Coming into this season, Palatine (4-1, 1-0) projected its starting wide receivers to be Cam Kuksa, Jesse Bobbit, Alex Nawrot and Lucas Rago. But due to injuries, that lineup has never come to fruition.
It hasn't mattered for quarterback Ethan Olles and company. The machine that is Palatine's offense has kept rolling along, substituting one part for another and piling up the points.
Junior wide receiver Eric Theis has done more than simply fill in, as he has caught 27 passes for 537 yards and 6 touchdowns. And Nawrot has taken his expanded role and produced 30 catches for 518 yards and 8 total touchdowns.
"Those kids have been making plays all over the field and there's no guarantee that the kids that have been out will do that," said Palatine coach Tyler Donnelly. "Our philosophy is that if it's not broke, we won't fix it."
What's even more impressive is that coming into this season, Theis hadn't played since his freshman year. A broken eye socket sustained in gym class sidelined Theis for all of his sophomore season.
"Theis has become the man," Donnelly said. "We had seen him during practice, but it's one of those things that until he does it in a game, you don't know. He's gotten that confidence and just taken off."
The Game: First place in the Mid-Suburban West isn't the only thing on the line in tonight's game between Fremd (3-2, 1-0) and Palatine. Bragging rights are also at stake.
With so many of the players growing up together and playing youth sports against one another, this cross-town rivalry has plenty of added meaning. That still applies to past players of both schools.
"I've had so many alumni contact me this week, whether it's emails or phone calls," said Fremd coach Lou Sponsel, a '96 graduate of Fremd. "They're telling me about their memories and what this rivalry means to them. This is like our Ohio State-Michigan game. A lot of the alumni always say that no matter what happens during the season, this is the one game that you want to win."
About-face: St. Viator (3-2, 1-2) and Benet (4-1, 1-1) have enjoyed similar turnarounds this season. The Lions already have topped last season's two wins and the Redwings' 1-8 record in 2011 is a distant memory.
And no opposing coach knows Benet better than St. Viator coach Brandon New, who coached there for the last two seasons. New served as the defensive coordinator in 2010 and helped out on the offensive side of the ball last year.
"In the two years that I was there, I made some good friends," New said. "It will probably be a little bit funny, a little bit awkward. It was a fun two years."
Two-minute drill: In most years, Kevin Montero could start both ways for Rolling Meadows. But with seniors ahead of him, the speedy junior has taken on a reserve role at linebacker and running back. Montero showed flashes of that ability last week against Wheeling when as the up-back, he returned the opening kickoff 72 yards for a touchdown. "We think he'll have an impact for us by the end of this year when it's all said and done," said coach Matt Mishler. … Conant's Troy Piccinini and Gary Finley both missed their entire junior seasons with concussions. But as seniors, the linebackers are making strides each week and turning into impact players. Piccinini made a big play last week with a safety to give the Cougars a 23-21 fourth quarter lead. Said coach Bill Modelski: "We knew that if both of those kids could stay healthy, they were really going to make a difference, and they have." … Prospect had planned on passing a lot more last week against BG, but rain and cold weather made it difficult for quarterback Devin O'Hara to grip the ball. Instead the Knights stuck to what they do best, rushing for 388 yards. Said coach Mike Sebestyen: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If it works, we will keep doing it."