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Photos by Ken and Diana Dado
Luke DeVito, center, of the Orland Park Pioneers Blue 10-11 team looks for room to run as the Oak Forest defense closes in on him.
 

Pioneers fall short
against Oak Forest

Run to daylight ends with game-changing tackle

By Kevin McGavin

ORLAND PARK -- Stephan Sullivan saw nothing but daylight.

The Orland Park Pioneer 10-11 division football team was pinned deep in its own end late in the first half against Oak Forest Saturday afternoon at the Humphrey Sports Complex.
 
Sullivan, the Pioneers’ tailback, ripped through a gaping hole up the middle and sprinted as hard as he could. Midfield was soon crossed, and the end zone was in sight.
 
But the fifth-grader was denied the ultimate prize when an Oak Forest defender violently tackled him from behind after the 71-yard run.
 
“I saw him right behind me,” Sullivan said after his Pioneers dropped a 12-0 decision to the Raiders in Orland Park.
 
Sullivan had the longest play from scrimmage of the Southwest Junior Midget Football League game with the run that came two plays after the Pioneers stopped the Raiders on fourth and goal.
 
“I ran as fast as I could,” Sullivan said. “I didn’t think I could (score).”
 
The Pioneers’ defense was tested all day by Oak Forest's retro wishbone offense.
 
“The fact that it was 0-0 going into the fourth quarter was a heck of an effort by the boys,” Orland Park coach Paul Stefanos said.
 
Oak Forest held the Pioneers out of the end zone after the long Sullivan second-quarter run to maintain the scoreless tie at halftime.
 
Stephen Sullivan (71) wraps up Oak Forest's running back as Ryan Noonan (78) looks on in the Pioneers' Homecoming game.
 
Oak Forest received the second-half kickoff and proceeded to milk almost the entire nine minutes off the third quarter clock with its deliberate style of play.
 
Sullivan and Jack Harty registered a pair of tackles each during the Raiders’ extended third-quarter drive. Harty had one tackle five yards behind the line of scrimmage to help negate back-to-back double-digit gains by Oak Forest.
 
Harty and Alanas Linge teamed to stop the Raiders’ drive, but the resulting spot on the field would become a central story line.
 
The adage of football being a game of field position would haunt the Pioneers in the second half.
 
“We were pinned inside of the 10-yard line for most of the game,” Stefanos said.
 
Orland Park began its final drive as a tied game from its own 9-yard line. Sullivan, Connor Crotty and Angelo Citarella combined for four-straight carries, but the Raiders’ defense held to turn the ball over on downs.
 
Oak Forest quarterback Calvin Winfield needed only one play to break the gamelong deadlock, hitting Brant Kirby with an 11-yard touchdown reception.
 
“At some point, something is going to break,” Stefanos said. “At this age you don’t see much passing. That late in the game it is hard to recover.”
 
The Pioneers’ desperate plight only worsened with a fumble on the kickoff.
 
Oak Forest's Brandan Edelan iced the game with a five-yard touchdown run with 64 seconds to play.
 
Contributing to the Pioneers' solid effort were: Luke Stefanos, Jonah Hladish, Ben Westphal, Leo Glynn, Frank D’Antonio, Peter Kavouras, Brett Devito, Brett Laird, Conor McCormick, Martinas Petruska, Dominik Griffin, Daniel McNamara, John Alfa, Angelo Citarella, Ryan Noonan, Ahmed Alrazzaq, Xavier Hernandez, Damien Bahar and John Wirth.
 
The Pioneers’ cheerleaders for the game were all fourth-graders: Alyssa Bahar, Kaitlin Bauer, Brittany Booker, Paige Gasparus, Olivia Gomez, Audrey Hickman, Samantha Jeffries, Mariah Karamagianis, Chloe LaVelle, Jocelyn LaVelle, Emily Manning, Gianna Patterson, Claudia Sawic, Anna Senese, Sarah Senese, Natalia Stratton and Victoria Zdenovec.
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