Defenses deliver as Maine South edges Palatine
Palatine and Maine South were expected to put on an offensive show Friday night in Palatine.
Instead, the defenses rose to the occasion.
Both teams forced 4 turnovers, and Maine South got a late field goal to edge Palatine 17-14 in a rematch of a Class 8A state semifinal from last year.
"Defensively we played our hearts out," said Palatine coach Corey Olson, whose Pirates slowed down a Maine South team that came into Friday's game averaging 43 points.
"The kids fought and in reality the kids fought on both sides of the ball. We just couldn't come up some plays when we needed to."
Still playing without Northern Illinois recruit Cortez Hogans, the Palatine defense played inspired against the high-powered Hawks (3-1). Jake Moertl, CJ Cashaw, Charlie Canty and Johnny O'Shea each had interceptions inside the Palatine 10-yard line.
Meanwhile Bryant Smith, Josh Danielson, Luis Bruno and the rest of the defense kept Maine South quarterback John O'Sullivan under control. O'Sullivan finished 5-of-14 for 83 yards.
"We planned for this all week," said Smith, who had a sack. "The coaches had a great game plan and we just had to execute it. Sometimes we just couldn't come up with the big play and that's what their offense is all about -- big plays."
Having those big plays for Maine South was running back Fotis Kokosioulis, who finished with 165 yards on 32 carries.
Kokosioulis keyed the Hawks' opening drive of 9 plays that covered 65 yards. A read-option fake to Kokosioulis enabled O'Sullivan to score untouched on a 2-yarder to put Maine South up 7-0.
After a missed field goal by Maine South, Palatine (2-2) mounted a scoring drive of its own.
DJ Angelaccio, who was 14-of-28 for 129 yards, directed a 12-play, 80-yard drive. It was capped by a great catch by Johnny O'Shea, who then delivered the ball to the end zone by breaking 3 tackles for a 28-yard catch-and-run to tie the game at 7 with 6:07 left in the first half.
"I just wanted to find the end zone," O'Shea said. "DJ put the ball in the right spot and I just wanted to score."
Palatine looked to increase its lead just before the end of the half, when the Pirates moved the ball to the Maine South 25 with just over two minutes left in the half. But the Hawks' Bobby Inserra stepped in front of a Palatine receiver and after picking off the pass, returned it 65 yards to the Palatine 17.
Maine South moved the ball to the Palatine 3, but Smith tackled Kokosioulis for 5-yard loss and the secondary broke up a pass in the end zone, forcing Maine South to settle for a field goal.
But the defending state champion Hawks never really settle. Maine South ran a fake field goal when holder Jimmy Bartell made a shovel pass to Brian Barry off the right wing, and Barry just made it to the corner of the end zone to make it 14-7 with 20 seconds left in the first half.
Maine South appeared to be pulling away when the Hawks drove deep into Palatine territory midway through the third quarter. But Moertl stepped in front a pass at the Palatine 1 and returned it 57 yards to the Maine South 42.
After 6 plays where Palatine was able to get the ball to the Maine South 4, Moertl completed what he started by blasting over for the touchdown to tie the game at 14-14 with 5:50 left in the third quarter.
"It was definitely a big momentum-swinger for us," Moertl said. "We stepped up when we needed to. The offense and defense all made big plays."
The Palatine defense continued to make big plays, intercepting the Hawks 3 times after that. Unfortunately for the Pirates, all came inside the 10, giving them terrible field position.
Palatine was unable to move the ball, and after that a short punt gave Maine South possession at the Palatine 25. The Hawks turned it into a 25-yard field goal with 8:30 to play to give them their 17-14 lead.
Palatine did mount one final last drive. But the Pirates turned the ball over when Inserra intercepted a pass at the Hawks 13.
"The turnovers hurt, but fortunately our defense was able to take the ball away from them as well," Olson said. "When you play a top football team like this, you are able to see what you need to get better at."
Palatine heads into MSL West play next week still looking to win the conference for a fourth consecutive year.
"Every MSL West game is going to be hard," Olson said. "You don't get an easy ones in there. You retool and come back the following week."