Palatine's football team entered Friday night's game against visiting Hoffman Estates with a big question mark concerning its defense.
The Pirates had given up 67 points in its last two games, including 39 points in a loss against Conant last week.
But Palatine (4-2, 1-1) turned the question mark into an exclamation point with a defense that pitched a shutout and led the Pirates to a 25-0 Mid-Suburban League West victory at Chic Anderson Stadium on homecoming night.
"I saw the whole defense step up," said Palatine coach Rick Splitt. "We needed that after the last couple of weeks. They executed the game plan."
Senior E.J. Miller and senior Steve Smearman provided the energy on the defensive line, with junior linebacker Vincent Serio adding some toughness and senior defensive back Andrew Bohlmann providing some punch.
"We wanted to set the tone tonight," said Smearman of the Pirates attack. "We wanted to be physical and fast -- it was a team effort."
Junior quarterback Nick Orlando (12-for-19, 119 yards) guided an efficient Pirates attack rushing for a 1-yard score and added a 10-yard scoring toss to Chris Stein.
"It wasn't a very clean game offensively," Orlando said. "But we got the job done, punching it in when we needed to."
Hoffman Estates (2-4, 0-2) had 15 penalties for 135 yards, and drove inside the Palatine 10-yard line twice in the first half but came up empty on both drives, missing a 26-yard field goal on its first attempt, then turning the ball over on a fumble on its second attempt.
"The thing that stopped us was penalties," said Hoffman coach Mike Donatucci. "This team has made strides, but we are nowhere near where we need to be. The penalties cost us tonight."
Palatine was aided by four Hoffman penalties on its opening drive and the Pirates cashed in on a 1-yard score by Chaka Kelly (15 carries, 42 yards).
Orlando found Joey Roy for an 18-yard gain on the Pirates first drive in the second quarter, which set up Orlando's 1-yard sneak on fourth down giving Palatine a 12-0 halftime advantage.
Hoffman Estates junior quarterback Jeffrey Mayes (6-for-6, 48 yards) went out with a left ankle injury late in the first half, with sophomore Dante Cleveland (10-for-17, 62 yards) stepping in to fill the void for the Hawks.
Palatine extended its advantage on it opening drive in the third quarter, with Kelly adding his second touchdown on a 5-yard scoring run.
Senior Keegan Mugerditchian rushed for 46 yards on 14 tough carries to pace the Hawks rushing attack.
Palatine put the game out of reach with 10:26 remaining on a 10-yard scoring catch by Stein, as the Pirates were able to rebound from a tough loss at Conant last week and keep its playoff hopes alive.
"It was huge," said Splitt of Pirates big victory. "To be able to rebound and get that fourth victory was huge."