans remembers Boylan loss

The details, painful as they may still be three years after the fact, remain fresh in Shane Evans' head.

Without hesitation, the Prairie Ridge senior offensive and defensive lineman rattles off all that went wrong in the final game of his freshman year. To this day, the Class 6A state semifinal loss to Boylan remains among the most haunting of the 37 games Evans has played in his high school career.

The 14-7 loss in 2010 represents the Wolves' last playoff setback, marred my four fumbles in the red zone and costly penalties. Evans remembers nearly every moment of the game, having reviewed it in his head and on video several times since and hopes to refresh his memory again before Prairie Ridge again faces the Titans in the state quarterfinals Saturday in Rockford.

"I'm hoping they put it on on the bus ride (to Rockford)," Evans said this week.

As soon as Evans got home last weekend after Prairie Ridge's heart-stopping 21-20 win over Marmion, he put the game tape in from the 2010 loss and then started watching the Wolves highlight film from that season. Each time he watched – reliving the costly fumbles and a late clipping penalty that kept the Wolves from a potential game-tying touchdown – Evans gets more motivated to play.

Evans has remained focused on his final year with the Wolves despite starting the season in the midst of heavy recruiting attention. Evans verbally committed to Northern Illinois and will enroll early, making both this season and the Wolves playoff run even more memorable.

The season hasn't been easy as Prairie Ridge needed a three-game winning streak to qualify for the playoffs, shaking off a 2-4 start during which the Wolves' senior leaders had to play a pivotal role in getting things back on track. Evans proved to be a big part of that process.

Not so much through what he's said, but in the way Evans continued to work on the practice field, bringing along younger teammates and putting the Wolves back on the path to the playoffs.

"That's the thing that, especially with our (offensive) line, they really see that – that you have to work hard on a daily basis to be successful," Wolves coach Chris Schremp said. "That workmanlike effort that he gives every day is the thing that's probably the biggest (thing) not only to our team this year, but to the sophomores who are up now."

Evans hasn't yet taken the time to put his final year in perspective, relishing the time he has remaining around his teammates, many of whom he started with as part of the Junior Wolves several years ago. The bond he has with them has been the reason why Evans hasn't shifted his thinking ahead to his college career and on a NIU program that has again spent much of the season nationally ranked.

While Evans has started to spend NIU gamedays in DeKalb watching his future team play, he has remained committed to the business at hand. He understands that his Prairie Ridge playing career could end at any time – a realization that started to sink in when Marmion took a late 20-14 lead last Saturday before Brett Covalt and Danny Meikel connected on a game-winning 28-yard touchdown pass with 59.2 seconds remaining.

"It's sad and it's really emotional having to feel like your last high school football game could be coming up any day," Evans said. "It could be any game."

Perhaps, that's why Saturday's quarterfinal showdown with Boylan looms so large for Evans. The Titans are 50-1 since 2010, a run that includes the seven-point victory over Prairie Ridge. The Wolves went on to win the 2011 6A state championship, but Evans knows that beating Boylan in 2010 could have easily led to another state title, pushing Evans even more.

"I could have had two rings on my fingers," Evans said. "...So that game sticks in my mind and I think I'll use that to my advantage this week."