A veteran and a rookie were headliners for the Patriots in their 26-24, season-opening win at Palatine Friday night.
The rookie was Aidan O’Connell, who had never played in a varsity game. After starting quarterback Jack Sorenson was injured on the Patriots’ first offensive play, O’Connell was thrown into action. The junior acquitted himself well, completing his first 11 passes and finishing the night 17-for-20 for 222 yards and three touchdowns. “We have a lot of faith in Aidan O’Connell,” said head coach Bill McNamara told the Daily Herald.
“He has great skills. He put the ball there and made some great plays. He showed a lot of character coming off the bench and playing like that.”
The veteran was senior running back Tyler Vincent, who scored two touchdowns in the first half to keep SHS in the game while it found its footing. Vincent scored on a 1-yard run after the Pirates took a 7-0 lead, then took a screen pass from O’Connell and ran it in from 46 yards out to take a brief 12-10 lead. He finished the night with 92 yards on the ground. “I knew I needed to run hard to take some pressure off of Aidan,” he told the Herald
. “So I ran harder and the line did a great job of opening holes for me.”
Palatine regained control at halftime, 17-12, but in the second half O’Connell took over. He completed 9-of-13 passes for 120 yards and two TDs, both to classmate Henry Marchese. They connected on a 48-yard pass play late in the third quarter to give Stevenson a 19-17 lead, then followed early in the fourth with an 11-yard TD to extend the lead to 26-17. "He has an incredible arm," Marchese told Pioneer Press
. "Jack goes down, and the young kid came up big. I'm happy for him."
Palatine scored with 2:35 remaining in the game to cut the deficit to 26-24, and got the ball back. But junior cornerback Piotr Niedzwiedzki preserved the win with an interception.
SHS will play host to Homewood-Flossmoor at 7:30 p.m. Friday, in a rematch of last year’s Class 8A state championship game. Photo: Brian O’Mahoney/Pioneer Press