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Photos by Ken and Diana Dado
Orland Park's Tyler Milani (18) follows teammates Jack Gentile (23), Zach Bateman (22) and John-Michael Scumaci (30) as they clear the way against Tinley Park.

 

PWA Pioneers take defensive struggle

Homecoming interception is sweet return for Egan

 

By Kevin McGavin

 
ORLAND PARK -- Justin Egan returned to the scene of the crime.
 
“Last year at Homecoming I had an interception,” the Orland Park Pee Wee A player said. “I came here thinking, ‘I’m going for the two-peat.’ ”
 
Tinley Park was deep in its own end after denying the Pioneers on fourth down early in the fourth quarter of a scoreless tie.
 
But Egan altered the complexity of the game on the Bulldogs’ first play from scrimmage after the fourth-down stop.
 
The safety stepped in front of a Tinley Park receiver and easily intercepted the pass to give the Pioneers ideal field position at the Bulldogs’ 12-yard line.
 
Zach Bateman broke the deadlock on the ensuing play with a 12-yard burst off right tackle, and the Pioneers' Pee-Wee A team went on to an 8-0 victory Saturday afternoon at the Humphrey Sports Complex.
 
“I couldn’t have done it without my quarterback (Luke Sefcik),” Bateman said. “There was a huge hole, and I just had to run it through the middle.”
 
It was the second win of the season against one loss for the Pioneers.
 
Bateman made another big play that more or less salted the game away. His 14-yard run gave Orland Park a first-and-goal with 63 seconds to play.
 
“I wanted this game — it’s Homecoming,” Bateman said.
 
Michael Walsh kept the Pioneers’ final drive alive two plays earlier with a clutch 11-yard reception on third and 11.
 
The lone score of the contest for the Pee Wee A division decided a game in which possessions were at a premium.
 
With essentially a continuously running clock, long drives almost consumed the entirety of the nine-minute quarters.
 
The Pioneers had promising drives on their two opening drives, but penalties were too much to overcome. A holding penalty on the Pioneers’ first trip with the ball and a false start on fourth-and-short stymied both drives.
 
“The momentum shifted back to Tinley Park at that moment,” Pioneers coach Jim Roche said. “We had the hold that hurt us.”
 
Sefcik and Walsh collaborated on a 16-yard reception to invade enemy territory on the opening drive.
 
But Sefcik was stopped a yard short on fourth down after a 10-yard run.
 
The Pioneers were back in business moments later after Mark Branigan and Brian Funk had tackles to deny the Bulldogs.
 
Orland Park, however, gave the ball back to the Bulldogs after Bateman fell short of the first-down marker on fourth down.
 

John-Michael Scumaci (30) and Michael Walsh (41) make the tackle as Brian Funk (5) looks to chip in in the Pioneers Homecoming victory.

 

Funk recorded a six-yard tackle-for-loss on the ensuing Tinley Park possession, and the Bulldogs’ time-consuming 10-play drive ultimately died with a punt.
 
With only seconds to play in the first half, Sefcik broke free for a 50-yard run as the second-quarter clock expired.
 
The play was emblematic of the Pioneers’ ball-control running game that would swing the game in the second half.
 
“Running the ball was good,” Roche said. “We hurt ourselves (in the first half with penalties).”
 
Prior to the game-changing Egan interception, Sefcik was sacked on fourth-and-goal at the Tinley Park 9-yard line.
 
The 22 members of the Pioneers’ Pee-Wee A team include: Nicholas Devos, Jacob Coleman, Elliot Cook, Connor Dixon, Danny Durkin, Jack Gentile, Robert Griffin, Andrew Messineo, Tyler Milani, Max Poda, James Roche, Nathan Rodriquez, John-Michael Scumaci, Dylan Sige, Matt Stubenfoll and Danny Witkowski.
 
The Pioneers' cheerleaders for the game were: Leilah Abdellatif, Alivia Achterhof, Leah Baker, Brooklyn Cooper, Carleigh Fountain, Maria Gonsch, Erin Haw, Abby Hilbring, Brianna Iraci, Haley Kolinski, Ella McDonald, Megan Murphy, Kendal Richter, Angelina Salaita, Kara Stevens, Nicole Tatar and Kristina Vasiljevic.
 
“I got involved (in cheerleading) through tumbling,” said Taylor Soffel, one of more than 160 girls who participated in the halftime festivities. “I love to tumble.”
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