Special nights call for special performances.
They got one Thursday night at Fremd. From Palatine's Cam Kuksa, Ethan Olles, an offensive line that never let up and a defense that stifled Fremd's every offensive thrust in a 28-7 Pirate win in the Mid-Suburban West.
While the win kept Palatine (6-1, 3-0) in first place, it forced Fremd into a must-win situation for its last two games to even sniff a 17th straight playoff berth. And it came on a night when the Vikings honored their retiring head coach of 19 years, Mike Donatucci, with a special plaque presentation and visits from prominent former players before his final regular-season home game.
The moment was not lost on Palatine, even in its sixth straight victory.
"It's an honor to beat Donatucci. He's one of the greatest coaches of all time," said Pirate center Dan Jeske, who helped his team to a 302-yard rushing effort.
That stat alone shows Palatine's dominance. The Pirates ran more plays, controlled the clock and got a huge 45-yard TD jolt from Kuksa (16 carries, 162 yards) in the third quarter to really secure things.
"Cam really broke it open with that run," Jeske continued. It made the score 28-7 with just 38 seconds left in the third and completed Palatine's dominance. The air went out of the Fremd bench and stands with that score.
"Our offensive line was amazing," said tailback John Serio, who rushed for 65 tough yards and made his share of plays on defense.
Donatucci, on his special night, didn't quite see it that way. "We gave them two touchdowns," he lamented after the game, especially in the first half when the Vikes got beat for a 43-yard pass from Olles (8-for-14, 102 yards) to Alex Nawrot that set up touchdown No. 1 for Kuksa from 3 yard. Touchdown No. 2 came with just 3.2 seconds left in the half, when tight end Jesse Bobbit got himself into good position at the goal line to haul in an 18-yard bullet from Olles.
Palatine carried the momentum into the second half and scored on a nearly six-minute drive of 76 yards when Olles rolled in from the 3. There was only one pass in the 15-play drive. Kuksa's 45-yarder followed to close the scoring.
Fremd's only score came in the second quarter when sophomore quarterback Sam Beutler hit Josh Jyawook from 25 yards out with a perfect ball in the back in the end zone midway through the period.
After the spanking from Palatine, the emotion of the moment was lost on Donatucci. "We have 14 days left to get two wins," he said of making the playoffs. His team stands at 3-4 overall and 1-2 in the division.
Palatine, meanwhile, was still realizing the significance of the moment.
"It was amazing to beat Fremd at Fremd for the first time in 14 years," Serio said.
"We played pretty well. the O-line kept blocking the whole game. It was a big one. It was awesome." Kuksa said.