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White Junior Varsity quarterback Kevin Zimmer (center) tries to escape the Bourbonnais defense during the Pioneers River Valley Youth Football League playoff game on Oct. 10 in Tinley Park.

 

White JV can't overcome uphill battle

Pioneers undone by Bourbonnais size, speed

 
By Ed Muniz
 
TINLEY PARK -- The River Valley Youth Football League began its second season, kicking off its playoffs at numerous locations Oct. 10. Four divisions -- Super Lightweight, Lightweight, Junior Varsity and Varsity -- each held 16 teams vying for a chance to earn a league championship over the next four weeks.
 
For the Orland Park Pioneers program, seven-of-eight teams qualified to participate in the playoffs. Scarlet Divison teams qualified in the Super Lightweight, Junior Varsity and Varsity levels. White Division teams earned a ticket to the Super Lightweight, Lightweight, Junior Varsity and Varsity brackets. 
 
The pressure to win can easily break teams in the lose-and-your-season-is-over format. In some early games, that was the case. 
 
For Tom McAuliffe’s White JV Pioneers (3-6), the task turned out to be too much. Their 14th seed forced them to face a once-beaten and third-seeded Bourbonnais Bears (8-1) team that didn’t just look more physical but was; that didn’t just look bigger, but was and did have an edge throughout the field mainly because of their team speed.
 
The outcome looked well in hand even before the teams faced off, as the size disparity was clearly evident to everyone watching, including the players on both sides. What looked like a Bourbonnais swagger was merely the confidence athletes get when they know they have the upper hand. The Bears took the game by a 28-0 count Saturday at Andrew High School.
 

The Pioneers defense fires off the ball.

Orland Park came out looking the part of “David” against a Bourbonnais “Goliath” when they forced their only turnover on downs of the entire game. The Pioneers limited the Bears to just four downs on their first series.
 
Defensively sparked up to open the game were Danny Witkowski, Julian Loeza and Michael Ulleweit as each made stiff tackles to stop the Bears runner. 
 
On their first offensive series, a holding penalty and two small gains forced the Pioneers to punt as well.
 
The Bears wasted no time on their next set of downs and took just two plays when running back Emmanuel Harris sped past the Pioneer defense for the 45-yard touchdown and the 6-0 lead.
 
After another quick three-and-out, the Pioneers defense stepped up when Witkowski again made a big play recovering a loose ball on the turf and giving the offense another opportunity. 
 
But nothing went right for the Pioneers offense. Neither running nor passing were getting the job done as an active Bourbonnais defense could now sense its control. 
 
When the Bears received the Pioneer punt, it took another two downs for them to put Orland Park down 14-0 when Johnathon Pitts showed his elusiveness and weaved 19 yards for the touchdown.
 
Luke Massino did all he could defensively to keep the Pioneers in the game with several tackles.
 
Pioneer quarterback Kevin Zimmer showed the ability to gain yardage when he called his own number but those were far and few between and after a hard hit took him out of the game, Tommy McAuliffe found the going just as tough.
 
Bourbonnais again enlarged its lead when it took advantage of a short Pioneers punt and advanced to the Orland Park 1-yard line before adding another score and extending the lead to 22-0 just before the end of the first half on their third touchdown run.
 
The Pioneers opened the second half on offense and built a seven-play drive. But when McAulffe couldn’t connect on a fourth down pass, they were forced to again turn the ball over near midfield. 
 
Bourbonnais went back to its ground game. Pioneers Masino and Witkowski were there to make the stops but not until the Bears advanced on two plays to the Orland Park 11-yard line. From there Pitts grabbed his second touchdown with a sprint for the Bears final score.
 
Orland Park battled for the rest of the game but the undersized and slower Pioneers just couldn’t overcome the dominant Bourbonnais squad that ended their season with a 28-0 loss.
 
Pioneers who gave their all in their last game of the season included: Danny Durkin, Joseph Shelton, Zakery Bowden, Giovanni Fricano, Chris Slechta, Tommy Ward, Shaw Stukel, Max Montgomery, Jacob Maziarka, Luke Devito, trevor Jennings, Jonathon Klutcharch, Jake Liskiewicz, Conor McCormick, Frank D’Antonio, Jake McGriff, Anthony Stotts, Jimmy Rolder, Gavin Kissane, Jacob Goodman, Jack Frazier, Angelo Citarella, Anthony Dombrowski, Ryan Noonan and Kyle Peterson.
 
Cheering on the Orland Park team were the fifth- and sixth-grade Pioneers cheerleaders: Averey Bartley, Brittany Booker, Brooklyn Cooper, Carleigh Fountain, Paige Gasparas, Maria Gonsch, Erin Haw, Emma Herout, Audrey Hickman, Brianna Iraci, Marissa Jentel, Mariah Karamagianis, Mia Maniastis, Ella McDonald, Megan Murphy, Victoria Panek, Gianna Patterson, Sydney Pisarik, Sarah Santana, Terra Schommer, Genevieve Schramm, Kara Stevens, Natalia Stratton, Nicole Tatar and Betty Tsoutsas.
 
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