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Palatine's Ethan Olles looks for an open receiver against Schaumburg. Stacia Timonere~For Sun Times Media
It may not come as a surprise, considering the way Palatine’s season has gone, that Ethan Olles’ favorite player is Tom Brady.
“He’s always so relaxed,” Olles said of his fellow quarterback. “He takes complete control of the offense. His mechanics are outstanding.”
Olles has shown pretty good composure himself as the Pirates have remade their offense on the fly this season and still stayed on a roll. Palatine opened the season with a wild 40-37 overtime loss to Montini in which the Pirates — missing three suspended starters — lost two more key players to injury and rallied from a 21-0 deficit to take the lead.
One of the standouts the Pirates lost in that game was Cam Kuksa, who suffered a broken ankle that sidelined him till last month. It also changed Palatine (10-1) from a run-oriented team to one that leaned on Olles’ passing.
“Our plans blew up in our face,” Pirates coach Tyler Donnelly said. “If Kuksa were healthy, we would run the ball more.”
Instead, Palatine — which plays at Loyola (10-1) at noon Saturday in a Class 8A quarterfinal — has gone all-in with a quick-strike passing game.
Olles has completed 233 of 359 passes (65 percent) for 3,041 yards and 27 touchdowns with 10 interceptions, breaking the school single-season yardage record set by 1997 USA Today Illinois Player of the Year Jeff Hecklinski.
There’s enough credit, as well as enough passes, to go around, according to Olles.
“A lot of things contribute to that,” the 6-2, 185-pounder said. “Receivers breaking big gains, offensive linemen making me feel comfortable in the pocket.”
Olles’ emergence also has pretty much meant the end of Palatine’s recent habit of lining up multiple players at quarterback over the course of the game, some to run, some to throw, some to hand off.
“The question was always going to be, ‘Who’s our quarterback going to be?’ ’’ Donnelly said, a query that doesn’t come up anymore now that Olles has taken charge.
“He worked on his mechanics all winter long, he invested a lot of time in the weight room,” the coach said.
It’s all paid off for a quarterback, who like the guy he looks up to, just keeps on winning and winning. In three seasons at the sophomore and varsity level, Olles is unbeaten in conference games (there was one tie in sophomore play).
For all those wins, it’s that Montini game that sticks in his mind.
“I’m always going to remember the one loss because it was so close,” Olles said.
And because what the comeback demonstrated.
“It really showed ... how our kids don’t give up,” Olles said. “We keep fighting. After that game I realized what kind of character we have.”