In the end, Palatine has a 'Ball' in first-round playoff win

 
By Dick Quagliano
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 10/30/2021 5:30 PM

It took a little while, but Palatine finally had a Ball.

Trailing 17-14 in the third quarter, Palatine began leaning heavily on Dominick Ball. The junior running back didn't disappoint, running for 124 yards and a touchdown in the period as the Pirates rallied for a 35-17 win over host Taft in the opening round of the Class 8A playoffs.

 

Palatine (7-3), which is seeded 19th, will host third-seeded Neuqua Valley (9-1) next weekend in the second round, most likely on Saturday.

Ball, who finished with 171 yards on 18 carries, said he was ready to play from the get-go.

"We started off really good," Ball said. "We got a little sloppy. We got it all together and the line started blocking. If the line is blocking, I can run. I just wanted to win. I didn't want to go home."

Palatine coach Corey Olson said he wanted Ball and his offensive line of Tony Muchado, Jack Conforti, Israel Juarez, Jhermari Mabry and Kieran Maude, who was back from an injury, to take things over. They did just that.

"We just kind of simplified things," Olson said. "We needed to block better and tackle better and give them a heavy dose of Dom Ball. We know they had a bunch of guys going both ways, so we knew we had to get back to the ground game and wear them out."

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Palatine looked like it had 14th-seeded Taft (7-3) on the ropes early.

After a Taft punt actually went negative yards and a couple of runs by Ball, Bobby Widlowski scored on a 7-yard run. The Pirates followed that up with a 65-yard touchdown pass from Grant Dersnah to Thomas Coroneous to make it 14-0 early in the second quarter.

Taft then dug deep and that got the Eagles flying. They got a 1-yard touchdown run by Jacob DeJesus and then a 3-yard touchdown pass from Barah Abad (18-of-34, 187 yards) to Steven Tantchev just before the end of the half to tie the game at 14.

Taft took the lead early in the third quarter on a field goal. But falling behind changed things for the Pirates.

"We got together and we talked on how this could be our last game," said Widlowski, who led the defense and would later score a 1-yard touchdown to put Palatine up for good.

"But we came together. There was no reason to let up. If we fight, we were going to win this game."

Ball, who helped drive the Pirates down the field for the go-ahead touchdown, put an exclamation mark on it. After a defensive stop, he raced 62 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-17.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Palatine's Kam Lewis put the game away when he returned an interception 23 yards for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.

"I just had to break on the ball when the quarterback threw the ball," Lewis said. "I made a play on it and took it back."

Widlowski then put the final stamp on the victory. His conversion kick went over the fence to the stadium, cleared Bryn Mawr Avenue and landed on the entrance ramp to the Kennedy Expressway before bouncing onto the expressway itself. Later he would intercept a pass with just over a minute left to end Taft's upset hopes.

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