Palatine takes down Schaumburg
A prideful and pugnacious Palatine unit made its way down to Schaumburg Friday night, having resurrected its campaign with a home shutout of Hoffman Estates the week before.
It, like the host Saxons, still entertained both MSL West title hopes, and for the Pirates, a mathematical chance at earning a playoff spot. Through a chain of events unfolding during the final two weeks of divisional play, Palatine could earn the automatic bid through a potential three- or four-way tie at the top of the standings, something only possible with the Pirates winning their final two games.
While Palatine took care of its business by downing Schaumburg 22-9, wins by Barrington and Fremd eliminated both of those chances, as well as quashing the Saxons' postseason hopes.
"We talked about winning the offensive and defensive line trenches up front," Palatine coach Corey Olson said. "We were able to run the ball well tonight and open up some more passing lanes. Then, we slowed down their running (game) and forced them to have to throw the football. That's the recipe for success for us."
The Pirates (3-5, 2-2) established early control of the contest on their opening possession when they took advantage of a short field by driving 48 yards in 11 plays to set up senior Caleb Runge for a successful 24-yard field goal that put them in front 3-0 with 5:51 left in the opening period.
Palatine then withstood a tying field goal by Roberto Sanchez with 5:04 left before the break (39 yards) that got its start from a Tony Rofrano interception of a Joe Ayala pass at the Pirate 40-yard-line. Ayala returned the pick 16 yards.
Ayala (8 of 14, 176 yards) would brush that interception off by directing a 5-play, 75- yard drive that junior tailback Ronald Todd finished off with a 24-yard run that put Palatine ahead 10-3 with 2:38 left until halftime. A 30-yard connection to Luka Popovic laid the foundation for Todd's score.
Palatine then proceeded to put a hammerlock on the game with Ayala's 80-yard strike to Alex Clue on their opening series of the second half, making it 16-3 only 51 seconds into the third.
Todd (18 carries, 77 yards) added a 1-yard scoring run for Palatine's final points of the night with 41 seconds gone in the fourth. It was Todd's second score of the night.
Meanwhile, the Palatine defense put the wraps on the Schaumburg attack, holding it to only 72 of its 178 yards of total offense in the second half.
Only a 35-yard scoring strike from Kyle Jessie to Isaiah Garcia with 6:35 remaining kept the Saxons (3-5, 1-3) from being denied a trip to pay dirt.
Olson credited his defense that includes seven juniors in the starting lineup along with four seniors for their effort.
"We're getting good play from our younger guys," he said.
Olson also took the moment to pay homage to his senior class.
"This is a great group of seniors. I couldn't be prouder of them than I am now," he said.
"We've played some close football games that we came out on the wrong end of on a couple of them, and our kids kept fighting and believing. We're ready to play another football game."
That game will be a home date vs. Conant that will mark the final game in the school's scarlet and gray colors for 33 Pirate seniors, including offensive lineman Brian Fernandez.
"It's a blessing to be with these guys," Fernandez said. "They're basically my family. They rile me up. We fight like a family, we love like a family, and we'll fight for each other until that very last whistle."