When does a loss feel more like a win?
Ask anyone on the Palatine Pirates football team and they’ll tell you.
In its home opener Friday night, the Pirates hosted the Saint Charles NorthStars and gave the No. 4 ranked team in the state all it could handle before succumbing to last year’s Class 7A runner-up, dropping a 24-14 decision.
Determined to rebound from a 2018 season that saw just one victory, Palatine put the Stars in a 14-0 first- half hole. It left the visitors reeling late in the second half before St. Charles scored 24 unanswered the rest of the contest.
“It’s a part of who we are ... answering adversity,” said North Stars head coach Robert Pomazak. “We knew it would be a tough game tonight and we’re finding out who we are. I’m pleased with the team’s resiliency and the way they kept their heads.”
After a scoreless first quarter, junior running back Ronald Todd got the home team on the board 24 seconds into the second on a 15-yard run to put Palatine ahead 7-0.
Midway through the stanza, junior quarterback Joe Ayala found favorite target, senior Luka Popovic (3 catches, 101 yards, TD), in stride down the near sideline for a 60-yard pitch and catch to widen the lead to 14-0.
However, St. Charles showed why they are a force to be reckoned with once again, as they fed workhorse Nicholas DeMarco a steady diet of carries in the first (18-104-TD) half. The Stars got on the board with 1:39 left in the half on his 6-yard scamper to trim the deficit to 14-7 at the break.
After a quick 3-and-out by the Pirates to start the third quarter, St. Charles evened things up at 14-all with 7:20 remaining in the quarter when DeMarco scored his second TD of the game from a yard out.
Things stayed that way until the North Stars forged ahead with 10:21 in the fourth thanks to a 21-yard field goal by kicker Jack Dummer and DeMarco (34 carries, 155 yards, 3TDs) tacked on his trifecta with 4:25 to go as St. Charles dominated the time of possession battle in the final frame to earn a 24-14 victory.
“Nick is just a special kid and we’re going to lean on him...and our running back is going to be our strength while the passing game comes along,” said Pomazak.
Despite the loss, you could look all over the field and find not one Palatine player with his head down. Instead, they all seemed encouraged and proud that they just locked horns with one of the best teams in the state and went toe-to-toe with them to the very end.
“I think that’s what we were looking for, we wanted our kids to go out and play their butts off,” said Pirates head coach Corey Olson. “We told them we had to be in this game in the fourth quarter...we showed that we were a tough football team...we played well on both sides of the ball at different times, we just weren’t able to put it together at the same time.”
If Palatine plays the way they did on Friday night, the rest of the MSL West better watch out.