Super 25 football countdown: No 17 PalatinePalatine's Dan Jeske (57) celebrates Cam Kuksa's (10) touchdown run, Saturday, during first round class 8A playoff action VS. Proviso Werst at Palatine High School. | Dave Shields~For Suntimes Media.
Some teams hope to get better as the season goes along, but for Palatine that seems guaranteed.
The Pirates open at home on Aug. 24 against defending Class 5A champ Montini and won’t be at full strength. Star defensive back Jesse Bobbit, who has 15 career interceptions, is expected to be sidelined by a hip injury till the start of the Mid-Suburban West season, although there’s an outside chance he could be ready for Week 1. Two other mainstays, linebacker/running back John Serio and cornerback Dan Riddle, will sit out the opener for disciplinary reasons.
“That kind of puts a damper on the big picture,” coach Tyler Donnelly said
But once the Pirates – No. 17 in the Sun-Times’ preseason Super 25 – get everyone back, they could be in line for a special season.
Palatine has one of the more interesting offensive schemes around, using rotating quarterbacks and running backs partly to keep opponents guessing and partly to take advantage of its exceptional depth.
Serio, who has slimmed down from about 220 pounds to 205, could be even more effective running the ball in 2012. He rushed for 921 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior, while receiver/running back Cam Kuksa filled up the stat sheet with 594 yards and seven TDs rushing along with 30 catches for 437 yards and four scores. Ethan Olles, who went to Don Beebe’s throwing camp last winter, is yet another name in the quarterback mix.
Kuksa, who has grown from 5-foot-5 as a sophomore to 6-1 and 195 pounds, has been offered by Western Illinois and North Dakota and could see more recruiting interest as his senior tape is circulated. He embraces the Pirates’ offensive diversity, which can only help his own college chances as it makes the Pirates a more dangerous team.
“It’s a lot of fun when everyone gets the ball,” Kuksa said. “Everyone gets the chance to score, everyone gets the spotlight.”
Kuksa liked what he saw from his fellow veterans during summer workouts: “Our quarterbacks and receivers are more in touch, routes are sharper.”
The Pirates have plenty of impact players on the defensive side as well. Bobbit, who is 6-2 and 205 pounds, has offers from Western Illinois, Eastern Illinois and North Dakota along with interest from some bigger programs. “Wisconsin really liked him,” Donnelly said.
End Josh Baldus (6-5, 250) has an offer from Western Michigan and looks from other schools. Other key returners include nose guard Sam Miller, the linebacker trio of Serio, Lucas Rago (95 tackles) and Kevin Riggs, and Riddle (70 tackles) in the secondary.
The Pirates, who finished 9-2 last season, will be one of the more experienced teams around and their expectations reflect that.
“Their goals are extremely high,” Donnelly said. “It comes down to having a team concept.”