Palatine grinds out victory against cross-town rival Fremd

With Fremd and Palatine high schools being situated on opposite sides of the train tracks in Palatine, the football rivalry has been referred to as the "Battle of The Tracks."

After Friday's Mid-Suburban League West game, the visiting Pirates (4-2, 2-0) stayed on track for a third straight state playoff berth with a 24-10 triumph over the host Vikings (1-5, 0-2), who were celebrating Homecoming night.

Behind the offensive line of senior Ryan Kick, junior Frank Stark, junior Parker Brault, sophomore Evan Downer and sophomore Tony Balanganayi, the Pirates scored on their first drive, going 80 yards in 10 plays. The highlight was a 37-yard pass from Tommy Elter to Tyson Moorer that set the ball up at the 1-yard line for Kole Fager's 1-yard run with 6:51 left.

It was Fager's first of three TDs. Alek Huyser's kick made it 7-0.

Palatine's Julien Bey recovered a fumble at the Fremd 49 with 4:38 left in the first quarter and the Pirates reached the end zone in 13 plays, capped by Fager's 2-yard TD run with 9:33 left in the second quarter.

The Pirates took advantage of another turnover in the final minute of the half when Rufus Clark recovered a fumbled punt at the Fremd 35-yard line.

With 7.4 seconds left, Huyser booted a 47-yard field goal to make it 17-0 with 7.4 seconds left.

"We were able to force a couple of fumbles there," said Palatine coach Corey Olson. "They're a tough football team. They didn't roll over. They played us tough the whole game. We had to earn everything."

Fremd opened the second half by marching from its own 20 to the Palatine 4-yard line behind linemen Stathi Regopoulos, Carter Smith, Michael Varon, Alex Miller and Tyler Menis. The drive ended with Camerion Williams 21-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 17-3 with 6:21 left in the third quarter.

Palatine answered right back, going 70 yards for its third TD. Dominik Ball's 23-yard run was the big play, getting the Pirates to the Fremd 25.

Fager carried for most of the yardage the rest of the way, including his third TD, a 6-yard burst to make it 24-3 with 11:18 left in the game.

"Our game plan was just to grind the ball," said Ball, who had 19 of the Pirates' 32 rushes for 83 yards. "As soon as they collapsed on that, we got the ball to other guys. It was just an all-around good game."

Fremd got to within 24-10 with 7:31 left when QB John O'Brien fired an 8-yard pass to Davyn Kuhl, capping an 11-play, 80-yard drive. O'Brien completed 24 passes, 11 to Brennax Saxe, 7 to Marquan Brewster and 4 to Kuhl.

But the Pirates defense rose to the occasion in the final seven minutes. Pirates defensive end Filip Rolek's big quarterback pressure caused a hurried throw on a big third-down stop with 5:25 left.

"The biggest key was the whole defense doing its singular job," Rolek said. "All of us were one of 11 players on defense. We all just have to do our jobs and it will play out in our favor. That's what we've learned the last couple of years."

"Fortunately for us, defensively we made them earn everything rather than giving up the big plays," Olson said. We talked about that this week: keeping the ball in front of us, stifle the run game and control the line of scrimmage on both sides. But tip your hat to them. Out of all the teams we've met they probably played our run game as tough as anyone. Credit to my seniors. They win games for you and they did."

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