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Varsity season ends against Dolton

Team struggles in 19-0 loss

By Ed Muniz


Heading into the Southwest Junior Midget Football League playoffs, the Orland Park Pioneers Varsity had faced some adversity. It could be said a lot of it was self-inflicted.
 
The 2014 heavyweight team was an extremely talented team with outstanding team speed, great passing and a defense that can be overpowering when on its game. Head coach Steve Budick and his staff had a group of thoroughbreds waiting to run over a team if it got in its way.
 
As good as this team played at times, it occasionally found itself playing uninspired football which cost the squad three wins.
 
A week earlier, the Pioneers put on a demonstration of total dominance after a one-sided opening playoff game win over the Homer Stallions. The running was swift and shifty with a dose of power. The passing game was timely with spot-on accuracy and the defensive was bulldozing and smothering.
 
The total effort of that win now saw them facing an opponent they had split two games with during the regular season. After such an impressive playoff opener, regardless of who the Pioneers played, how could they not be favored to move on to the championship?
 
Dolton matched them in many ways: speed, a passing game and a swarming defense. You saw this team's confidence during warm-ups. This was a loose group of Bears who were relaxed and ready.
 
On a long day of games, this was the one fans wanted to see, the one fans expected to be that one game everyone would remember. But this is football, where the expected quickly turns into the unexpected.
 
This game became very one-sided. Dolton dominated every aspect of the contest and scored a 19-0 triumph.
 
The Pioneers started off defensively and watched Dolton march down field with an array of run and pass plays that kept Orland Park reeling. Staring at their own 27-yard line, the Bears peppered the Pioneers and kept possession for 12 plays.
 
Leading the tackling for the Pioneers on the opening Dolton drive was defensive back Ben Starcevich with five solo stops. Abe Soto, Quentin Huston, Julian Hernandez, Michael Moehle and Cameron Weldon contributed tackles and finally stalled Dolton at the Pioneer 20.
 
When the Orland Park offense finally got its chance after a long defensive effort, they went to Kenneth Smalley. He used his speed and shiftiness to gain 12 yards but was hit looking for more and turned the ball over on a fumble.
 
Back on defense, the Pioneers now had to defend a short field. Moehle, Starcevich and Austin Hubert managed to force a fourth down from their own 14-yard line, but Dolton found a leaping receiver in the back of the end zone for the first score of the game. A missed extra-point had the Bears up 6-0 after using nearly the entire first quarter -- Dolton ran 19 plays to one for Orland Park.
 
The Pioneers looked to respond and began at their own 36. They went to their run game, which has been very productive all season. Rushes by Soto, Hubert, Smalley and a facemask penalty quickly took them to the Bears 34. There the Pioneers fumbled again.
 
Dolton accepted the gift and went on a 13-play drive. The Bears ended the first half passing for the end zone, but the Pioneers' Trevor Ward intercept the pass.
 
The Pioneers defense players were loaded with tackles after being on the field nearly the whole first half. Soto, Ward, Huston, Hernandez, Austin and Tyler Struck were doing all they could to prevent another score.
 
Dolton dominated the first half with 33 plays compared to the Pioneers' seven. 
 
The Pioneers opened the second half with the ball, but Dolton, sensing a chance to take control of the game, began an aggressive defensive assault. It got some additional help when the Pioneers hurt themselves with penalties.
 
Looking for a big play and a way to end the Dolton dominance, coach Budick elected to go for a first down on fourth down deep in the Pioneers' end of the field. 
 
Even though they came up with a 17-yard pass completion from Starcevich to Weldon, they were still short and lost the ball on downs.
 
Dolton took little time to extend its lead, using six plays to score. Adding the point-after, the Bears now led 13-0 with the Pioneers still looking to get something started.
 
Orland Park now fell into a game of frustration as nothing seemed to go their way. Every offensive effort was made extra hard as injuries to key players came into play. 
 
With Hubert and Soto missing due to injury, the Pioneers lost two key cogs to an offense that used the run to make big plays.
 
With just more than five minutes left to play and still trailing 13-0, the Pioneers went on a drive that required a quick touchdown to keep any chance for a victory alive.
 
With Soto back in the game, he and Smalley both added big runs before Starcevich connected with Hubert for 30 yards to the Dolton 9. On first-and-goal, the Pioneers went to Hernandez, but this game was not meant to be for the Pioneers. A fumble was picked up and returned 92 yards for the final score and that sent the Dolton sideline into a frenzy.
 
The Pioneers received valiant efforts from: Jake Monnett, Damian Deless, Donnie Felthouse, William Linko, Pat Murphy, Nathan Goodman, Jim Slechta, Teddy Baffes, Zaid Tadros, Jonathon Trevino, Tyler Van Stedum, Brian Henehan, Abdullah Hanna and Nathan Hupe.
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