Huntley made too many late mistakes but Palatine made its own luck Saturday.
The Pirates broke open a Class 8A state playoff opener thanks to a pair of interceptions and two fumbles by the Red Raiders, all in the fourth quarter, winning 35-17 in Huntley.
“Huntley is a good team and they’re going to get yards,” Palatine senior linebacker Mikey Williams said. “But when opportunities present themselves we have to take advantage of them, and we did that.”
Huntley (8-2) trailed 25-7 at halftime but scored 10 points in the third quarter and trailed 25-17 to start the fourth. That’s when Palatine (8-2) grabbed the game’s momentum by the throat.
The Pirates recovered a dropped punt by the Red Raiders on Huntley’s 30-yard line, setting up an exclamation point with a lateral pass from quarterback Nick Orlando to wideout Matt Lamm.
Lamm then found Jovone Stricker in the end zone with a touchdown pass.
“We’ve practicing (the double pass) in practice but we never thought we’d use it,” Nick Orlando said.
“The offense came out a little slow in the second half but the defense got a couple turnovers and gave us some life. We were able to put some points on the board with the jet sweep and the double pass, so it was a good second half.”
Huntley skirted the red zone on its next possession but fumbled again to Palatine. The game’s back-breaking play came when Williams intercepted a pass on Huntley’s 12. Daniel Garcia ran in the TD on the ensuing Palatine snap for the final score.
Palatine’s Joshua Mackie had an interception near the Pirates’ goal line with roughly four minutes left to play.
Afterward, Huntley coach John Hart was left to analyze a fine third quarter for his Raiders, followed by a dismal fourth.
“We just made too many mistakes,” Hart said. “I thought we had them stopped in the second half before we stopped playing the disciplined ball we need to play to beat a really good football team.
“I think we’re as good as they are but they just played better.”
Palatine led 3-0 on Michael Hilmer’s field goal in the first quarter. Huntley traveled 67 yards on its next possession, capped by a 21-yard TD pass from Anthony Binetti to James Ambrose, but Palatine answered back quickly with an 80-yard scoring drive.
The Pirates’ Joey Roy capped that drive with a 53-yard pass reception for a touchdown, and then caught a 33-yard TD pass before halftime.
Huntley scored on its first possession after halftime behind some hard running from Casey Haayer, a 25-yard passing play on third down from Binetti to Brandon Altergott, and 1-yard rushing TD by Jacob Witt. Donnovan Young kicked a 42-yard field goal with time winding down in the third quarter.
That’s when Palatine’s defensive play and Huntley’s mistakes in the fourth decided the game’s outcome.
“We kept fighting and I’m most proud that we didn’t give up,” Hart said. “As many things as we had going against us we showed character in the fight. We just made some plays that just aren’t very disciplined. We made a few too many mistakes.”