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Mikesell earns Outstanding Pioneer honor

Long career in program yielded impressive results

 
By Kevin McGavin
 
Next fall when Hayden Mikesell is an incoming freshman at Marist High School in Chicago, he will have the luxury of seven years’ experience as a football player.
 
The Orland Park resident recently completed an extraordinary career with the Orland Park Pioneers.
 
The Pioneers’ White Varsity had its 35-game in-state winning streak snapped in the River Valley Youth Football League semifinals against Frankfurt Square Black, but the upset — Orland Park defeated the same team by 24 points in the regular season — can never detract from the manner in which Mikesell epitomized the values of the sport.
 
“Everyone is going to lose in their life,” Mikesell said of the Pioneers being ousted in the playoffs.
 
Mikesell was the starting quarterback and middle linebacker for the Pioneers since he was seven years old.
 
Often times, he was playing at a disadvantage.
 
“The most amazing thing about Hayden is that he has an August birthday,” said John Stefanos, president of the Pioneers’ organization and co-head coach of the White Varsity team. “Today the (school year) cutoff is September first. He was playing against kids anywhere from 16-to-20 months older than him.”
 
The modern-day emphasis on specialization has engendered its fair share of critics in recent memory, but Mikesell is the epitome of a three-sport athlete.
 
“When I was little I played pitcher in baseball,” Mikesell said of his introduction to quarterback. “I just kind of got put there and stuck with it. That’s pretty much 
 
(how I became the quarterback).”
 
Mikesell not only still plays baseball but also spends his winters in the gym.
 
“I’m a shooting guard (in basketball),” Mikesell said.
 
For his contributions on the field which endeared him to his teammates and coaches, not to mention baffling his opponents in the process, Mikesell was named the 
 
Most Outstanding Player in the Pioneers’ program.
 
“(Mikesell) has always been that kid who is the ultimate team player,” Stefanos said. “He has basically been the captain of both the offense and defense for every team 
 
he has played on. He leads by example.”
 
 
During his career as a starting quarterback, Mikesell compiled a record of 46-7-3.
 
This past season, Mikesell completed 61 of 99 passes for 1,170 yards and 19 touchdowns.
 
Mikesell had the same number of touchdown passes in leading the junior varsity to the championship last year.
 
The 38-combined touchdowns are all the more impressive when compared to only five interceptions, including two this season.
 
League rules dictate that coaches must replace their offensive backfield in a running-clock situation.
 
Mikesell did not play quarterback after halftime in seven of the Pioneers’ 11 games.
 
“Those are really first-half stats,” Stefanos said of the numbers Mikesell accrued offensively this fall.
 
Mikesell wanted to share the credit for his accolades.
 
“We had a dominant offensive line, with good running backs and receivers,” the Century Junior High School eighth-grader said. “It made it easier to throw with such good receivers.”
 
The Pioneers had a punishing one-two punch at running back between Mike D’Antonio and Colin Bohanek.
 
“There are too many weapons (for opposing defenses to negate),” Stefanos said.
 
First-year Pioneer member Jadon Thompson added an electric athleticism to Orland Park from his wideout position.
 
Mikesell said the Pee-Wee Championship two years ago was his lasting memory with the Pioneers.
 
“I was in sixth grade,” Mikesell said. “That was our first time (winning it all). It started the championships for us.”
 
The winning may not be over for the Pioneers’ top team.
 
The group will return to Daytona, Florida, over the Thanksgiving weekend to play in a national two-game tournament.
 
Mikesell will undoubtedly be at the forefront for the Pioneers.
 
“He has a will to win that is unmatched since he was seven (years old),” Stefanos said.
 
Following the holiday festivities, Mikesell will next apply his football skills to the South Side in general and the rugged Catholic League in particular.
 
The Pioneers have played many of their home games at Marist in recent years.
 
“I want to play quarterback (at Marist), but wherever the coaches put me I will try to succeed in,” Mikesell said. “I really like the (Marist) coaches, and the 
 
environment is really good.”
 
Stefanos, like many of the Pioneers’ coaches and administrators, has ties to Marist as well as being an alumnus.
 
“With the tutelage of the coaches at Marist, I think (Mikesell) is going to continue his career and do great things,” Stefanos said. “The sky is the limit.”
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