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Quarterback Jake Scumaci tries to make a play despite suffering a face-mask penalty against Frankfort Black.
 

Lightweights defense stands out
in quarterfinal win

13-12 win over Frankfort Black moves
Pioneers into semifinals

 

Text by Kevin McGavin
Photos by Ed Muniz
 
MORRIS--Braden Tischer learned quickly from a past mistake in judgement.
 
“One time I had a long run and looked back and got caught,” the Orland Park Lightweights quarterback said. “This time I didn’t look back and scored.”
 
Tischer dashed 80 yards on a quarterback keeper around the left side for what proved to be the difference in the Pioneers’ 13-12 River Valley Youth Football League quarterfinal victory over the Frankfort Falcons Black squad on Sunday at Morris High School.
 
Next the third-seeded Pioneers (8-1-0) meet the second-seeded New Lenox Warriors, which defeated Frankfort Blue 7-0 this weekend.
 
New Lenox is the lone program to defeat Orland Park this fall.
 
The Pioneers ended Frankfort Black's campaign at 7-2-0.
 
Tischer's game-changing play, with nine minutes, 10 seconds remaining in the game, came one play after the Pioneers’ defense registered the first of critical back-to-back fourth-down stops.
 
A Falcons defender had an angle on Tischer on the game-winning score, but the Pioneers’ quarterback tip-toed the sideline to create separation.
 
“I have no idea (how I stayed inbounds),” Tischer said. “It felt like it saved the game for us. I was very happy with my teammates for helping me score that touchdown.”
 
It was looking bleak for the Pioneers as the third quarter horn sounded.
 
Frankfort Black reversed its one-point halftime deficit on the opening drive of the third quarter when star running back Cade Serauskis scored the second of his two long touchdown runs.
 
ON their next possession, the Falcons faced second-and-10 from the Pioneers’ 13-yard line when Orland Park linebacker Connor Stack knifed through the line from his linebacker position and stuffed the Frankfort quarterback for a seven-yard loss.
 
“My dad (co-head coach Ken) told me to blitz that play,” Stack said. “(The quarterback) rolled out, and I was like, ‘He’s not getting past me.’”
 
The Orland Park defense then stuffed Serauskis for no gain on fourth down to set up the long Tischer run one play later.
 
But Frankfort was far from being out of options.
 
Plenty of time remained after the Tischer bootleg made it 13-12.
 
 
Pioneers Connor O'Reilly (left) and Nathan Gray (47) work together to corral a Frankfort Black ballcarrier.
 
On the fifth play of its drive beginning at its own 42, Frankfort connected on a pass collaboration to establish first-and-goal at the Pioneers’ 10-yard line.
 
Nathan Gray, however, then mirrored the Stack sack by trapping Serauskis for a six-yard loss on first down.
 
Frankfort Black followed with three fruitless plays -- all incompletions -- to return the ball back to Orland Park with 2:30 to play.
 
“That was all effort,” Stack said of the defensive effort against the Falcons’ final drive. “Our season was not going to end.”
 
Desperately trying to get the ball back, Frankfort, exhausted of timeouts, needed a third down stop.
 
Jake Scumaci, whom Tischer spelled at quarterback after the former suffered a finger injury, then came back in action for only his second play offensively.
 
Scumaci burst around right end on a keeper for 21 yards and slid inside the boundary line.
 
“I didn’t want to risk a fumble,” Scumaci said.
 
One play later, the Falcons could only watch as Scumaci took a knee to end the contest.
 
“I think the real champion was the defense,” Orland Park co-head coach Larry Tischer said. “Football is about seeing adversity and rising above it. We had a rough day on offense. We could have moved the ball better than we did today. For us to come back (on the two defensive stands) and respond like that, I was real proud of the kids.”
 
The game began as a give-away extravaganza.
 
The Pioneers’ two opening drives ended on a lost fourth-down fumble and first-down interception.
 
 
Pioneers speedster Frankie Edelen looks for running room.
 
But Scumaci had a fumble recovery of his own to thwart the Falcons’ first offensive possession.
 
There would be no more giveaways for Orland Park after the second turnover, however.
 
After Frankfort's Serauski broke free off right tackle for a 46-yard touchdown run, disaster nearly befell Orland Park. On the ensuing kickoff, the Pioneers risked losing the ball a third time in as many touches after a fumbled return.
 
But Stack recovered the loose ball to start the third Pioneer drive at the Falcons’ 45.
 
Frankie Edelen made his presence felt on the next play.
 
The Pioneers’ primary ballcarrier had a quick, darting move for a 25-yard scamper.
 
“When I got the handoff it was supposed to be a counter,” Edelen said. “I saw the offensive line open up a gap. I cut through that gap, and there was just nobody there.”
 
Three plays later, Edelen -- with the Pioneers staring at fourth down and six yards to go-- had the only Orland Park pass reception of the game for an 11-yard gain.
 
Edelen had a hard-fought four-yard TD run to cap the eight-play drive.
 
In what proved to the ultimate difference-maker among the four conversion attempts in the game, Scumaci called his own number for the successful try-after.
 
“I wouldn’t have been to do that if my line didn’t block for me,” Scumaci said of his bootleg around the left side.
 
The Pioneers still had one final bullet to dodge in the first half.
 
In the last half-minute of the second quarter, the southpaw Frankfort quarterback arched a perfect spiral to one of his wide receivers, who had beaten the Orland Park secondary badly.
 
But the ball was inches too far to complete the potential 25-yard touchdown reception.
 
“Passing at this age is a very difficult thing to do, especially more than 10 yards,” coach Tischer said. “If you prepare well, luck just finds itself. I thought (the game today) was a defensive victory.”
 
 
Lightweight Pioneers Matt Coleman (left) and Frankie Edelen crunch a Falcons runner.
 
The Pioneers’ Brian McBride intercepted the Falcons’ halfback-option pass on the following play to cement the 7-6 Orland Park lead at the intermission.
 
McBride was the Pioneer focal point in the “fifth-quarter” exhibition preceding the main game as he scored the only touchdown on a 30-yard run and later added a 16-yard reception.
 
“On the touchdown run, I felt good on that one,” McBride said. “All of my friends were giving me high-fives. On the good pass, I probably could have scored a touchdown on that play.”
 
The following Pioneers joined in the victory celebration: Satino Chlada, Gavin Vahl, Sam Jaunich, John McAuliffe, Liam LeGrand, Scott Miklos, Corey Kurecki, Connor O’Reilly, John Masino, Matthew Coleman, Anthony Shelton, Ryan Sullivan, Jack Johnson, Jonathan Snider, Jack Elliott, Nicholas McKibben, Holden Wittam, Sami Alrazzaq, Matthew Villarreal, Evan Benos, Mitchell Kieklak, Dominic Palumbo, Eloy Molina, Alan Fako, Dominic Citarella, Brady Pisarik, Vince Villa, Jaden Weaver, Ryne Sternberg, Jack Fei, Michael Sczurek and Colin Ferguson.
 
The Pioneers’ players got great support from the fourth- and fifth-grade cheer squad: Nicolette Allen, Nicole Bonfitto, Allyson and Cate Burke, Annabella Cannici, Emma Collias, Aubree Conroy, Ciara Coyle, Lexi Eurkaitis, Natalie Felthouse, Gianna Frech, Grace Gardner, Nadia Ghouleh, Gianna Hernandez, Bianca Kois, Angelina Lamantia, Alexandra Laska, Sarah Martino, Samantha Masino, Abby McCasland, McKenna Patton, Emily Ramirez, Reese Rodriguez, Giana Shepley, Olivia Skrocki, Sieira Sporleder, Gianna Staudt and Allison Welch.
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