Call this one a big win for Szylak, Meadows at Palatine
Rolling Meadows running back Tim Szylak has nicknames for some of the teammates of whom he's most fond, the ones he wants to recognize publicly.
There are "Gators" and "Monsters," among other tags. And he's emphatic about the role they played Friday night as Rolling Meadows moved to 2-0 in a freewheeling 56-28 win at Palatine.
And why shouldn't he be emphatic? Szylak's teammates paved the way for him or got the ball back for the offense in relatively good field position all night.
The result was -- wait for it -- 277 yards rushing on 22 carries, 212 of them in the third quarter alone as Meadows broke the game open on his 42- and 73-yard touchdown runs.
While monsters like Josh DeLuca, Joe Boyer and Tommy Schell are among the big guys who clear the way up front, Szylak held his highest praise for fullback Sean Nolan and tight end Dom Stomiolo, guys who don't put up gaudy stats by play a big role in the team's success.
"The work they do is just phenomenal," Szylak said.
So was the 503 yards of total offense the so-called "Gators" helped produce.
And the defense, with "Monsters" like Nate Pedraza and Dylan Wagner, kept Palatine (0-2) in check just enough to keep getting field position for the offense. When Syzlak wasn't lighting up the night, quarterback Arek Kleniuk was, hitting 16 of 19 passes for 156 yards. Especially important was 24-yard touchdown toss to a leaping Jace O'Hara on the final play of the first half to finally give the Mustangs some breathing room in what had been a seesaw battle to that point.
"I thought Arek made some big plays," said Meadows coach Matt Mishler. "That play at the end of the first half was big.
"There was no panic," he noted of the team's halftime meeting -- both of them, actually, thanks to a 45-minute lightning delay midway through period two. "We were down 7-0, we responded. We were down 14-7, we responded."
They had to, especially early on, when Palatine quarterback Zac Garnmeister shredded them with TD passes to Jake Gronwick and Karan Singh and a 7-yard TD run of his own. But Meadows scored 29 points in a row after trailing 14-13 in the second quarter, propelled by Szylak's thunderbolts, appropriate on a night when there was lightning in the air.
But Meadows is not resting easy.
"There's still a lot to clean up," said Mishler, after his team lost two fumbles and surrendered some big plays to Palatine's offense, which may have discovered another quarterback in Joe Ayala, who hit 3 of 7 for 96 yards and a TD, including 65 yards to Luka Popovic.
But Meadows is ready to put in the work.
"We have to come out of the gate," said Szylak. "We need to be the tone-setter."