Conant's running game struggles no more.
The Cougars unveiled a new offensive threat in Elias Gardener in their Mid-Suburban West football opener at Palatine's Chic Anderson Stadium.
The 6-foot, 196-pound junior rushed for 173 yards on 27 carries. His running threat opened up the passing game for Danny Modelski, who took advantage by throwing 4 touchdown passes in Conant's 39-23 victory over the Pirates Friday.
"We have struggled to run the ball all year," Conant coach Bill Modelski said. "This is a complete turnaround. Elias is fast and strong. He has a few things to learn, but he's not afraid.
"It makes the quarterback's job a lot easier," Bill Modelski said.
"The O-line did everything," Gardener said. "They opened the holes for me. We had a great week of practice. We went hard every day."
Linemen Tyler LaBarbera, Michael Meier, Mitch Tednes, and Brad Kalish opened up the holes for Gardener, and receiver Mike Kos and back Bryson Brown did what Gardener called "an amazing job blocking."
Kalish left the game in the second half with a knee injury and didn't return.
With Palatine having to respect the running attack, Danny Modelski was able to complete 18 of 31 passes for 193 yards and 4 touchdowns, 3 to Kos (6 catches for 59 yards) and 1 to DeAngelo McBride.
"The line was awesome," Danny Modelski said. "I didn't get touched all night. I love every single one of those guys.
"The receivers were in the right spots on every route," he said.
He said that last week's MSL crossover loss to Rolling Meadows served as a wake-up call.
"We were 3-0 and got punched in the mouth," Danny Modelski said. "We said we had to hit Palatine in the mouth, and we did."
The Cougars (4-1, 1-0) took a 7-0 lead when Modelski hit Kos with a 5-yard scoring pass with 5:03 left in the first quarter. The Pirates (3-2, 0-1) tied it on a 10-yard run by Chris Cornelius with 11:12 left in the second quarter.
Conant scored the next 25 points, 10 in the second quarter to lead 17-7 at halftime, and 15 in the third quarter to build a 32-7 lead.
Drew Wentzel's 24-yard field goal made it 10-7, and McBride caught an 8-yard pass to make it 17-7 with 1:20 until intermission.
Conant drove 67 yards to open the second half, and Brown finished the 12-play drive with a 1-yard run for the score with 7:13 left in the quarter.
After a Palatine 3 and out, Conant drove 68 yards in 7 plays, ending with Modelski's 13-yard pass to Kos.
Chaka Kelly (17 carries for 67 yards) scored on an 8-yard run to stop the Conant onslaught, but Conant scored once more on Modelski's 6-yard toss to Kos. Eric Theis scored Palatine's last touchdown on a 12-yard pass from Nick Orlando with 4:08 left in the game.
"They are a good team, and they beat us," Palatine coach Rick Splitt said. "Their skill kids are pretty good.
"We got in a hole early, and we gave them short fields," Splitt said. "They ran right by us."