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Quarterback Jake Stefanos (center) calls out the signals for the game-deciding extra point play. Stefanos completed a pass to Collin Jennings to earn a come-from-behind win over Romeoville.

Lightweight White comes back for dramatic win

Late conversion pass the difference in 13-12 triumph

Story and photos by Ed Muniz

CHICAGO -- Extra points are the added opportunity of gaining a single point after scoring a touchdown. The bonus is kind of reward for scoring. But how many times do you watch it and take it for granted?
 
The pros and college ranks and even the high school game has it down pat, but when you start out in youth football, it’s still hard work and every missed opportunity will in some way effect the outcome.
 
Now think about having to convert the extra point at the youth level for the win! That was the scenario 
for coach Frank Edelen’s Pioneers Lightweight White team. To defeat a tough Romeoville squad, it all came down to the final extra point.
 
The Orland Park home crowd had seen the Pioneers sit in total control for one whole half. Statistically it was quite one-sided as the Pioneers made it look easy, although they had only managed to score once. That came when quarterback Jake Stefanos laid a perfect touch pass to running back Collin Jennings for a 13-
yard touchdown at the 8:10 mark of the first quarter. 
 
A missed extra point left the Pioneers with a 6-0 lead that pretty much looked like a 35-0 lead the way they overwhelmed their Romeoville visitors.
 
The combo of Jennings and Nicholas Edelen combined for 96 yards of rushing in the first half. Defensively, the Pioneers held the Spartans to only 7 total yards behind the prowess of A.J. Grimes, Nick D’Antonio, Tommy Stotts, Frank Edelen, Jennings and Stefanos.
 
Quarterback Stefanos worked the air game on offense, quickly taking the snap, pivoting and 
providing a lateral pass to one of his backs for positive yardage each time. 
 
Nicholas Edelen and his younger brother Frankie took the passes, found big chunks of yardage and made it look easy.
 
As good as it was for the Pioneers in the first half, expectations to seize control early in the second half and ride out the game with possibly another couple scores didn't happen.
 
If ever there was a quarter of football to be forgotten for the Pioneers, it was the third quarter of this game. Seemingly again shutting down the Spartans, the Pioneers defense looked to have things well in hand before a shifty Spartan runner broke free of a few Pioneers, popped outside and raced down field 60 yards for the equalizing touchdown. 
 
Minutes later as Orland Park worked to retake the lead, Stefanos was hit as he stepped back to pass. The errant throw was picked off by Romeoville and returned 45 yards for the  go-ahead score.
 
In less than 4 minutes, the Pioneers went from coasting to  having to find an answer to tie the game. 
 
Things snowballed from there as the Pioneers developed turnover troubles. Two fumbles killed drives, and when the Spartans had the ball they played with little urgency to get plays off.
 
Lightweight White Pioneer defenders Nicholas Edelen (34), Frankie Edelen (32), A. J. Grimes (45), Tommy Stotts (43) and Collin Jennings converge to prevent a pass completion against Romeoville.
After recovering a Pioneer fumble with 4:20 left in the game, the Spartans appeared to have the game sealed up with their ability to milk the clock. But on fourth down with six yards to go at their own 46, Romeoville went for it and was stopped dead for no gain by the desperate Pioneers defense.
 
With 1:13 left in the game, the Pioneers went for paydirt and caught Romeoville in the wrong formation. 
 
Stefanos took the snap dropped back and laid a perfect pass to Jennings, who managed to streak by a backpedaling and stumbling Spartan defender.
 
Jennings eluded one other Spartan and then was pushed enough by another to tip toe down the sidelines. He stepped out of bounds at the Spartan 2-yard line as the entire Pioneer sideline and home crowd erupted with 1:03 left.
 
The eventual winning play nearly was a bust. On the next snap, Stefanos and his running back had a mix up that forced the Lightweight quarterback to keep the ball. Somehow he found the endzone with 52 seconds left to tie the game at 12-12.
 
With their heads down and a look of despair, Romeoville looked every bit a defeated foe.
 
Then, to the surprise of almost everyone, the Pioneers called another pass play and Stefanos again connected with Jennings. The bonus point gave Orland Park a 13-12 lead. 
 
Romeoville tried a few plays after the kickoff but never really threatened and the White Lightweight Pioneers remained unbeaten at 2-0 after the come-from-behind win in their home opener.
 
Pioneers who played roles in he victory included: Jacob Corluka, Braden Tischer, Nicholas Zahara, Anthony Shelton, Nicolas McKibben, Logan Frazier, Charlie Solty, Connor O’Reilly, Tommy Durkin, Jake Scumaci, Nicholas Edelen, Kyle Envoy, Colin Drew, Aidan Hanley, Nathan Crnich, Joe Rizza, Jack Johnson, Joe Calacci, Connor Begley, Nikola Abusara, Tyler Biszewski and Xavier Fernandez.
 
“Great comeback, great heart by the kids, they could’ve quit after those two fumbles but they didn’t. They played two great defensive series,” said winning coach Edelen. “That pass at the end was, it is what it is. We showed a lot of heart.”
 
Vital in so many ways during the comeback was Jennings, who was quite reserved about the late comeback.
 
“I thought we might not have a chance after the second fumble, and I knew we should not stop trying and it worked out for us," he said. "At the end I knew I needed to make the catch. I thought everything was just right until the fumbles, but it worked out for us. It was OK.”
 
This game also featured a fifth quarter, and in that game there the Pioneers were in total control. Offensively Orland Park didn’t take long to get on the board. Jake Scumaci raced 60 yards for a touchdown that was followed shortly by Nathan Crnich and his 60-yard romp to the endzone. The team added another rushing touchdown on a burst from Anthony Shelton.
 
Defensively, Crnich was the standout. He appeared to be near the ball on every play. Also digging in to stop the visitors was Charlie Solty, who spent a of lot time in the Romeoville backfield. On one foray he sacked the Spartan and caused a fumble that Logan Frazier recovered.
 
Whether it’s Fifth Quarter play or regulation, this Pioneer team will be a handful all season for their opponents.
 
Firing up the Pioneer faithful were the Lightweight White Cheerleaders. The excitement wasn't limited to the field as the third and fourth grad girls worked hard to keep the home crowd focused and supportive. 
 
The squad was comprised of: Nicoleete Allen, Nicole Bonfitto, Allyson Burke, Lucie Chicvara, Aubree Conroy, 
Gabriela Felthouse, Isabell Frech, Samantha Masino, Tasneem Othman, Gileena Rezzardi, Kayleigh Rose, Olivia Skrocki, Sieira Sporleder, Gianna Staudt, Kaylee Swiech and Allison Welch.
 
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