Schaumburg demonstrated some championship traits Friday, both on and off the field, with a 38-13 win over Palatine.
While preparing for their game against the Pirates and a quest for a share of the Mid-Suburban West championship, the Saxons were also preparing to share the spotlight with a former standout in the program, Eric Von Schaumburg.
Von Schaumburg, 30, a member of the 1999 Saxons state team, was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease in June.
Since that time, the Saxons have adopted Eric's cause, with a share motto of "Fight Like a Champion."
The Saxons (8-1, 4-1) were led onto the field by Von Schaumburg, honorary captain for Friday's game. And then they honored him with some championship-caliber play.
The Saxons came out strong on the first play of their drive with senior running back Luke Gruszka rushing for a 30-yard gain. That led to a 4-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Stacey Smith.
And they didn't stop there. The Saxons tallied 459 total yards of offense with 378 coming on the ground.
Smith led the way with 142 yards on 23 carries with 3 rushing touchdowns.
"This is what we have worked for since August, to get ready for this point," Smith said.
Luke Gruszka, Justice Macneal-Young and Ryan Tuma combined for 206 yards on 23 carries. Just for good measure, Smith added a 43-yard touchdown pass to Bryce Carlson in the second quarter to help Schaumburg grab a 21-7 lead.
The Saxons opened the second half with a two-minute, 74-yard drive to close the door on the Pirates' playoff hopes. Palatine, which ended the season at 4-5 and 1 win shy of making the playoffs, is left to wonder what could have been if it had handled the ball better Friday night.
The Saxons forced 2 fumbles and one late interception by Blake Wittkamp to put the game away.
Palatine totaled 301 yards of offense, 212 on the ground. Junior running back Christopher Cornelius led the way with 145 yards rushing on 17 carries and 2 touchdowns.
The Saxons defense led by Noah Miller, Matt Zolper and Blake Wittkamp once again showed its bend-but-don't-break mentality could help them make a serious playoff run. Schaumburg, posting its best regular-season record of 8-1 since Von Schaumburg's 9-0 senior year in 2000 earned the automatic MSL West postseason bid since it defeated co-champion Barrington.
"Our kids took a lot of personal pride in tonight's game to not only clinch the West on senior night but to show their support for Eric as well," said Saxons coach Mark Stilling. "We have talked all year about making our next game our best game."