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Quarterback Tommy McAuliffe throws a long bomb in the Homecoming clash against Homer.

Junior Varsity falls in battle of unbeatens

Homer's 2-point PAT the difference in 14-13 loss

 
Test by Ed Muniz
Photos by Ken Dado
 
ORLAND PARK -- Probably the most anticipated game of Homecoming was the Junior Varsity match. Both teams came in unbeaten. Homer sported a high-scoring offense that averaged nearly 28.5 points a game and a stingy defense that allowed just 23 points in 5 games.
 
The Pioneers came in unscathed as well and in their four previous games had similar average margin of victory -- 26-5.
 
You never know in matchups like this what kind of game you’ll get, but the added incentive to win at their Homecoming spurred on the hosts. Oh, by the way, remaining undefeated also played a factor!
 
For coaches Mark Mikesell and John Stefanos, it was routine and welcomed. These two coaches have a history of playing in games like this because of their successes of their teams, so it was truly old hat for them. If they were nervous you couldn’t tell.
 
The game started out quickly. The Pioneers started with running plays, one by Jimmy Rolder and a Tommy McAuliffe keeper that gained a few yards, but on third down and just a few minutes in, McAuliffe dropped back and tossed to his right to running back Jacob Maziarka. He rounded the right end made a quick move past a defender and was off for 56 yards to the endzone. With the extra-point added on McAuliffe's toss to Julian Loeza, the Pioneers led 7-0 early in the game.
 
The ensuing kickoff turned into an immediate disaster for the Pioneers. A goofy bounce found its way into the hands of a forward-moving Stallion, who  picked up the ball in stride and raced straight down the sidelines untouched, surprising the Pioneers with a kickoff return touchdown. When the Stallions converted the extra-point kick, they now led 8-7 just 15 seconds after the Pioneers scored.
 
Rolling the dice, the Pioneers went back on offense tried to catch the visitors off guard when McAuliffe went to the air. His pass intended for Loeza never made it. The strong breeze knocked the ball down right into a Homer defenders arms.
 
With the interception, the Stallions now looked to add to their lead just 20 seconds after their touchdown. The rapid back-and-forth of both teams gave the impression this was going to be a high scoring game, but that didn’t last long when the Pioneers defense decided it had enough.
 
Pioneer power back Jacob Maziarka lunges into the endzone and looks to the referee while two Homer defenders lay helpless. The touchdown put the Pioneers ahead 13-8.
 
Maziarka, McAuliffe, Jackson Schramm, Loeza and Zakery Bowden shut the endzone door for the Stallions the remainder of the first half. With additional tackles from Ryan McPolin, Rolder, and Jack Harty, the Pioneers made it very difficult for the Stallions to get much going offensively.
 
The Pioneers also weren't having much success moving the ball. A pesky and quick Homer defense swarmed to the ball and gave the Pioneers fits. McAuliffe did find Loeza and managed to convert a pass for 24 yards but that drive also stalled and forced the hosts to give up the ball.
 
The first half had become a “wait and see who’ll make a big mistake” game heading into halftime.
 
The Stallions came out from halftime and used a mixture of run and pass plays to grab yard after yard. The Pioneers were reeling and were looking to make a play with coach Stefanos beckoning his defense to get in the right positions. Suddenly the Pioneers were struggling with their defense and Stefanos tried desperately to fix the problems.
 
When the Pioneers needed it most as the Stallions moved into scoring position, the visitors fumbled and Bowden came up with the ball.
 
Exchanging punts, neither offense could get much going. The Pioneers once again were back on offense and this time started working down the field. Rolder and Maziarka used their running skills to grab yards while McAuliffe again found Loeza with the pass, but Homer also helped with big penalties at the wrong times. That included a personal foul after a big Maziarka run.
 
Now sitting at the Homer 6-yard line, Maziarka powered his way in from there and gave the Pioneers a 13-8 lead. A failed extra-point kick that went wide left kept the score the same.
 
Early in the fourth quarter, the Pioneers had a chance to extend the lead. They had the momentum after Kyle Peterson intercepted a Stallion pass.
 
JV Pioneers Nicholas Edelen (33), Jimmy Rolder (56) and Joey Shelton (10) gang tackle a Homer Stallion runner just before he reaches the goalline. 
What turned out to be the Stallions biggest defensive stance followed and forced the Pioneers to punt the ball back to them. A missed opportunity would end up being a key moment in the game for the Pioneers.
 
The Stallions were unbeaten for a reason, they had the ability to score quickly and do it from anywhere on the field. After receiving the ball, the Stallions showed that ability and caught the Pioneers out of position when they connected on a 39 yard pass-play that wound up in the endzone. With the score and a missed extra-point, the Stallions were ahead 14-13 with just under 7 minutes left.
 
The Pioneers didn’t do much with their ensuing possession and gave the ball back on downs.
 
With Time winding down, the Pioneers defense desperately tried to get the ball back and used its timeouts.  The Stallions used nearly the entire remaining time but did give the Pioneers one more chance with 29 seconds left.
 
McAuliffe had to go to the air and Homer knew it, they sat back as McAuliffe dropped back. A long throw fell into the waiting arms of a Stallion defender to seal the 14-13 win.
 
The dejected Pioneers (5-1-0) suffered their first loss of the season while the visiting Stallions continued unbeaten at 6-0-0.
 
Other Pioneers who participated in the great game included: Christian Evans, Martinas Petruska, Ryan Welch, Andrew Dado, Nergui Munkbat, John Thompson, Troy Faille, Scott Rybak, Lukas Pukstys, Tommy Durkin, Sean Halloran, Conor McCormick, Charlie Soltys, Jake Stefanos, Jacob Masino, Jimmy Lalezas, John Mazenko, Joseph Calacci, Ryan McPolin, Brian Devlin, Drew Saunders, Frank D’Antonio, Abdel Ghouleh, Tommy Stotts, Gavin Kissane, Nicholas Presbitero, Connor Beach, Jackson Beach, Kenneth Gillette, Tyler Biszewski, Mike Rafazti, Angelo Citarella and Max Urbas.
 
Donning their number 40 jersey on the sidelines and keeping the fans entertained were the Pioneer sixth- and seventh-grade cheerleaders. Among them were Alivia Achterhof, Brittany Booker, Madeline Casey, Kayla Conrad, Brooklyn Cooper, Jazmine Estrada, Carleigh Fountain, Paige Gasparas, Ella Gillund, Maria Gonsch, Erin Haw, Emma Herout, Audrey Hickman, Amber Hoak, Brianna Iraci, Samantha Jeffries, Giselle Jreisat, Chloe LaVelle, Jocelyn LaVelle, Ella McDonald, Grace McReynolds, Ariana Morris, Megan Murphy, McKayla Onderwater, Gianna Patterson, Sydney Pisarik, Dana Rafati, Angelina Salaita, Claudia Sawik, Kara Stevens, Nicole Tatar, Yoanni Trevino and Lija Vigants.
 
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