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Mohammed Elagha glances over to the cheering sideline after scoring the Pioneers lone touchdown against Homer.

Scarlet Super Lightweights end
Homer streak, but can't stop Stallions

Elagha TD is 1st of season against visitors

Text and photos by Ed Muniz
 
ORLAND PARK -- Getting up at 4 a.m. has become the norm for many in the Orland Park Pioneer Football and Cheer program family. That's if the norm is specifically for Homecoming day, of course.
 
In total darkness, aided by some street lighting and of course handheld flashlights, groups of Pioneer staffers and parents were out at John Humphrey Complex setting up an array of tents, canopies and flooring along with tables and all the extras for the day-long, festive 2015 Homecoming celebration Saturday.
 
Both endzones were lined with tents, tables and grilling devices -- all at the ready for the eight Pioneer football games and eight halftime cheerleading performances. With this year’s theme being “Support the Troops,” many in attendance displayed their camouflage apparel -- the cheerleaders in pink and black and coaches and others in off-green camo.
 
The days docket began at 8 a.m. for the first of eight games that would bring excitement to the official festivities. 
 
Batting leadoff for the Pioneer program in the overcast start to the day was the Scarlet Divison Super Lightweights coached by Ken Stack. His players and staff brushed off the early morning dew and looked ready to entertain the large gathering of spectators and family.
 
The seven- and eight-year-olds took to the field and readied for a game of thrills and big plays. But expectations can be cruel at times and that played out in this contest against the visiting Homer Stallions.
 
The Pioneers Scarlet Super Lightweights had been on the plus side of the scoreboard three-out-of-four games, while the Stallions came in unbeaten (4-0) and unscored upon.
 
Within the first few minutes, the Stallions gave notice that their unblemished record wasn’t to be questioned. 
 
However, their unscored upon streak fell to the Pioneers who managed to grab their own touchdown in a 32-6 defeat.
 
“Overmatched and all but hey, the kids came back in the end and scored their touchdown and never gave up," said coach Stack. "We were missing a couple key players and played a little sloppy but hey next week is next week. We’ll enjoy the festivities and appreciate the effort. Next week is a new week. We’ll work hard, and we’ll get em.”
 
With the weather not cooperating and the Stallions constant backfield penetration, the Pioneer offense just couldn’t get things going at all. Try as they might, the Pioneer offensive line struggled with a superior Homer defense.
 
The first half saw quarterback Conner Stack and running backs Ali and Mohammd Elagha, along with Terrell Patterson, struggle mightily just to hold onto the ball as the second they took the hand off or pitch, herds of Stallion defenders were right there to meet them in the backfield.
 
Any offensive success came when Stack would take the snap and run on his own up the middle, but he was met quickly. 
 
When the Stallions got their chance on offense, they didn’t take long scoring via their air and ground games. Homer led 6-0 after three plays from a 16-yard touchdown pass then scored again after one play on their next possession from 43 yards out with a run. That was followed with a 45-yard punt return a few minutes later after stopping the Pioneers again. The visitors led 19-0 at halftime.
 
For Pioneer quarterback Stack, nothing seemed to go right for his offense, and the hits and pounding his backfield mates took were getting began to take a toll.
 
“All we have to do is play better,” said the teary quarterback. “Losing is the worst, we have to do better wrapping and blocking, and I have to lead my team better.”
 
Try as they might, no matter what the Pioneers went to, the Stallions had a decisive answer. Runs were stuffed and mostly tackled for losses, but it never ceased the Pioneers efforts. No matter how difficult things were, these boys wouldn’t quit trying and truly showed courage in a difficult situation.
 
With the offense struggling, the Pioneers defense tried all they could to hold off an overpowering bunch from Homer. Luke Basiorka, Brian McBride, Elagha, Holden Whittam and Evan Benos garnered tackles and did all they could to halt the Stallion offense heading into the half.
 
The entire Pioneer cheerleading program performs during halftime at Homecoming.
At the break, the Pioneers cheerleading corps took to the field.  To say the crowd was thoroughly entertained would be slighting the squad -- all eyes were on them. Every cheerleader in the organization performed in unison as is the tradition, which has all levels perform at one time and do this at every halftime throughout the days schedule of games.
 
The “Support the Troops” theme and performance was greeted with many loud cheers and applause. Despite the downpour at halftime, the show went on without a mistep or glitch from any of the girls on the field. Pioneer Cheer Coordinator Kim Dombrowski beamed as she looking down at the field as her staff and many levels of cheerleaders truly brought out that patriotic feeling in the crowd watching them. It was a very special showing of troop support by the Pioneers cheer program.
 
Beginning the second half of play, the Pioneers looked like they had something going offensively. The first play saw Stack rumble 4 yards followed by Elagha, who was  sprung for another 21 yards. What looked to be the beginning of something good slowly stalled and ended four plays later on downs.
 
Homer wasted no time and took the third snap and raced into the endzone for their fourth score and a 26-0 lead. Homer again added another score in the fourth quarter and upped it to 32-0, when the Pioneers again found gaining yards difficult.
 
But then the Pioneers ended the Stallions 5-game, unscored-upon streak when Elagha showed a burst and scored to end Homer's shutout run.
 
“We had a tough time today, our team couldn’t stop them, and we didn’t seem to be able to block them very much,” said Mohammed. When asked about his touchdown run, he stated; “I was going to go outside, but I couldn’t because they saw what we were doing so I went inside. It was good to score on them, and it was a big deal.”
 
Other Pioneers who gave their all in the game were: Colm Coyle, Chase Czerwonka, Matthew Mannitelli, Luke Detampel, Joey Epley, Luke Pietsch, Keegan Kirk, Matthew Coleman, Sami Alrazzaq, Brody Wantroba. Lukas Boyce, Jack Fei, Jaden Weaver and Mitchell Kieklak.
 
Cheering on the wet Pioneers crowd were: Mia Vassalla, Kenzie Whitlow, Vanessa Annel, Kennidi Bensfield, Natalie Dado, Kamile Petruskaite, Isabell and Gabriella Rodriguez and Natalie Schmidt.
Today's Schedule: Season Schedule