Palatine's defense had allowed just 31 points in the Pirates' first three games of the season, so it was only fitting that the offense carry the load in Friday's Mid-Suburban League crossover game at Elk Grove.
Palatine answered every Elk Grove score with a touchdown of its own in a 34-28 victory that sends the defending division champion Pirates into the MSL West with a 3-1 record.
The Grens and Pirates traded touchdowns until the teams were tied at 28 midway through the fourth quarter. That's when Palatine quarterback Nick Orlando engineered a 62-yard, 8-play drive to give the Pirates a 34-28 lead when he scored on a 6-yard run with 3:34 remaining in the game.
Palatine stopped the Grens (2-2) twice, once on downs with 1:29 remaining and on the final play when Brad Bauer grabbed his second interception of the game.
"It was our turn to pick up the defense," Orlando said. "We felt we let one game get away against Hersey, but we bounced back and we're ready for conference."
Orlando was 15 of 24 for 274 yards and 3 touchdowns and ran for 2 more scores. His favorite target was senior Eric Theis, who grabbed 8 passes for 127 yards and touchdowns of 32 and 24 yards.
"This was definitely a step forward for us," Theis said of the chemistry between quarterback and receiver. "We started slow in the summer and got our timing down."
"We started clicking in the second half," Orlando said. "We focused on finishing drives."
"That was an exciting high school game, a great game," said Palatine coach Rick Splitt. "We played hard, and they played hard. It was awesome.
"I thought we ran the ball extremely well," Splitt said, crediting linemen Kevin Clark, Mark Scherer, Tom Becker, and Carsten Andersen.
Chaka Kelly was the workhorse, carrying 17 times for 85 yards, and Chris Cornelius added 59 yards on 6 carries.
"Theis was spectacular," Splitt said. "He and Nick were on target all night."
"It was a big game," Elk Grove coach Larry Calhoun said. "It doesn't ruin our season, but it would have given us a leg up.
"They're a good team, but we had our chances," Calhoun said. "We played hard, but we missed a lot of tackles. The penalties (13 for 111 yards) were untimely and undisciplined."
Elk Grove put the pressure on Palatine thanks to another outstanding game by quarterback Adam O'Malley, his band of receivers and running back Travon Royal (14 carries for 49 yards).
O'Malley had a hand in all 4 Elk Grove touchdowns, rushing for 33- and 1-yard scores and completing touchdown passes of 10 to John Pass and 6 to Mike Bishoff. He rushed 15 times for 57 yards and completed 19 of 27 passes for 227 yards.
Elk Grove scored first on O'Malley's 33-yard run on the Grens' first possession of the game, and Orlando got the Pirates on the board with his first of 3 TD passes on its first possession, a sign of the type of game that would entertain the nearly full house at Robert Haskel Stadium.
The teams traded touchdowns in the second quarter, and the Pirates held a 14-13 lead at halftime. The score was tied at 21 heading into the fourth quarter.
The teams traded quick touchdowns on the first two possessions of the fourth quarter. Theis scored for Palatine on a 24-yard pass from Orlando, and O'Malley found Bishoff (10 receptions for 152 yards) in the end zone from 6 yards out. The two had connected on a 60-yard bomb to set up the score.