Dugo, Conant score big win over Palatine

By Bill Esbrook
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 10/1/2021 11:30 PM

Giuseppe Dugo looked like he was headed for the sidelines.

The Conant quarterback was leading his team down the field in the final minute of Friday's game at Palatine, with the Cougars trailing by just 1 point.


And with about 30 seconds left and his team at the Palatine 36-yard line, Dugo took the ball from center and swept to left.

It looked for certain that he would race out of bounds to stop the clock and set the Cougars up for a possible game-winning field goal attempt.

Instead, Dugo deked a defender and raced down the sidelines, breaking a couple of tackles and eluding a couple others to score and give Conant the lead.

The Cougars survived a final barrage from Palatine in the last 20 seconds to win 39-32 in the Mid-Suburban West.

"He's about the savviest football player I've ever coached," said Conant coach Bryan Stortz of Dugo. "I think he knew what he was doing -- he was going to get out of bounds, but he set the guy (a Palatine defender) up, like he was going to -- but then he cut it back. Just a tremendous play.

"This is a huge win for our program and our school."

It was an extremely tough Homecoming loss for Palatine, which twice rallied from 14 points down, the second time in the latter stages of the fourth quarter to take the lead.

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"It's always tough losing any game but particularly a conference game," said Pirates coach Corey Olson. "It's unfortunate, but I will credit Conant. They came ready to play and did a great job.

"Dugo played his heart out and he got the better of us. I've got a lot of respect for him."

Conant scored on the first play of the game, a 65-yard run by senior Ryan Kutella.

The Cougars added on in the first half on a 28-yard Dugo pass to Lennon Johnson, a 72 yard toss to Kutella, and a Gracie Rodriguez field goal -- while Palatine countered with 2 rushing TDs, the second a 54 yarder by Thomas Coroneos.

Conant led 24-17 entering the wild and woolly fourth quarter and extended the lead on a 17-yard run by Dominic Mininni.

But Palatine fought back with 2 touchdowns, the final one (a 2-yard plunge by senior Bobby Widlowski), bringing the Pirates to within 31-30 with 2 minutes left pending the extra point.


Palatine was going to go for 2 points to take the lead, thought better of it, and sent out the kick team -- but the snap was botched and the ball bounced crazily at the 15-yard line.

"All of our coaches, you could ask 'em, were going 'yes, yes' when they botched the snap," said Stortz, "but I was going 'no' -- I wasn't comfortable, because I thought someone could pick it up and run it in."

The coach proved to be right on, as Widlowski picked up the bouncing ball and ran in to the end zone past several Conant defenders to give Palatine a 32-31 lead, and what looked to be a come-from-behind win.

Then came Dugo's heroics, and the QB also converted his own 2-point conversion to put Conant up by a touchdown.

Palatine fair caught the ensuring kickoff on its 35, and a long pass by Pirates quarterback Grant Dersnah brought the ball to the Conant 32 with 13 seconds remaining.

The Pirates had 3 shots at the end zone but each pass fell incomplete, with Conant's Colin Angelos helping to break up the final pass at the goal line as the horn sounded.

"This was a special win, the way our kids had to respond to adversity," said Stortz. "We had our starting left guard go out in the middle of the game, and we were already down a lineman.

"A lot of our kids really picked up the slack today. We made some in game adjustments, and the way our kids battled and never gave up, that's a sign in our program that you want and our kids fought their tails off."

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