From the look of the first half of Friday's Mid-Suburban West football game at Barrington Community Stadium, you'd hardly notice that Palatine's Cam Kuksa was seeing his first-game action since early in the season opener against Montini.
He scored Palatine's first touchdown in its 38-6 victory over the Broncos on a 10-yard run and combined with quarterback Ethan Olles on 8 passes for 102 yards and a 24-yard touchdown.
For good measure, he also played defense for the Pirates (7-1, 4-0).
"We want to make sure he fits into the offense," said Palatine coach Tyler Donnelly. "We didn't try to use him too much in the second half."
Kuksa, who Donnelly said was cleared to play in games last week, has been practicing for a week and a half. "We want to get him his conditioning," the coach added.
The victory sets up a regular-season ending showdown at home against Schaumburg, with outright ownership of the MSL West title at stake for the Pirates, who clinched a share of it Friday.
"The conference championship is great, but the kids want to make a run in the playoffs," Donnelly said. "And once you're in, it's anybody's game."
"It'll be a good game (against Schaumburg)," Kuksa said. "We'll have to bring it to them. The coaches will get us prepared."
They were prepared for the multiple defensive looks Barrington threw at them, scoring on five consecutive possessions, converting 8 third downs and three fourth downs during that span.
"Our defense played tough," Barrington coach Joe Sanchez said. "We contested everything."
Kuksa's 10-yard run opened the scoring with 5:23 left in the first quarter, and Kevin Hilmer kicked a 45-yard field goal to make it 10-0 with 3:07 left in the first.
Olles completed a 24-yard scoring pass to Kuksa to make it 17-0 with 11:54 left in the first half, and John Serio's 3-yard plunge with 2:22 left in the half gave Palatine a 24-0 lead. Serio's touchdown capped a 93-yard drive that took 17 plays.
Olles marched the Pirates 71 yards in 6 quick plays, the final 25 coming on a pass to Eric Theis with 10:21 remaining in the third quarter.
"In the first half, we executed well," Olles said. "We started to punt in the third and fourth quarters. We have to execute better."
The offensive line of Tyler Sydlowski, Ron Rouette, Justin Roberts, Cody Oversen and Josh Baldus gave Olles the time he needed to find his receivers.
Backup quarterback Ryan Gronwick scored Palatine's last touchdown on a 54-yard run with 4:03 left in the game. Barrington (3-5, 1-3) broke through with 7 seconds remaining when sophomore Adam Broomfield tossed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Matella.
"I'm not disappointed in the effort," Sanchez said. "You have to tip your hat to them, but I'm not disappointed in the kids. I'm disappointed that the result wasn't better.
"We'll have a great week of practice next week, and it'll be our playoff game (at Conant)," Sanchez said.