Palatine's offense is potent enough by itself, but when its defense is forcing turnovers to give the Pirates short fields to work with, it just plain seems unfair.
Palatine forced 4 first half turnovers, all of which led to touchdowns, as the No. 3 seed Pirates rolled to a 42-14 win over No. 6 Schaumburg in the second round of the Class 8A playoffs at Chic Anderson Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The win gave Palatine (10-1) its first 10-win season since the 1997 squad went 11-1, and it sets up a quarterfinal matchup on Saturday at No. 2 Loyola, a 31-7 winner over Bartlett. The Pirates and Ramblers met in the quarterfinals in 2010, with Loyola winning 14-0.
"Palatine's will is outstanding," said Schaumburg coach Mark Stilling. "They stay after you. They're 10-1 for a reason."
Palatine drove the length of the field on its opening possession but came up empty after a missed field goal.
What could have been a deflating moment for Palatine was all but forgotten when Bradley Bauer picked off Stacey Smith four plays later to give the Pirates the ball at Schaumburg's 42.
Palatine capitalized when Ethan Olles (23-for-39, 211 yards) threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Alex Nawrot (9 catches, 91 yards) with 3:36 left in the first quarter.
"They turn the ball over like crazy," Nawrot said of the defense. "That's what they're known for. They put us in great field position and we do our job from there."
It took only three plays for the Pirate offense to get their hands back on the ball as Lucas Rago's interception set them up at the Saxon 28 and Nawrot sprinted in from 17 yards for a 14-0 lead.
"We knew at the beginning of the game that we had to come out strong and shut them down because they are a big-play team," Rago said. "Once we turned the ball over, we got the momentum going and that was able to get our offense into the end zone."
In the second quarter, a failed option pitch recovered by Josh Baldus led to the first of 2 touchdown runs by John Serio, this one coming from 2 yards out.
Another Bauer interception put the Pirates in business at the Saxons 6 and Serio took care of the rest from there for a 28-0 lead with 2:49 left in the first half.
In all, Palatine's first string defense allowed just 210 yards, 31 of which were on a touchdown pass from Smith to Sadarriss Patterson 41 seconds before intermission. And they held the Saxons without a first down on five straight possessions in the first half.
"We thought we would be this good when we got (Cam) Kuksa back and got the kids to the right spots," said Palatine coach Tyler Donnelly of his team's defense. "They are starting to come together."
Kuksa added touchdown runs of 1 and 15 yards in the second half to put Palatine over 40 points for the eighth time this season.
Nick Anzelmo got some snaps at quarterback, throwing for 113 yards and scoring on a 13-yard touchdown run with 1:31 left.
Though the future looks bright for Schaumburg (8-3) next season with talented juniors such as Smith, Patterson, Matt Zolper and Conner Lapinsky returning, this edition with seniors like Rashad McFadden, Cole Reyes, Juwaan Richard and Anzelmo was special.
"They did an awesome job coming together over the course of the last five months," Stilling said. "The things they've done as people and the way they've come together, I'm extremely proud of our kids."