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Quarterback Connor Stack battles to escape two Tri-City defenders during the Pioneers 26-7 win over the Wolverines on Saturday in Tinley Park.

Stack stacks up touchdowns in Scarlet SLW win

Team upsets higher-seed Tri-City to advance in playoffs

By Ed Muniz
 
TINLEY PARK -- For coach Ken Stack it's simple when it comes to successful football: teamwork, teamwork, TEAMWORK! His view and beliefs have been a constant throughout this 2015 season for his Scarlet Super Lightweight Pioneers (5-4).
 
Entering the opening round of the River Valley Youth Football playoffs, nothing was going to change from what he has expected from his players all season. For his Pioneers to succeed, they would have to play as a team on both offense and defense throughout the game.
 
What coach Stack got was just that. Being the lower-seeded team didn’t matter when Orland Park took to the field against the Tri-City Wolverines (5-4), who previously posted an impressive win over the White Super Lightweight Pioneers.
 
On both offense and defense, displays of teamwork were noticeable: lead blocks for runners; downfield blocking at the right time; line play that complemented others on the unit; communication and uniformity; and quarterback leadership seldom seen at such a young level of play.
 
Defensively, the Pioneers took advantage of every opportunity given and gang-tackled and picked each other up on the few mistakes they had in the game. Where ever the ball went, the Pioneers were there. 
 
Tri-City's power running back never got started as the Pioneers frustrated the Wolverine attack. Assisted by turnovers and being in the right spot at the right time, the underdog Pioneers walked into the second round with a 26-7 domination of their talented foe.
 
The total team effort came not just from the players on the field. Coaching on the field and at the sidelines was in tune and both supported the player’s efforts and also found the right calls at the right time. The cohesiveness of the whole team ran like a well-tuned sports car.
 

Matthew Coleman (32) tries to split Pioneer lineman Jack Fei and a Tri-City defender to gain more yardage. 

It wasn’t all gravy to begin with but ot was soon after the main course started. After one quarter, neither team had found the end zone. The defensive play of Connor Stack, Luke Basiorka and a forced fumble by Matthew Coleman carried the Pioneers early.
 
After the Pioneer offense was unable to move the ball, the defensive unit was back at it and initially it looked like Tri-City had figured out the Orland Park defense. But after the Wolverines drove to the Pioneer 28, Evan Benos, after being constantly asked to step up by his head coach, came up with  a huge drive-stopper fumble recovery to end the first quarter.
 
On the first play to open the second quarter, quarterback Stack noticed the lack of a defender over his center and the safety to his right, which left the middle of the field uncovered. He took the snap and went untouched 53 yards up the middle of the field for the opening score.
 
Defensively, the Pioneers saw their game pick up a bit with Coleman, Stack, Basiorka and Holden Whittam each grabbing several tackles. Tri-City's frustration grew as the Pioneers gave a few yards but stopped any threat or applied hits that ended a Wolverine drive and forced a punt.
 
Looking to end the first half with the advantage on the scoreboard, the Pioneers took to the offense. Behind the running of Stack, Coleman and Ali Elagha, they drove to the Tri-City 36 yard-line as time was about to expire.
 
Stack took the third down snap and followed his lead blocker Coleman around left end and streaked 36 yards for his second touchdown with only seven seconds left on the clock. Stack added the extra point run and the Pioneers led 13-0 at half.
 
Coming out from the break, Orland Park seemed to have an added spring to its step in the warm-up, and it carried over to the game. On the opening kickoff, Stack picked up the kickoff and returned it 48 yards for his third touchdown. Just like that obervers could see, and maybe even hear, the air leave the Tri-City sideline. Meanwhile the Pioneers supporters loudly enjoyed the performance.
 
Benos and Whittam now had Tri-City unable to get anything started as everything went the Pioneers way. Throw in a fumble recovery by Luke Detampel, and the game was all but over. When Stack added one last touchdown, his fourth of the day -- this time from 36-yards out -- the gravy flowed even after Tri-City added a meaningless score.
 

Pioneers running back Terrel Patterson picks up yards against Tri-City.

The Pioneers were impressive as a team and humble to boot.
 
“Total team effort, 21 boys, they did their assignments, everybody played well,” said a contented coach Stack. “When each boy does their assignments, you have a game like today. I’m proud of my boys. That’s the way it works.”
 
When asked about his son’s performance, coach stack added; “He’s a tough kid, but he still makes mistakes. Overall I’m very proud of him as his coach and his father.”
 
The younger Stack was the key in the Pioneers' win, gaining 131 yards on 8 carries including three rushing touchdowns and the 48-yard kickoff return for touchdown.
 
“I just see where their guys are and if I see them I go the other way,” said the quarterback.
 
When asked about his running ability Stack continued: “I’m just kind of fast and just keep moving my legs to get by them all. I think I can do better, and we can wrap better.” 
 
Other Pioneers adding to the win included Colm Coyle, Mohammed Elagha, Chase Czerwonka, Matt Iannitelli, Joey Epley, Luke Pietsch, Keegan Kirk, Terrell Patterson, Brian McBride, Sami Alrazzaq, Brody Wantroba, Lukas Boyce, Jack Fei, Jaden Weaver and Mitch Kieklak.
 
The Pioneers next take on top-seeded Homer on Saturday (Oct. 17) in Channahon.
Today's Schedule: Season Schedule