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Pioneers defensive nose tackle Zach Bateman (22) looks to the sideline while his Pioneer teammates await the snap against Tinley Park.

Scarlet JV can't unlock door to red zone

Season ends at the hands of Tinley Park

 
By Ed Muniz
 
TINLEY PARK -- Coach Jim Roche knew his Scarlet JV Pioneers were the underdog when they took to the field in their opening game of the River Valley Youth Football League playoffs Saturday. After completing the regular season at 4-4, the expectations for this team were that anything could happen.
 
Last year, coach Roche won a league title with a squad much similar to this year’s team. The ability to play its best at playoff time is vital to team success and coach Roche has the knack for bringing that out of his players much more often than not.
 
This Pioneers team could be considered the “Jekyll and Hyde“ of the Orland Park organization: losing its opening game, then streaking to three-consecutive wins; and finally trading wins and losses until ending the regular season by being shut out.
 
The facts that their opponent, the Tinley Park Bulldogs (7-2) had tasted defeat just twice all season and were a big favorite didn’t faze the Pioneers.
 
Behind the running of Zach Bateman, John-Michael Scumaci and quarterback Justin Egan, the Pioneers (4-5) controlled the early play but when things got going well,  a costly mistake; a bad pitch, a missed block, or a penalty stalled the positive drive.
 
After punting on their first series, the Pioneers were behind just like that when Tinley Park broke free on their second play and found the end zone and the opening score 39 yards later.
 
Trailing 6-0, the Pioneers found the offensive side of their game not clicking and again punted after three plays.
 
But Orland Park defenders like Tyler Milani and Ryan McPolin made the Tinley Park running efforts nearly futile as they made their presence known with their tackling abilities. When Bateman found a Bulldog fumble, the Pioneers went back to offense and another opportunity to even the score.
 
After a Scumaci run, quarterback Egan went to the air and connected for 34 yards with Michael Clifford and then again with Brian Funk for 6 more yards as the opening quarter ended.
 
Again the Pioneers mixed up the run and pass but when needing two yards to continue the drive at the Bulldogs 22-yard line, Egan came up short on his solo run, and the Pioneers had to turn over the football on downs. The defense picked up their play and regained the ball after four downs and again Egan went to the air, finding Scumaci for 30 yards and also connecting with Funk and Clifford for five and seven yards. 
 
Unfortunately, the Pioneers just couldn’t get inside the Bulldogs' 20 as their drive again stalled. The score remained 6-0 at half after the Pioneers defense made every Tinley Park running attempt end in minimal gains. The frustration was not only building on the field for the favorites but also on their sidelines as their coaching staff became more vocal, to the delight of the underdog's sideline. James Roche and Funk made their tackles count as Bulldogs runners couldn’t get by them.
 
The Pioneers used an onside kick to get the second half momentum as the Tinley Park sideline steamed after Scumaci recovered the loose ball right at the 50-yard line.
 
The Orland Park offense started moving with shifty running by Scumaci and the passing of Egan.The Pioneers got to the Bulldogs’ 24 after Scumaci raced 22 yards on an pass-and-catch from Egan. But two-consecutive losses of yardage again stalled the drive after Scumaci was tackled for a loss on fourth down.
 
The Pioneer defense looked to keep their team in the game with tackles from Bateman, Roche, Scumaci,Funk and Ryan Cary grabbing their share but it was Milani who had the hit of the game hammering a Bulldog runner and stopping him cold in his tracks for a loss.
 
Tinley Park took their small gains and kept working the inside runs, gaining yard after yard in small chunks. The Bulldogs eventually found themselves at the Pioneer 2-yard line and then punched in their second touchdown for a 12-0 lead.
 
After the ensuing kickoff the Pioneers went into “Hyde” mode and turned over the ball on their next two series via a fumble and an interception which resulted in the Bulldogs extending their lead to 20-0.
 
The Pioneers wore down and their inability to break inside the Bulldogs' 20 for scoring opportunities brought this 2015 season to an end.
 
Other Pioneers who did their best to help their team stay in the game included: Jake Wantroba, Martinas Petruska, Munkhbat Nergui, Ben Westphal, Nathan Rodriguez, Connor Dixon, Vince Arunno, Jacob Coleman, Connor Crotty, Matt Stubenfoll, Jackson Beach, Thomas Starcevich, Jack Harty, Mike Rafati, Adam Zolnik, Nathan Schmidt, Daniel McNamara, John Alfarah, Stephen Sullivan, Andrew Messineo, Ahmad Alrazzaq, Jayson Walls, Jonah Hladish and Jimmy Khouri.
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