Defensive stands help Palatine upset No. 1 Maine South

  • Palatine's Mitch Larkin is tackled by Maine South running back Mike Sajenko and quarterback Rowan Keefe after intercepting a pass in a football game in Palatine Friday.

    Palatine's Mitch Larkin is tackled by Maine South running back Mike Sajenko and quarterback Rowan Keefe after intercepting a pass in a football game in Palatine Friday. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Palatine's Dom Ball gets past Maine South's Antonio Valdez in a football game in Palatine Friday, September 17, 2021.

    Palatine's Dom Ball gets past Maine South's Antonio Valdez in a football game in Palatine Friday, September 17, 2021. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Maine South's Mike Sajenko evades Palatine's Rocco Paddack in a football game in Palatine Friday, September 17, 2021.

    Maine South's Mike Sajenko evades Palatine's Rocco Paddack in a football game in Palatine Friday, September 17, 2021. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Maine South quarterback Rowan Keefe is sacked by Palatine's Daevion Farrow in a football game in Palatine Friday, September 17, 2021.

    Maine South quarterback Rowan Keefe is sacked by Palatine's Daevion Farrow in a football game in Palatine Friday, September 17, 2021. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Maine South's Mike Sajenko is tackled by Palatine's Mitch Larkin in a football game in Palatine Friday, September 17, 2021.

    Maine South's Mike Sajenko is tackled by Palatine's Mitch Larkin in a football game in Palatine Friday, September 17, 2021. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Palatine's Grant Dersnah looks downfield for a receiver against Maine South in a football game in Palatine Friday, September 17, 2021.

    Palatine's Grant Dersnah looks downfield for a receiver against Maine South in a football game in Palatine Friday, September 17, 2021. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
By Lou Nunez Jr.
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 9/17/2021 11:50 PM

Coach Dave Inserra and his AP Class 8A top-ranked Maine South squad made the trek north to Palatine Friday night to do battle with a schedule-tested host that sought to pull even on the season as the second week of crossover matches between the Central Suburban and Mid-Suburban Leagues took place.

From the get-go when the host Pirates unsuccessfully attempted an onside kick, the Hawks knew they'd be in for a fight.

 

A fight that saw both squads throw haymakers at each other until the final minutes of play when a pair of defensive stands allowed the home team to prevail 20-19 at Chic Anderson Stadium.

"I've never been more proud of this group of kids," an elated Palatine coach Corey Olson said. "(They're) just hometown Palatine kids. That's it. They're just football players. They don't have to be Division-I athletes. They don't have to be superstars."

Olson's unit (2-2) needed to respond from a 17-13 deficit at the start of the final 12 minutes of play when just 15 ticks in junior quarterback Grant Dersnah (15-20-157 yards) found fellow Pirate junior Nate Branch for a 24 yard TD toss that put them ahead to stay 20-17.

Then on Maine South's next possession, it drove to the Palatine 1 where senior Mike Sajenko was tripped up just shy of the goal line by a host of Pirates with 7:33 to play.

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The Hawks (3-1) would rebound by tackling Palatine's leading ball carrier, junior Dominik Ball (28 carries, 105 yards), in the end zone on the Pirates' next snap to pull within 20-19.

It then got one more chance with 1:49 left as it moved behind senior QB Rowan Keefe (23-37-233 yards) to the host school's 44 when his 37th pass found senior Kam Lewis at the Palatine 27 where he snared it and returned it 17 yards to seal the deal.

Lewis and his teammates on defense recognized their need to make a stand.

"They (Maine South) kept coming," Lewis said. "That is a (heck) of a team out there. We played to the battle. We played from start to finish. That's all we had to do. This is Palatine football."

As both teams begin divisional play next week, Olson credited his team's positive attitude as its rebounded from an 0-2 start.

"We've done it with tough kids and that's what you saw tonight -- tough kids making plays."

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