Palatine denies Stevenson
Stevenson's offense took its shots.
When it mattered most, Palatine had all of the answers.
Three defensive red-zone stands and four turnovers told the story for the Pirates, which scored 14 unanswered second half points to knock off the Patriots 28-20 in Friday's non-conference opener.
“We were relentless,” said Palatine senior Johnny O'Shea, who grabbed one of 3 interceptions on the night for the Pirates. “We've been practicing a lot of goal-line situations. We just had to do it.”
Stevenson (0-1, 0-0) had the edge in the air and on the ground, but failed to capitalize.
It was a different story early in a seesaw first half.
The Patriots struck first on a seven-play opening drive. Anthony Sibo moved the chains with a run of 35, and then crossed the goal line from five yards out on his third carry. A missed point after attempt made it 6-0.
Palatine answered with a methodical series of runs and passes, using the speedy burst of Courtland Cornelius on a 22-yard run and a 30-yard screen pass from senior quarterback Zach Oles to set up a one-yard score from the signal-caller.
The Patriots climbed ahead on its third drive with a dose of Mike Marchese, who reeled in grabs of 45 and 12 — the latter for pay dirt — from Aiden O'Connell.
A defensive stand gave Stevenson an opportunity to extend its lead, but Palatine's Bryant Smith had other ideas intercepting a screen pass to place the Pirates in scoring position.
A 16-yard run from Oles led to a Josh Turner scamper from 4 yards to regain a 1-point lead.
O'Connell rebounded from the pick with two big throws on the following Stevenson drive. The senior touched Alex Capstick for a 14-yard gain before finding Noah Lukz with a 44-yard centerfield bomb putting the Pats in front for a third time.
A third forced punt gave the home team another shot at some breathing room before the half, but it was déjà vu all over again as a 14-play drive fell short in the end zone thanks to a Dylan Tapia interception which capped the half at 20-14.
The third quarter belonged to Turner.
Palatine's senior tailback took command on the squad's second drive of the second half with a 27-yard scamper to set up his own 1-yard score.
A costly fumble by Stevenson's Lucas Wax on the following Patriot drive returned the keys to Turner, who took a hand off from Oles and raced 90 yards to daylight to give Palatine a 28-20 lead.
“It was all our offensive line,” said Turner, who finished with 123 yards on 14 carries with three touchdowns. “I just ran the ball. They had a good week of practice. They blocked and I ran. I was feeling it.”
Stevenson drove the ball into scoring position twice in the closing minutes. O'Shea's pick spelled doom, but the Patriots received another break after forcing a late punt.
O'Connell moved the chains with a trio of connections and once on the ground, driving the Patriots within 3 of the goal line.
Another missed opportunity followed. Tight coverage in the secondary led to a decisive pair of incomplete passes to turn the ball over and hand the victory to Palatine (1-0, 0-0).
Statistically, the highly touted Oles delivered 65 yards and a first half score on the ground with 159 yards on 15 of 24 passing. Bryant Smith also tallied an interception for the Pirates.
For Stevenson, O'Connell was 24 of 44 for 325 yards with three picks and scoring strikes to Mike Marchese (6 rec., 103 yds) and Noah Lukz (2 rec., 62 yds.). Anthony Sibo added 138 yards on 11 carries with a first-half rushing touchdown.