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Pioneer Andrew Dado surveys the field just before the snap.

Scarlet Lightweights can't hold back Homer

Czerwinski TD only offensive bright spot vs. undefeated squad  

Text and photos by Ed Muniz
 
ORLAND PARK -- Homecoming are always looked forward to. Whether you’re away briefly or gone a long time, there's nothing like home and that home cooking. 
 
In football, at every level from youth to college, Homecoming traditionally is a huge event. It’s the chance to return home and hear the community cheer you on. It gives a player that added boost to put forth just a bit more effort on the field.
 
The Orland Park Pioneers Scarlet Division Lightweight regiment of 9- and 10-year-old boys came home looking to experience the sweet taste of victory they experienced just a week earlier. So far for coach Ken Dado and his players, it’s been hard finding that consistent winning formula but hopes were high when the Homer Stallions visited the John Humphrey Complex field.
 
As it turned out, if they could have, the Pioneers would have been better off rescheduling another opponent on Homecoming. The Stallions came in unbeaten and looked every bit the part.
 
After receiving the initial kickoff to start the game, the Stallions mixed up a good run game and air attack and didn’t take long to put the Pioneers on their heels. Jimmy Lalezas, Vincent Villa, J.P.Czerwinski and Nathan Gray did all they could to stop the Stallion offensive attack. Czerwinski managed to force a fumble, but it was recovered by the visitors, and Gray defended a pass expertly.
 
But it wasn’t enough as the unbeaten Stallions busted loose for the opening score from 29 yards out. The extra point put them up 7-0 early.
 
After the ensuing kickoff, the Pioneers fumbled the very first snap. Though they didn’t lose possession, it turned out to be a sign of things to come. After a three-and-out, the Pioneers went back at it defensively and showed some grit as they collectively team tackled.
 
Slowly, Lalezas, Czerwinski, Andrew Dado, Harrison Hebert, Gray and Kenny Gillette pounded the Homer runners but not before they piled up yard after yard advancing down the field.
 
Dennis Tarandy wraps up a Homer runner.
Beginning the second quarter, the first play saw the Stallions score from 4 yards out for a 13-0 lead.
 
The Pioneers went back on offense and went to Lalezas and Gray with short runs and completed an 8-yard pass from quarterback Scott Rybak to Troy Faille. But the home team came up just short on fourth down after Rybak was sacked.
 
Brian Harms stood out defensively for the Pioneers in the second quarter with several tackles. Unfortunately, the Stallions found elsewhere to run and again increased their lead after blasting off with a 49-yard touchdown run. A successful 2-point kick conversion now had Homer up 21-0.
 
The home crowd soon had something to cheer about when the Pioneers found the endzone as time wound down in the first half. Working their way to the Homer 1-yard line, Czerwinski pushed past the goal line and put the Pioneers on the scoreboard.
 
The score stood at 21-6 with little time left. But as it turned out, it was still too much time to give the Stallions who again found paydirt and a 27-6 lead with just 2 seconds left before half.
 
After another stellar halftime performance by the entire Pioneers cheerleading organization, Orland Park went on offense to start the second half. But much like the first the Pioneers struggled to gain turf and lost possession on downs.
 
Using a specious attack, the Stallions again quickly found the endzone after working their way to the Orland Park 2-yard line. From there a short pass increased the Homer lead to 33-6.
 
Yards were hard to come by for the Pioneers, who never mustered much of an offense the rest of the game.
 
But it wasn’t because of lack of effort. Rybak, Dado and Lalezas desperately kept testing the Homer defense, and the Pioneer offensive line showed improvement but it was too little, too late.
 
“Our boys never gave up. We lost to a better team today,” said head coach Ken Dado. “It came down to fundamentals. We will continue to work in practice this week and I’m sure our kids will overcome this loss and strive to get better.”
 
Gillette was a huge factor defensively for the Pioneers. His play was a bright light in an otherwise gloomy game. He made several tackles and infiltrated the Stallion backfield several times.
 
"I like tackling the other guys especially when they try to get around me running the ball," he said. "Like most people, I watch for the ball and swarm to it and make the tackle. I think we played like a C grade."
 
Dado also went on to talk of the team's fifth quarter effort. He said that it went well for his Pioneers, but the wet conditions made it hard for his players to hold on to the ball. 
 
“I thought our defense played well with J.P. Massih having a great fifth quarter effort,” Dado said.
 
Also giving their all for the Pioneers were Colin Cloutier, Rashaun Faniel, Sean Halloran, Peter Kavouras, John Massih, Matthew Villarreal, Coregan Kumpel, Trevor Zelasko, Dennis Tarandy, Jared Malone, John Mazenko, Amir Alian, Christian Evans, Connor Beach, Michael McDonough, Alanas Linge, Justin Hilgenberg, Ryne Sternberg and Michael Sczurek.
 
The home sideline was kept enthusiastically into the game as the third-and-fourth grade Pioneer Cheerleaders peppered the homecoming crowd with various cheers. Showing their spirit were: Annabella Cannici, Kaitlyn Cloutiev, Ciara Coyle, Mariana Cuevas, Linda Floyd, Reanna Iannantone, Lilly Jeaner, Abby Overman, McKenna Patton, Reese Rodriguez, Vivian Villa, Abby Fandl and Kierstin Cappello.
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