The slow start to the first round playoff game against the Niles West Wolves was not ideal for Palatine coach Tyler Donnelly.
With the score 7-7 and two turnovers for the Wolves in the first quarter, the Pirates responded by starting the second quarter with four unanswered touchdowns.
The next time the Wolves scored was at 1:42 in the second quarter making it 35-14, but it was too late for them to try and close the gap before the end of the half.
Right out of the gate, Pirates linebacker Lucas Rago caught an interception at 10:50 in the third, which led the way for Pirate Cam Kuksa to run a touchdown from two yards out, giving him his third touchdown of the game.
The Pirates continued to widen the score with quarterback Ethan Olles throwing his third touchdown pass to wide receiver Alex Nawrot, making it 49-14 at 6:49 in the third quarter.
At 5:02 in the third, the Wolves came alive with a touchdown by wide receiver Andrew Milhulet, making the score 49-21. The Pirates closed out the third quarter with a touchdown by running back Chaka Kelly, widening the gap again, to 56-21.
The Wolves took advantage of the Pirates sitting some of their starting defensive players out, and took the game to 56-35 by picking up a fumble and running it for a touchdown.
Both teams rallied back and forth, until the final score of 69-42, sending the Pirates to the second round of IHSA 8A playoffs against the Schaumburg Saxons.
According to Donnelly, there was some discussion on when to take the starters out, even with such a big lead.
"It kind of put us in a quandary of, do we keep them in with so much time left, but we made the decision that we're pulling them out. I didn't think they could catch us, and they didn't," he said.
The main focus was to keep all the players healthy for next week's game.
"We needed to get our kids to the second round, and last year one of our kids got a concussion by keeping him in too long, and we're not gonna make that mistake this time," Donnelly said.
Next week's game against the sixth-seeded Saxons will be a rematch-the second time Palatine will play Schaumburg this season. The last match-up was in week nine, when the Pirates beat the Saxons 51-18, and received the Mid-Suburban West title for the second year in a row.
When asked about the repeat match-up, Donnelly stated, "I'm sure they're not much different, and we're not much different, so there will be some adjustments … but the bottom line is who wants to move on to the quarter finals. I'm sure it'll be a very tight, close game, and it'll be a battle-I'm happy we're playing at home."