Palatine Pirates season in review

Sam Millstone, Reporter

The Palatine Pirates (4-5) took the Conant Cougars (6-3) in a marquee matchup for the last regular season game.

On Palatine’s senior night, the Pirates jumped out to an early 13-0 lead at halftime; junior running back Ronald Todd III rushed in for a touchdown and senior kicker Caleb Runge connected on two field goals.

As the second half started, both the Cougars and Pirates found themselves in a tight Mid Suburban League conference battle with a score of 20-13 with seven seconds to go in the game. Palatine secured the win with lockdown defense and a last second deflection on fourth down.

“Anytime you can end with a win it’s a good feeling and seniors can go out feeling good about it,” Corey Olson, PHS varsity football coach, explained the win versus Conant.

Todd III finished with 93 yards rushing on 22 carries.

The Pirates’ last game versus Conant marked the end of the senior’s high school football career. 

“The one thing that stuck out to me was that they were just a really resilient group of kids,” Olson praised his senior group. “Tough competitors and a group of kids that just wouldn’t give up. There’s about fourteen kids that got a ton of varsity experience this year that we’re returning.” 

Palatine’s junior quarterback Joe Ayala is one of the key returning players next season for the Pirates. With a lot of returning offensive and defensive starters, Palatine has the talent and experience to bring them back to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

Going against many tough teams and division one players, the Pirates saw a lot of skill this year on the opposing side of the ball. 

“Rolling Meadows had a tandem of defensive linemen,” Olson complimented a playoff Rolling Meadows team. “Those kids were tough to deal with.”

In a week two conference crossover game between the Mustangs and the Pirates, Palatine got down 21-0 in the first half of the game. Palatine battled back and cut it to 21-7 from a touchdown by Todd III off a 5-yard pass from Ayala. 

Ayala and the offense couldn’t get passed the Mustangs’ defense lead by Pedraza, only getting two first downs in the second half. The final score was 24-7, causing the Palatine Pirates to fall to 0-2.

Coming up short of the Illinois High School Association playoffs, Palatine’s tough schedule brought out the best in their team. In a few close games, Olson said that their week one matchup versus St. Charles North was one game he wishes they could get back. 

“I feel like the St. Charles North game was a very pivotal game for our season,” Olson said.

Palatine played St. Charles North in a close week one football game. In the Pirates season opener, Todd III rushed for a 16 yard touchdown followed by senior wide receiver Luka Popovic’s 59-yard pass from Ayala to put them up 14-0.  

Coming out of halftime with a 14-7 lead, the Pirates let the game start to slip away from them. “We didn’t keep it rolling offensively,” said Olson. 

St. Charles North scored 24 unanswered points and dominated Palatine in the second half to win 24-14. The North Stars’ defense shut out the Pirates after halftime.

When talking about some of Palatine’s best moments this year, the week four matchup versus Evanston was a big confidence booster for the Pirates. 

“It was a pretty long drought where we hadn’t won a football game so it was just really a good feeling to get back on the correct side of the win column,” Olson mentioned when talking about ending their losing streak dating back to last season. 

Palatine dominated the Wildkits from the start by scoring a 69 yard touchdown by Popovic. The Pirates went up 17-0 at halftime, and continued to score the ball and stop Evanston’s offense on the defensive end. Ayala threw 8-10 for 197 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 81 yards and scoring a touchdown. 

Popovic and Ayala combined for 176 yards and three touchdowns in their first win of the season, winning 30-0.

The Pirates had an impressive offense this year filled with many talented players.

Ayala finished the season with 11 passing touchdowns and  four rushing touchdowns. The junior quarterback also passed for 1,028 passing yards and rushed for 400 rushing yards. 

Popovic ended his last season the right way, finishing with 25 receptions, 838 yards, and six touchdowns.

Even though Palatine’s season didn’t extend into the playoffs, next year’s looking very good for the young football program. With a lot of returning players, Palatine has the pieces for what can be a very special season.