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Nikola Abusara streaks down the sideline en route to a 36-yard touchdown run against Dolton.

From role player to a star Pioneer

Abusara has breakthrough performance in 24-0 win

 

By Ed Muniz
Photos by Ken Dado

 
ORLAND PARK -- Waking up Sunday, American Widgets player Nikola Abusara was ready to play his role on a team loaded with talent. Nikola isn’t considered one of the specialists you see on the offensive side of the ball, but he still shows the ability needed to play on the football field.
 
Nikola is more the in-the-trenches type who does anything he can to help his team win.
 
Things went a little differently in the Pioneers 24-0 victory over the visiting Dolton Bears at Sandburg High School. For Abusara, Sunday morning was different in the best possible way.
 
During the 24-0 Pioneers win, Abusara was the right guy when given his opportunity and made the best of it. He ran for the longest play of the day, a 36-yard touchdown, and defensively he tackled like the Dolton players were huge dollar bills.
 
“I liked being in the backfield," Abusara said. "I liked being the four back and going through the seven and eight hole. And when I saw the goal-line, all I thought of was that I was a champion.”
 
When asked about his defensive display, Abusara didn’t mince words. “I see the ball carrier pretty good, plus I like my wrapping up when I make the tackle," he said. "I don’t know if I can do better, but I still like what I do anyway.”
 
The game was all Pioneers from the very first snap. 
 
Beginning at their own 35-yard line to start the game, the Pioneers took all of three plays to jump ahead 6-0. Collin Jennings and Nick D’Antonio rushed for 15 and 5 yards respectively, setting up Frankie Edelen for what has become the norm of long runs for him. He flew by the Bears on a 20-yard score 2:30 into the game.
 
 

Jake Stefanos (28) superman-tackles a Dolton runner with assistance from Frankie Edelen.

Orland Park went back on offense two plays later when Tommy Stotts recovered a Bears fumble.
 
On a day when the Pioneers attempted several pass plays, Jake Stefanos' first throw fell incomplete. 
 
The running of Jennings, D’Antonio and Edelen again set up the next Pioneers score. From two yards out, quarterback Stefanos faked a handoff and powered his way into the end zone, upping the Pioneers lead to 12-0.
 
The Bears and Pioneers traded possessions as the defenses stepped up the pursuits. For the Pioneers, the offense now was a hit-or-miss proposition. D’Antonio did have a 22-yard run, but the Pioneers couldn’t break through. Defensively, Jennings and Edelen weren’t willing to let Dolton get any momentum.
 
Snuffing out a Bears attempt with 34 seconds left in the first half was Kyle Evoy, who intercepted a pass. The Pioneers took their lead into half from there.
 
Beginning the second half, again Stotts came up with a fumble, this time on Dolton's first play. 
 
On Orland Park's fourth play after the turnover, Jennings ran 21 yards for the Pioneers' third touchdown and an 18-0 lead.
 
Abusara and company now stymied any Dolton offensive effort, forcing a quick turnover on downs and giving the offense another chance to score.
 
Changing up the backfield, coach Frank Edelen gave Max Konieczki the first run, where he was quickly introduced to the Bears defense. The next play worked out better when Abusara raced to the outside and blazed past every Bears defender for 36 yards and a touchdown and the final points of the game.
 
Dolton's fourth turnover ensued on their next possession, and happy to pounce on the mistake was D’Antonio.
 
The Pioneers again mixed it up as Gavin Obrachta scampered 12 yards and Stefanos connected with Jennings via the air for 12 more yards, but the drive ended with a lost fumble. The 24-0 lead held up because Dolton couldn’t put any offense together, though the Pioneers had something to do with that.
 
The big win was shared by every player, including Anthony Shelton, Nicolas McKibbens, Cooper Sigel, Jake Scumaci, A.J. Grimes, Joe Rizza, Morgan O’Malley, Ryan Ulleweit, Connor Begley and Max Koenieczki.
 
“We had 14 different guys carrying the ball today," coach Frank Edelen said. "I think we blocked well and did very well. Between the tackles, our line did a great job: O’Malley, Begley, Grimes, Abusara, Koenieczki and Scumaci, who filled in, all did a great job.”
 
The American Widgets also heard loud cheers coming from the sidelines throughout the game. Second-grade cheerleaders Nicolette and Sophia Allen, Mogan Begley, Nicole Bonifito, Annabelle Cannici, Aubree Conroy, Gianna Frech, Julia Kalkowski, Reese Rodriguez, Sierra Sporleder, Gianna Staudt and Tasneem Othman, coached by Marylou Morin and Amanda Meiner, made sure they did their jobs to keep the crowd into the game.
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