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Nikola Abusara breaks free during the Pioneers semifinal game.

Americans shut out
New Lenox in Widget semifinal

Defense allows only 2 first downs in 28-0 win

By Kevin McGavin

 
NEW LENOX -- It was domination from the get-go for the Orland Park Americans in their semifinal against New Lenox.
 
The Pioneers’ second widget football team needed only three plays on its opening possession to score, and the lead was virtually insurmountable by halftime Sunday at Martino Middle School in New Lenox.
 
The Pioneers advanced easily to the championship game of the Southwest Midget Football League Widget Bowl by allowing only one first down in each half of their 28-0 victory.
 
“All of our pistons were firing in that game,” Pioneers coach Frank Edelen said after the Americans’ 14-7 victory over the Mustangs’ second team to clinch the championship berth Sunday evening. “It was a good game for us.”
 
After stopping the Mustangs’ initial series, Collin Jennings’ back-to-back carries netted 27 yards for the Pioneers.
 
Jennings was slightly injured on the second touch — a sweep around left end — but it made no difference to the Pioneers.
 
From the Mustangs’ 18-yard line, Nick D’Antonio raced untouched through a massive opening on the right side of the Pioneers’ offensive line to put Orland Park on the board seven minutes into the game.
 
“There was such a huge hole,” D’Antonio said. “No one was there (for New Lenox), and I just ran it in. It was a good feeling.”
 
The Mustangs would not fare much better on their following possession as the Pioneers’ defense — Edelen, Ryan Ulleweit, Kyle Evoy, Anthony Shelton, Max Konieczki, Joe Rizza, Cooper Sigel, Nicolas McKibben, Connor Begley, Jake Scumaci and D’Antonio — turned the ball back over to the Pioneers’ offense on downs.
 
Collin Jennings tries to run free of the New Lenox defense.
Not much thereafter, Edelen capped the short drive, and doubled the Pioneers’ lead to 14-0 in the process, with a 5-yard touchdown run.
 
“We were running the ball good and not fumbling,” Jennings said of the Pioneers’ first-half offensive production. “We got a lot of first downs.”
 
The staple of the sport would be much harder to manufacture for New Lenox.
 
The Mustangs had a 10-yard run for the opening first down of the game to get into Pioneers’ territory.
 
But D’Antonio personally made sure New Lenox would go no farther.
 
The outside linebacker blitzed on consecutive plays, trapping New Lenox ball-carriers for 11 yards in losses on the twin backfield stops.
 
New Lenox had virtually no choice but to punt in the aftermath of the 5- and 6-yard losses on the back-to-back plays.
 
“On the right side (of the Mustangs’ offensive line) they weren’t really blocking,” D’Antonio said. “They were too slow (to react) to my blitzes. I had (the second ball-carrier) by the leg, and one of my other teammates helped me get him down.”
 
New Lenox subsequently pinned the Pioneers deep with a booming punt.
 
But, once again, the Pioneers had too much firepower in the backfield.
 
D’Antonio had a quick 16-yard burst to move the ball to the Pioneers’ 27-yard line (the Widgets play on an 80-yard field).
 
Then, on his lone carry of the contest, Nikola Abusara swept around left end on a pitch and raced 53 yards to the end zone for the Pioneers’ third score of the opening 18-plus minutes of the game.
 
“I play offensive end but don’t run the ball that much,” Abusara said of his long run along the left sideline. “It felt awesome.”
 
“I guess it’s a matter of priorities,” coach Edelen said when asked why Absura is not used more often as a halfback. “I kind of move (Abusara) in and out. I have three good running backs already (in Jennings, D’Antonio and Edelen, Jr.).”
 
With a three-score lead at the halftime intermission, the second 25-minute half was conducted in anticlimactic fashion.
 
As they did in the first half of action, New Lenox never seriously came close to denying the Pioneers’ shutout bid.
 
New Lenox was able to convert one third-down into a new set of downs, and the Pioneers would have one final big play to conclude the scoring.
 
After Abusara had yet another huge defensive stop for a loss, Orland Park took over on downs at the Mustangs’ 35-yard line.
 
Facing a fourth-down at the Mustangs’ 30, D’Antonio had his second touchdown of the game with his ultimate conversion.
 
After facing the Mustangs’ better team in the championship game, coach Edelen said the Pioneers had too much speed, size and athleticism in the semifinal.
 
“The team that we played (in the semifinals) was not the same caliber as the New Lenox team we played (in the championship),” he said.
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