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Alexander Knight looks to gain every inch he can versus Frankfort.

Varsity suffers 1st loss of season

Pioneers rally comes up short

By Kevin McGavin
Photos by Ken Dado
 
ORLAND PARK -- It was a back-breaking drive for the Orland Park varsity football team Sunday night at Sandburg High School.
 
The Pioneers had stormed back against Frankfort, threatening to take the lead after trailing by double-digits in the opening half.
 
But the Falcons’ defense denied Orland Park on fourth-and-goal at the 3-yard line with seven-plus minutes remaining.
 
A dozen plays later, Frankfort restored its two-score lead as Jamal Jones, who rushed for a game-high 156 yards, scored his second touchdown of the game from a yard away.
 
There were but sixty seconds to play, but Orland Park's Alex Knight made his presence known in a hurry.
 
The first-year Pioneer player scooped up the ensuing kickoff and raced 73 yards to paydirt down the right sideline.
 
“I just knew we had to score fast,” Knight said. “I saw the hole and just took it.”
 
Out of timeouts, the Pioneers had to try to recover their second onside-kick of the game.
 
But Frankfort recovered the attempt and ran out the clock to preserve a 28-24 victory over Orland Park.
 
The Pioneers (2-1-0) suffered their first loss in the River Valley Youth Football League.
 
There was a stark contrast between the teams’ offenses.
 
Frankfort completely neutralized the Pioneers’ ground game as Orland Park managed only 11 yards on 15 attempts.
 
“We just weren’t blocking like we usually do,” said Knight, the Pioneers’ starting tailback.
 
Frankfort, meanwhile, had two players -- Jones and quarterback Ben Kingsburg -- surpass the century mark in rushing yardage.
 
But it was completely different through the air. Orland Park quarterback Justin Egan completed seven passes for 175 yards.
 
“I was proud of the way we moved the ball through the air,” Orland Park coach Jim Roche said. “I would rather run the ball, control the clock and control the possessions. We had to go through the air.”
 
Egan had two imposing targets to spearhead the Pioneers’ offensive attack.
 
After the Pioneers trailed 16-0 and with but one first down in the opening half, Egan faced a second-and-10 from his own 41-yard line late in the second quarter. He hit Luke Kedzierski in the breadbasket with pass sufficient enough for first down yardage.
 
But Kedzierski was simply not satisfied with moving the sticks.
 
With a defender draped all over his back, he shed the would-be tackle and motored all the way to the endzone.
 
“Really it’s a matter of opinion,” Kedzierski said of his 59-yard catch-and-run. “You don’t have to go down if you don’t want to. It’s a matter of perspective.”
 
Unfortunately for the Pioneers, though, the momentum of the score with 2:06 to play before the intermission was short-lived.
 
Frankfort produced three-straight double-digit runs to drive 58 yards and score 21 seconds before halftime to take a 22-8 lead.
 
The first half was particularly frustrating for the Pioneers as Mark Brannigan, who missed virtually the entire season last year with a broken arm suffered in the second game, appeared to put Orland Park on the board with a thrilling 73-yard touchdown catch.
 
But the first-quarter score was negated by a holding penalty.
 
“I was a little upset,” Brannagan said.
 
“That was tough,” Roche said of the nullified touchdown. “It would have been a big momentum-changer for us. I thought the first half we were out of rhythm (offensively).”
 
But the Pioneers took solace from their play in the second half.
 
Pioneers defenders Adam Winistorfer (55) and Luke Kedzierski manhandle a Falcons runner.
Kedzierski set the tone by sacking Kingsbury for a four-yard loss on the first play of the second half.
 
The Falcons’ opening third-quarter drive ended in three-and-out for the Pioneers’ defense.
 
After a defensive pass interference call, Kedzierski took in a pass and raced 46 yards to put Orland Park in the red zone.
 
“I’m pretty sure (the ball was tipped), but I try not to pay attention to all the details,” Kedzierski said.
 
The Pioneers were on the cusp of their second score after Brannagan hauled in a 17-yard reception from Egan to put the ball at the Falcons’ 2.
 
“It was a good pass by Justin,” said Brannagan, who had a game-high four catches for 68 yards. “Our line did a good job blocking on that play.”
 
Egan called his own number to finish the 75-yard, six-play drive.
 
Brannagan had the second of his three successful PAT conversions to more than halve the Pioneers’ deficit to 22-16.
 
Orland Park recovered the ensuing onside-kick, but Frankfort snared one of its three interceptions on the Pioneers’ first play.
 
“The biggest thing was their defensive line came to play,” Roche said of the Falcons’ pressure.
 
Kedzierski averaged 50 yards on his two receptions.
 
Jalil McLaughlin was the Pioneers’ defensive standout from his interior line position.
 
“Jalil was good on the defensive line,” Brannagan said.
 
In the fifth quarter exhibition that preceded the varsity contest, Luke Masino scored the Pioneers’ lone touchdown -- a 35-yard pass reception -- during the 10 minutes the Orland Park offense was allotted.
 
Roche singled out Nathan Rodriguez and the lone girl on the team -- Mia Castillo -- for their play.
 
“(Mia) is probably one of our best fifth quarter players,” Roche said. “She is a great athlete. She is a pleasure to coach.”
 
Contributors to the Pioneers' efforts were: Kevin Zimmer, Danny Durkin, Michael Bobber, Aidan LeGrand, Tyler Milani, Zach Bateman, Luke Stefanos, Ahmad Alrazzaq, Connor Dixon, Jacob Coleman, Luke Masino, Joshua Graska, Anthony Stotts, Matt Stubenfoll, James Roche, Adam Winistorfer, Brett Laird, Nicholas Devos, Brett Fasler, Connor Anderson, Eddie Palomado, Adam Zolnik, Tony Shamma, Anthony Dombrowski, John Alfarah, Danny Witkowski, Michael Clifford, George Winistorfer, Alex Kopley, John-Michael Scumaci and Caleb Patton.
 
 
Urging on Orland Park was the cheerleading squad of: Efosa Atoe, Anna Crnich, Kayla Dombrowski, Maureen Fandl, Marisa Garza, Lexie Hansler, Maura Harty, McKenzie Hedinger, Kayle Hoak, Ella Jeffries, Kylie Kehlert, Nicole Kubacka, Morgan McGuire, Hannah Scanlon, Kasey Slusarczyk, Ava Stroobosscher, Hannah Stroobosscher, Brianna Timmons, Victoria Vargas, Natalie Villareal and Meagan Walsh.
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