Anyone who has watched the Palatine Pirates play this year knows full-well that they are no No. 23 seed.
But that's the hand they were dealt to start the Class 8A playoffs, as the Pirates were paired with the 10th-seeded South Elgin Storm in the first round.
Playing near-perfect football for 48 minutes on both sides of the ball, Palatine upended South Elgin 24-3 at Millennium Field in Streamwood on Saturday to advance to the second round of the playoffs, looking every bit like a 1-seed.
"Our football team, as we talk about, is playing our best in October," said Pirates head coach Corey Olson. "And that's what we do traditionally at Palatine, keep getting better and better."
Palatine got its lone score of the half with 2:23 left in the first quarter when Jack Orlando waltzed into the end zone untouched for an 8-yard TD run and put the Pirates up 7-0.
Orlando and the rest of Palatine's stable of running backs rushed for a combined 198 yards on the day behind an offensive line that consistently won the battle in the trenches.
"We switched some things up today, we ran inside, we ran outside," said Olson. "We used a lot of motion and controlled the line of scrimmage, which we anticipated doing and our ball carriers did a great job too."
"Our O-Line is probably the hardest working group at practice," added Orlando. "They hit full speed all week and are the most prepared come gamed."
Clinging to a 7-0 in the second quarter, the Storm, led by senior standout quarterback Nate Gomez, marched down to the Pirates 1-yard line and looked as though they would tie the game. But the Pirates D dug deep and forced a field goal try to hold on to a slim 7-3 advantage midway through the stanza.
Late in the quarter, South Elgin, a team averaging almost 39 points per game coming into the contest, drove into Palatine territory again looking for the go-ahead score. That was quickly squashed when defensive lineman Bryant Smith pounced on a Pierre Toussaint fumble to preserve a 7-3 halftime edge.
"They played lights out today," Olson said of the defense. "They flew to the ball and it was just a nasty, physical game today."
The three points allowed by Palatine was South Elgin's lowest point total of the season. And now the Pirates can boast that it has held Barrington (No. 2 seed), Maine South (No. 5 seed) and South Elgin (No.10 seed) to their lowest outputs of the year.
Palatine received the third quarter kickoff and promptly played smash mouth football, as it engineered an 8-minute, 17 second drive, setting up a Caleb Runge 19-yard field goal to give the visitors a 10-3.
More than enough cushion for the Pirates, who were on offense for 9:47 of the third quarter.
"It's important that we won the possession game today," said D.J. Angelaccio. "It kept their stars off the field, and ours on. "And if you do that, you're going to win 100 percent of the time."
Angelaccio (10 rushes, 42 yards, TD) lengthened the Pirates lead when he found pay dirt from 6 yards out with 9:12 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Later in the frame, running back Marcus Stoudemire (14 rushes, 77 yards, TD) put the finishing touches on the Palatine masterpiece with an 8-yard TD run with 3:56 remaining to give the Pirates a 24-3 lead.
It was the fifth victory on the road for a Pirates team that has yet to lose away from home. They will host Edwardsville next week in Palatine.
If Palatine plays the way they did Saturday afternoon, the Tigers could be in for a long day.
"We keep it nice and simple and we play fast," said Olson. "That's what we pride ourselves in on both sides of the ball, being tough."