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Daily Herald's 2016 Season Coverage
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updated: 10/29/2016 8:37 PM

Palatine defense rolls, but injury takes its toll

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  • Palatine's Courtland Cornelius (7) runs for a first-half touchdown against Notre Dame during the first round of the Class 8A football playoffs in Palatine.

      Palatine's Courtland Cornelius (7) runs for a first-half touchdown against Notre Dame during the first round of the Class 8A football playoffs in Palatine.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Palatine's DJ Angelaccio (10) gets both feet in bounds as he scores the Pirates' first touchdown against Notre Dame during the first round of the Class 8A football playoffs in Palatine.

      Palatine's DJ Angelaccio (10) gets both feet in bounds as he scores the Pirates' first touchdown against Notre Dame during the first round of the Class 8A football playoffs in Palatine.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Palatine quarterback Zach Oles looks downfield against Notre Dame during the first round of the Class 8A football playoffs in Palatine.

      Palatine quarterback Zach Oles looks downfield against Notre Dame during the first round of the Class 8A football playoffs in Palatine.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Palatine quarterback Zach Oles runs downfield against Notre Dame during the first round of the Class 8A football playoffs in Palatine.

      Palatine quarterback Zach Oles runs downfield against Notre Dame during the first round of the Class 8A football playoffs in Palatine.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Palatine quarterback Zach Oles runs up the middle and is injured on a play against Notre Dame's Matt Doherty (22) during the first round of the Class 8A football playoffs in Palatine.

      Palatine quarterback Zach Oles runs up the middle and is injured on a play against Notre Dame's Matt Doherty (22) during the first round of the Class 8A football playoffs in Palatine.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Palatine's Josh Turner heads upfield against Notre Dame during the first round of the Class 8A football playoffs in Palatine.

      Palatine's Josh Turner heads upfield against Notre Dame during the first round of the Class 8A football playoffs in Palatine.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Palatine's Johnny O'Shea (80) looks to catch a pass against Notre Dame during the first round of the Class 8A football playoffs in Palatine.

      Palatine's Johnny O'Shea (80) looks to catch a pass against Notre Dame during the first round of the Class 8A football playoffs in Palatine.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Palatine's Jack Grochowski (12) catches a pass in the end zone which was ruled incomplete against Notre Dame's Michael Valdez (6) during the first round of the Class 8A football playoffs in Palatine.

      Palatine's Jack Grochowski (12) catches a pass in the end zone which was ruled incomplete against Notre Dame's Michael Valdez (6) during the first round of the Class 8A football playoffs in Palatine.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Palatine's Jake Moerti (8) celebrates his fourth quarter interception return for touchdown against Notre Dame during the first round of the Class 8A football playoffs in Palatine.

      Palatine's Jake Moerti (8) celebrates his fourth quarter interception return for touchdown against Notre Dame during the first round of the Class 8A football playoffs in Palatine.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
By Dick Quagliano
Daily Herald Correspondent

Palatine showed that it has a championship-caliber defense to go with it high-powered offense Saturday.

The Pirates swarmed and knocked around the larger Notre Dame offense. They limited the Dons to just 4 first downs and 86 yards of total offense as Palatine blanked Notre Dame 34-0 in the opening round of the Class 8A football playoffs.

The third-seeded Pirates (10-0) will travel next weekend to play at 19th-seeded Lyons (8-2). The date and time will be officially announced Monday.

The terrific play of that Palatine defense will be even more important since the Pirates offense suffered a huge loss when quarterback Zach Oles left the game midway through the first quarter with an injury. It was later determined that Oles suffered a broken collarbone and is lost for the remainder of the season.

"Zach goes down, and he is a great player and a great leader," Palatine coach Rick Splitt said. "But we had guys step up and everyone pulled together. We are going to continue that."

Oles left the game with Palatine leading just 7-0. Oles connected with Johnny O'Shea on an 8-yard touchdown pass which saw the acrobatic O'Shea make a spectacular catch, getting a foot down before being pushed out of bounds.

After the Oles injury, junior DJ Angelaccio took over the offensive reins. The Pirates barely missed a beat, with Angelaccio connecting with O'Shea on a 34-yard pass to the Notre Dame 6. Two plays later, Courtland Cornelius crashed over from the 4 to make it 14-0.

"It wasn't that hard for me to come in," said Angelaccio, who would finish 9-of-17 for 127 yards and rush for another 29 yards. "I prepare in practice all the time and just follow Zach's lead. He shows me the way.

"Everyone was great. All I did was go out there and do my job."

But with their leader sidelined and a 14-0 lead, it would have been easy for Palatine to ease up on the gas. Instead, the Pirates' defense pushed on the accelerator.

"Every week we come in fast and physical," linebacker Scotty Elter said. "We knew we had to step it up. We knew DJ would come in and everything would be OK."

Elter took matters into his own hands when he made the first of 4 Palatine interceptions. He said the defensive line of Mackenzie Balanganayi, Jesus Salinas, Bryant Smith and Josh Danielson, giving up serious size and weight to the Notre Dame offensive line, allowed the best of the defense to flow freely to the ball.

"It all starts up front," Elter said. "They took on all the blocks from the offensive line. They do the dirty work and all the credit goes to them."

Allowed to work freely, Elter, along with Brody Muck, Dylan Tapia, Matt Garner, Cortez Hogans and JT Streepy flowed quickly to the ball. Notre Dame (6-4) never got inside the Palatine 40.

"We were outsized but not outhit," Muck said. "The defensive line stayed low and gave us all an opportunity to make some plays."

After Elter's pick, Palatine was able to drive to the Notre Dame 8. After the drive stalled, Jack Grochowski kicked a 27-yard field goal to make it 17-0.

Grochowski hit a 26-yard field goal on the last play of the first half to make it 20-0. It was set up by a 27-yard reception by Grochowski and the first of 2 interceptions by Garner.

Angelaccio got his first varsity TD pass, when he connected with Grochowski on a 13-yard pass early in the fourth quarter.

"DJ practices just as hard as anyone so I knew he was ready," Grochowski said. "We never had any doubt in DJ. And we told him that and he came out and did a good job."

The defense got into the picture again when Moertl picked of a pass and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown.

Splitt said the plan he and his coaches came up with was able to work.

"We never had to vary," Splitt said. "We spent a long week putting a game plan together and obviously it worked. We were able to execute at all times."

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