Palatine executes for win at Schaumburg
In the Mid-Suburban League West's 20th year of existence, it's begun to earn a reputation as one of the tougher conferences in the state.
If one had any doubts, consider just last year when the West advanced four of six teams into state playoff competition, with a fifth just a win shy of qualifying.
And two years ago, it sent five of six teams into the postseason, and for all intents and purposes was only one quarter away from sending all six schools into the final weekend of October.
All of which gives key motivational incentive to Schaumburg coach Mark Stilling.
"Due to the nature of the league's recent history, your level of execution has to match your level of intensity if you're going to any chance to win in this league," said Stilling, a two-time MSL West winner in 2010 and 2013.
But it was visiting Palatine which showed that winning level of execution on Friday.
In posting a 28-21 win at Gary Scholz Stadium in the the MSL West opener, the visiting Pirates scored 21 straight points on three consecutive posessions late in the first half and early in the second that erased a 14-0 second-quarter deficit.
And Palatine scored a late game-winning TD after Schaumburg rallied to tie the contest up in the final quarter.
"These kids showed a lot of character out there tonight," first-year Palatine coach Corey Olson. "Give Schaumburg (3-2, 0-1) a ton of credit. They came ready to play and had us on our heels early."
The host school got things going on their second play from scrimmage when senior QB Deontae Arnold connected with junior TB Mike Digioia over the flat for a 65-yard touchdown just 72 seconds into the contest, giving Schaumburg a 7-0 lead.
The Saxons extended their lead to 14-0 with 4:49 remaining in the first half when a 1-yard by keeper by Arnold capped an 11-play, 70-yard drive that was highlighted by a 14-yard Heze Trotter run on fourth and 3.
The visitors got themselves on the scoreboard 50 seconds before halftime when senior Pirates signal-caller D.J. Angelaccio found senior teammate Johnny O'Shea from 41 yards out to slice the deficit in half at 14-7.
A potential momentum-changing play for Schaumburg came when an apparent 90-yard Trotter touchdown return on the ensuing kickoff was called back for an illegal block.
The Pirates (3-2, 1-0) took advantage on the opening possession of the second half.
They went 71 yards in 7 plays, the last when senior wideout Jake Moertl took a direct snap right from center and ran right through the Saxons' line 30 yards for a tying touchdown.
Senior RB Marcus Stoudemire took an Angelaccio handoff through the line for 68 yards to give Palatine its first lead of the night (21-14) at the 3:33 mark of the third.
Thanks to a strip sack by Connor Casamento-Barry that fellow junior Joel Routhowski recovered at the Pirates 41, the Saxons went on an 8-play, 41-yard drive to tie it at 21 when Arnold took it in from the 4 with 8:16 left in regulation.
Moertl helped Palatine grab the lead for good when he took an Angelaccio bubble screen down the Pirates sideline 65 yards for his second score and a 28-21 lead with 2:26 to play.
"I have to give credit to D.J. for a nice pass," Moertl said. "And then my O-line as well as the rest of my guys on offense for setting me up with some really nice blocks that gave me a huge cut back lane to work with."
O'Shea's interception of an Arnold pass at the Palatine 34-yard on Schaumburg's next series got the the Pirates' possession back for good with 1:42 left.
"I'm very proud of these kids and how they were able to do the little things in the second-half that made the difference for us," Olson said.
The three-time defending MSL West champs and back-to-back Class 8A state semifinalist Pirates have faced their fair share of adversity coming into divisional play after a tough home loss to Maine South the previous week.
"We've been through our fair share of setbacks," O'Shea said. "We've learned to stay positive when things don't go as well as planned. It's something that our coaches emphasize."
Olson now looks fowards to a home date with Barrington on Thursday.
"It's going to be a dogfight," Olson said. "We understand that going in."
For Stilling, he looks forward to a Thursday night matchup versus Hoffman Estates.
"We'll move some of the things that we normally do on a Monday to Saturday," he said. "It was a tremendous high school football game. They just made more big plays than we did."