Palatine wins turnover battle, beats Barrington

SHARE Palatine wins turnover battle, beats Barrington
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BARRINGTON — Football coaches, from the lowest levels of pee-wee all the way up to the NFL, stress protecting the ball on offense and taking it away on defense.

The team that wins the turnover battle more often than not also wins the game. Dominate the statistic, and the percentages tilt even greater in your favor.

On Friday night, visiting Palatine took the ball away twice and never gave it up, allowing the Pirates to upset the No. 15 Broncos, 24-14. The tough defense, along with a big offensive play in the fourth quarter, helped clinch the Mid-Suburban West title for Palatine.

“We always stress taking the ball away,” Pirates coach Rick Splittt said, smiling from ear to ear despite shivering after his players dumped water over his head as the clock hit zero. “It sparks everything, that’s the game of football. You have to piggyback off each other.”

Down 14-0 early in the second quarter, Splitt opted not to make any major adjustments. Instead he just told his players to just go out and play hard-nosed Palatine football.

His players responded with big plays. The first came from linebacker Vincent Serio, who forced a fumble following a 15-yard Barrington gain. The change of possession turned into Palatine points, as Christopher Cornelius scored on a 4-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit in half.

Two plays into Barrington’s next drive, the Pirates’ defense stepped up again, with linebacker Dillon McHugh intercepting Barrington quarterback Johnny Davidson. Cornelius again turned the turnover into points, scoring from 11 yards out to tie the game.

In the second half, the impact plays kept coming for the Pirates (6-2, 4-0). The team’s defense kept the Broncos stuck in neutral, forcing punt after punt, just waiting for their offense to capitalize.

Eventually it did, when quarterback Nicholas Orlando hit Jovone Stricker for a 56-yard touchdown with 8:31 in the fourth quarter. Stricker had single coverage down the middle of the field, and Orlando put the ball where only his receiver could catch it.

“It was a ‘Go’ route. I just thought ‘I got to beat him, catch it and just run,’ ” Stricker said. “It was awesome.”

The Broncos (7-1, 3-1) had more chances to tie it, but as it had done all game long, the Palatine defense locked down. Davidson was pressured all game long, and a long Pirates drive that ended with a field goal with only 3:19 remaining essentially clinched the game and conference victory.

“This was the biggest game I’ve been a part of,” McHugh said. “The defense locked down and the offense did what it needed to do. It was a great game.”

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