Memo to Class 8A football in Illinois: Palatine keeps improving.
The Pirates continued their march toward the playoffs Friday night and looked every bit a legitimate 8A threat in a 48-7 Mid-Suburban West-opening win at Hoffman Estates.
Palatine (4-1, 1-0) scored on its first seven possessions in overpowering winless but gutty Hoffman (0-5, 0-1).
"We're giving our best. We executed pretty well," said 6-foot-3 junior wide receiver Eric Theis, who caught 7 balls for 127 yards and 2 first-half TDs.
Theis exemplifies the difference between Palatine and so many of its opponents. And that is the almost remarkable degree of improvement the Pirates achieve each week.
"We improved in certain areas, executed at a high level," said Palatine coach Tyler Donnelly.
That included corralling Hoffman's short-passing games and executing its own, which is where Theis comes in.
He grabbed a 7-yard fade from Ethan Olles to open the scoring and was wide open for a 13-yard score in the second period. Olles, who had 213 yards passing, never really launched a long one. Theis, Alex Nawrot (54-yard TD) and Mike Allen (22-yard TD) all turned short balls into big gainers as evidence of Donnelly's goal to execute better in the quick-passing game.
When they weren't doing that, Chaka Kelly (15 carries, 96 yards) was scoring the first two TDs of his career, running over Hawks defenders on well-blocked plays.
"That was exciting," Donnelly said of Kelly, a junior. "He's going to get better."
The defense, meanwhile, limited Hoffman to 2 first downs and 60 yards of total offense in the first half, which ended 35-0. Josh Baldus, Dan Riddle, Sergio Hernandez, Joshua Mackie and Sam Miller paced that effort.
And Palatine major contributors Cam Kuksa and Jesse Bobbit are approaching being healthy enough to play.
Hoffman Estates, under first-year head man Eric Ilich, is hoping to emulate Palatine. The Hawks looked it in the fourth quarter as Harry Wright finally crashed over from 7 yards out on a drive directed by Eric Brooks. But Ilich knows what needs to be done.
"We got a lesson in weightlifting tonight," he said, noting Palatine's strength superiority is something his kids will dedicate themselves to reaching. "[Palatine] didn't make any mistakes.
"Our kids fought like heck. We'll keep preparing every week for each opponent. Our kids will fight."
Palatine will battle as well, and the Pirates are looking like they'll come out on top.
"We want to have confidence, a lot of confidence," Donnelly said. "I don't think this group lacks in confidence."
"We get better each week," said Theis. "There's more to come."