After watching a 14-0 first-half lead evaporate in last year's 28-21 loss to the visiting Palatine Pirates, the Schaumburg Saxons returned the favor this season by erasing a 14-3 first-quarter deficit to eke out a 30-29 rain-soaked road victory. With the win, they improve to 4-3 on the year.
"With everything going on out there tonight, it takes guts to stick around and stick to your game plan," said Saxons head coach Mark Stilling. "I'm real proud of our kids in terms of our resiliency tonight."
With inclement weather slated for the Palatine area and surrounding northwest suburbs all evening long, the school moved the start time up 30 minutes to 7p.m. following senior night ceremonies at Chic Anderson Stadium. Alas, mother nature would not be stopped.
Steady rains began to blanket the field shortly after Schaumburg's Heze Trotter scored on a fake punt on fourth-and-8 from the Pirates 39 yard line to give the visitors a 17-14 lead, their first of the night.
But resiliency would be a term that fit both teams, not just Schaumburg.
Trailing by three with less than two minutes to go until intermission, the Pirates showed no ill affects from their heartbreaking loss to Hoffman Estates just a week prior. Senior quarterback Zac Garnmeister hit sophomore Ronald Todd from 24-yards out to give Palatine a 21-17 halftime edge.
"The kids over there at Palatine played their tails off tonight," said Stilling. "I don't know if anyone deserved to lose that one, they certainly didn't."
With a steady deluge pounding the gridiron to start the third quarter, the Saxons mounted a drive into Pirates territory midway through the stanza. That is, until a 40-minute thunder delay halted the action and the field was evacuated for safety reasons.
When play did resume, Schaumburg continued its march and regained the lead on a 1-yard TD run by Marcus Ross to make it 23-21 with 4:38 left.
The score remained that way until the opening play off the fourth quarter. That's when Trotter took a Ross handoff and galloped 76 yards for the score to give the Saxons a bit of breathing room at 30-21 at the 11:49 mark.
Four minutes later, Palatine would not go away, as Todd (27 rushes, 209 yards, 3 total TDs) found the end zone on a 4-yard run to make it 30-27 with 7:34 remaining. The Pirates proceeded to tack on the 2-point conversion and it was 30-29.
Then things got really interesting.
Needing a big stop on defense, Palatine, who came in last in yards allowed and points allowed in the MSL West, stopped the Saxons dead in their tracks to get the ball back at its own 24 with 2:39 to go.
The Pirates (1-6), behind some clutch throws by Garnmeister and tough runs by Todd, managed to get to the Schaumburg 10 with 30 seconds to go. When a 27-yard field goal attempt went wide left, it looked to be a wrap.
However, the Saxons were hit with a roughing the kicker penalty that gave them a second chance, this time from 22 yards away, to take the lead.
The Saxons would not be deterred, though. Appearing to time the rush perfectly, Trotter managed to partially block the attempt and preserve the win for the Saxons.
"We talked about being a warrior this week in practice." said Trotter. "When things weren't going our way, to step up and make big plays … we had guys like Michael Dan, Mikey DiGioia and Joel Routhowski going both ways tonight, being warriors and we were able to finish the game. I'm just happy I was able to make the play for the team tonight."
For Stilling's troops, the victory puts the team just one win away from postseason eligibility and ended a two-game losing streak.
"When we needed big stops and needed big plays, the defense stepped up huge," Stilling said. "Season's on the line, obviously a huge win for us tonight … it wasn't perfect from an execution standpoint, but physically, I thought our kids battled out there."