Username Password Subscribe Now

After assisting on the tackle, Cameron Weldon (58) gets ready to huddle with his teammates.

Varsity corrals Stallions

Smalley runs wild, scores 3 touchdowns in 45-20 win

By Ed Muniz

 
HOMER GLEN -- Two weeks ago, the Orland Park Varsity was sitting pretty atop its division and looking to close out the regular season against a winless team -- not bad heading into the playoffs.
 
But possibly looking too far ahead, the Pioneers went from first place and a bye to now having to take on their opening opponent, the Homer Stallions, in the first round of the SWMJFL playoffs because they stumbled and were upset back when everything looked so rosy.
 
Some teams will take a late season loss and wither and limp in and out of the playoffs while others become motivated and go out to prove something and realign the stars in their sky.
 
The Pioneers came out Nov. 1 in Homer Glen and did prove something against the Stallions; whatever caused their late season derailment has been righted. It's going some effort to knock the Pioneers out of the playoffs.
 
Orland Park came out and played angry and dominated Homer at every level. They took out their vengeance for that late season loss and steamrolled the Stallions 45-20. 
 
The Pioneers sent a clear signal to the rest of the heavyweight teams with the big win.
 
It started quickly in the first quarter for Orland Park. A 27-yard touchdown pass from Ben Starcevich to Cameron Weldon and the PAT by Jake Monnett gave them an early 8-0 lead.
 
The running and passing game was clicking for the Pioneers while the Stallions were pressed by an Orland Park defense that was quick to the ball and ended every Stallion effort early.
 
The Pioneers second quarter offense was in top gear and could have easily been up big if not for untimely penalties. 
 
On three different instances the Pioneers scored touchdowns on two long running plays and another pass play only to have each called back due to penalties. But even with those setbacks, the Pioneers were nonstop in their quest to extend the lead. 
 
It was as if they were urgently trying to score as fast as possible because they were late for something.
 
Ben Starcevich (49) gets ready to call another play for the Pioneers offense. The quarterback threw for two touchdowns in the win.

Even luck was going their way. After a long touchdown run by Abe Soto was called back, the very next play Starcevich again found Weldon for 33 yards after the pass was deflected by the Stallion defender right into Weldon’s arms. 

 
The touchdown and point after run by Kenneth Smalley upped the Pioneer lead to 15-0.
 
Closing out the first half the Stallions tried to score via the air but several passes were defended perfectly by Trevor Ward while his Pioneer teammate Donnie Felthouse contained the running attempts.
 
Homer got back into the game shortly after the second half began. The tackling of Pioneers Felthouse and Austin Hubert stopped the ground game but the Stallions managed to catch the Pioneer defense out of position when they scored through the air on the 33-yard touchdown pass play. 
 
The failed point-after left the score at 15-6.
 
When the Pioneers went back on offense, their four-man backfield took turns carrying the ball.
 
Soto, Hubert, Julian Hernandez and finally Smalley used just four plays to extend the lead again. Smalley took a handoff, raced and cut 38 yards into the end zone, and Monnett again added the kick for a 23-6 lead at the 5:04 mark in the third quarter.
 
With the game apparently in hand and Homer seemingly unable to stop the Pioneer run, the Orland Park defense looked to close out the game in control. The Stallions didn’t oblige. Homer went on an 8-play drive and concluded it by scoring their second touchdown, this time from seven yards out to make the score 23-14 after the point after run.
 
Defensively, the Pioneers made several big hits and tackles by Quentin Huston, Tyler Struck, Soto, Hubert and Hernandez but showed some signs of wearing down.
 
Orland Park scored quickly again just three play later when Smalley tallied another touchdown, this time from 38 yards out. He added the extra-point for a Pioneer 30-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.
 
Homer again took the ensuing kickoff and once again marched downfield and scored from one yard out to cut the lead to 30-20 with 4:40 left in the game.
 
Less than a minute later, Smalley again broke free and added his third score of the day with a 60-yard sprint untouched. Monnett kicked the point-after and the score now stood at 38-20.
 
The Stallions never quit and even with second unit players in, were doing all they could to score again. 
 
Unfortunately as time was winding down and trying to get downfield quickly, a Stallion back was separated from the ball by Hubert, who picked up the ball and went 36 yards for the defensive score.
 
The extra-point attempt went to possibly the Pioneers players' favorite teammate, Teddy Baffes. The first-year player is well liked by his fellow Pioneers and is a lineman type who doesn’t get as much field time as some others. But he bowled over anyone in his way en route to the end zone adding the extra point and 
the team’s final point for a 45-20 lead with less than a minute to play.
 
For Baffes, it was quite a thrill. He said; “It was special, I don’t really get a lot of playing time because this is my first year so it feels good to get a touchdown (extra-point). This team, we have all the heart to win it all, and I’m gonna predict a win. We have it all.”
 
Teammate Kenneth Smalley added about Baffes: “Teddy is a handful of heart. If half our players had the heart of him, we’d be 100-0. That guy, he’s got a lot of heart. Great teammate!”
 
Smalley showed a lot too. The Pioneer star finished with 176 yard rushing and three touchdowns.
 
“The line was really good today. The offense was really a big help so it just happens,” said a modest Smalley. When asked about his skill level, he said: “It was natural evolution and this summer I started working out and going to football camps and got a little better.”
 
Not bad for a little better!
 
For coach Steve Budick getting into the playoffs was the first step. 
 
“The last few games we’ve been having a hard time with the defense," he said, "We’ve been working on pass coverage and tackling, but I think what we ran into tonight is the kids are now thinking too much rather than reacting to the ball. 
 
"We’re going to work on it and tighten up things up a little bit this week.”
 
Coach Budick praised the passing game and was quite happy with that part of the offense.
 
“We’re a running team and always going to be a running team, but our passing has definitely picked up. We opened it up a little bit, and I was really happy with the way things went. 
 
"Ben (Starcevich) has a great eye for the field, he looks around too, looks for open receivers.”
 
The Pioneers also had winning contributions from Damian Deless, William Linko, Patrick Murphy, Nathan Goodman, Jimmy Slechta, Michael Moehle, Zaid Tadros, Jonathon Trevino, Tyler Van Stedum, Abdullah Hanna, Brian Henehan and Nathan Hupe.
 
The Pioneers next face second-seed Dolton on Nov. 8 in New Lenox. The two split their regular season meetings with each winning at home.
Today's Schedule: Season Schedule