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CLASS 8A PLAYOFFS
No. 3 Palatine (10-1) at No. 2 Loyola (10-1)
When: Noon, Saturday
Last week: Palatine d. Schaumburg 42-14; Loyola d. Bartlett 31-7
Outlook: Palatine and Loyola meet in the quarterfinals for the second time in three seasons as the Ramblers shut out the Pirates 14-0 in 2010. The Mid-Suburban West champs haven't looked back since a season-opening loss at Montini, averaging 44 points per game. Last year's Class 8A runner up won the Chicago Catholic Blue this year and have won nine in a row since a Week 2 loss to Dallas Jesuit in a game played in Dublin, Ireland. Loyola gave Mt. Carmel its only loss in Week 6. As they typically do, the Pirates and Ramblers met last summer in 7-on-7 competition. "(Loyola coach John Holecek and I) always joke that we'll see each other in November," said Palatine coach Tyler Donnelly. "And here we are."
When Palatine has the ball: Palatine's offense didn't put up its typically gaudy numbers last week with a season-low 311 total yards, but they didn't have to. The defense forced 5 turnovers and gave the offense short fields to work with. QB Ethan Olles leads a pass-heavy offense that Loyola doesn't get to see much in the Catholic League, aside from playing Brother Rice. "They do it from all types of formations," Holecek said. "They are very dynamic and their quarterback is very accurate. It's a tremendous challenge for us." WR Alex Nawrot had a huge game last week with 9 catches for 91 yards, along with rushing and receiving touchdowns. The Pirates also have WR's Cam Kuksa in the slot and Eric Theis out wide. LB/RB John Serio can come in to run the wildcat once Palatine gets near the goal line, as can Kuksa. "It starts with protection up front," Donnelly said of an offensive line that includes Josh Baldus, Tyler Sydlowski, Ron Rouette, Cody Oversen and Justin Roberts. "We'll have to pick up their blitzes and twists. It's the same game plan in a sense."
When Loyola has the ball: The Pirates defense is starting to find its groove, evidenced by last week's 5 takeaways. Kuksa's return from injury has allowed the Palatine defense to reshuffle players into their strongest positions. The versatile Dan Riddle can line up all over the field but he will be at outside linebacker. Bradley Bauer, who had 2 interceptions last week, can shift back to corner, with Kuksa and Jesse Bobbit at safety. And Palatine of course has Serio and West co-defensive player of the year Lucas Rago in the middle, with Baldus wreaking havoc up front. Their target this week is multi-talented Loyola QB Peter Pujals, who threw for 267 yards and ran for a touchdown last week. RB Julius Holley rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown. The Ramblers run a spread offense and rely mostly on an aerial attack featuring Pujals. "They're very similar to us," Donnelly said. "It's like looking at ourselves in the mirror, a little bit."
The quote, part I: "In terms of quality opponents, we have played plenty," Holecek said. "But Palatine may be the best skill-set we've seen, collectively."
The quote part II: "We have the team that we've been working for," Donnelly said of his team being healthy. "We are playing with our best team and don't have to look on the sidelines and see our best players on crutches. We're going to be able to give them whatever we have."