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Undefeated Orland Park wins championship

By Ed Muniz

 

A perfect season equaled 12 wins for the 12-year-olds who made up the Orland Park Pioneers lightweight "B" team. That final victory was the big one. It gave the Pioneers the title of the Southwest Midget League Lightweight “B” Division.

Orland Park topped the Homer Stallions 24-6 on Nov. 9 at Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox.

The Pioneers, led by head coach and ex-Vanderbilt University offensive guard Mark Mikesell,, dominated teams in 2013, much like Southeastern Conference teams do today in the NCAA. The matchup against Homer was a repeat from earlier in the season. The result was the same, but this time the Pioneers had a much tougher time.

“They were the best team we played all year,” said Mikesell. “They’re a very good team and came out to play. We had a hard time; we changed a couple things with the O-line at half time and just kept coming at them.

“We decided to run the ball more inside and avoid them outside as they stacked it good. We had an undefeated season and can’t do better than that.”

Mikesell also credited the Pioneers perfect season on the way his team played as a unit.

“We have some studs on the team, guys that you could always count on, but every player added something and it was like that all year,” he said.

The final score really didn’t indicate how close the game was. The Pioneers led 8-0 at half and for the first time all season were tested. Homer clearly remembered an earlier 38-16 loss at the hands of Orland Park.

The Homer defense, led by Camden Crowley, Bo Hamlin and Ryan Michalowski, held off the highly explosive Pioneer running game early.  It wasn’t until late in the first quarter that Orland Park running back Austin Hubert raced 23 yards nearly untouched for the opening score. The kicking talent of Jack Brannigan made the lead 8-0.

After the initial score neither team could generate much offense. The defenses and Mother Nature’s wind kept the score low.

An injury to starting Homer running back Dominik Siusinskas forced the Stallions to go to the air. The power runner made some good gains on the ground prior to his injury.

Quarterback Baylor Fernandes showed a strong arm but his teammates couldn’t find the handle on many of his tosses.

“It was a little frustrating but we had to keep trying. We did a lot better on offense this time, but they are a good team,” said Fernandes.

The Stallions quarterback completed 6-of-19 passes for 62 yards. His numbers could easily have been better from his accurate, strong passes.

For Orland Park, linebacker Patrick Nolan was the standout on defense. He had a knack for being wherever the ball was, or was going to be. He didn’t let the bigger Homer runners get much. Nolan led the Pioneers with eight solo tackles.

“If they came outside, I went outside, if they came in, I sat back and waited. Taking them off me and getting through just worked a lot today,” Nolan said. “The first half was tough but second half we put it all out there and tried our hardest. It worked.”

The second half was quite a different game for both teams. While Orland Park used big plays on offense, Homer went to its ground game and pounded the ball. Led by the running of Bo Hamlin, the Stallions had more plays than Orland Park.

The Pioneers received the second half kickoff. On the fifth play, Hubert broke off the team’s first big play. He outran the pursuing Stallions defense for 32 yards and his second score. Again Brannigan added the extra point for a 16-0 lead.

The dual running attack of Mark Fassler and Hubert gave the Pioneers 32 and 54 yards rushing, respectively.

Two plays after the ensuing kickoff, Orland Park came up with its second big play, and Hubert was in the middle of it again. He intercepted a Fernandes pass and returned it 55-yards for his third touchdown of the game. Brannigan’s kick upped the score to 24-0 and appeared to emotionally deflate several Homer players.

“We didn’t have very good blocking much of the first half, but after that we packed it in, and that’s how I started doing good,” said the modest MVP Hubert. “Those guys played some really good defense and were ready, but we just needed to get our blocking down, and we did.”

Orland Park’s defense, as a whole, stepped up its pressure. Cameron Weldon, Jake Dado, Ben Starcevich and Fassler made any Stallion runner struggle.

Despite the deficit, Homer fought back and never quit. The resulting plays included a set of key catches. The combo of Fernandes and Logan Strutz connected three times on plays that included a 33-yard bomb, and the Stallions' lone touchdown on an eight-yard pass.

Fernandes was awarded his team’s game ball MVP. The quarterback threw a touchdown pass in nearly all of his team’s 11 games this season.

“I thought we did so much better than the previous time we played them, they took it to us last time,” said Homer head coach Mike Moorman Jr.  “Our guys never gave up. Their three or four big plays were the difference but that’s how it is, other than that we hung in there.

“That’s a very good football team they have and with the running game and studs they have, I’m proud of what we did. Unfortunately losing a key player forced us to throw but you know what, we did pretty well against a very good team. I really enjoyed coaching these kids as did all my coaches; they played very hard to the end. This was a special season.”

Moorman thanked his coaching staff for its time and effort. The group included Mike Moorman Sr., Jeff Jarzynka, John Cielenski, Dan Kozrya, Brian Burdette, Carmen Maurella, Mikey Moorman III and Nicky Moorman

Other Stallions players who contributed a great effort in the championship game included Garret Golob, Cody Betourne, Karol Biedrzycki, Pepi Gosselin, Andrew Balderrama, Brandon Stomp, Patrick Peters, Drew Lewis, Vincent Palade, Andrew Milewski, Nick Stricker, Michael West and Billy Lawer.

Orland Park also had important contributions in their undefeated season from Tristan Stefanos, Hayden Mikesell, Alex Lalezas, Domenic Zaccone, Brian Donlevy, Ryan Leland, Ibraheem Affaneh, William Wirt,  John Pappas, Malik Abdallah,  Jimmy Slecta, Alexander Abdellatif and Trevor Ward. The Pioneer coaches included John Stefanos, Pete Lalezas, Pat Nolan and Ken Dado.


 
 

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