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Pioneers running back Jake Maziarka sidesteps a would-be Tinley Park tackler and heads for positive yards in the RVYFl Junior Varsity Super Bowl on Nov. 6.

 

Junior Varsity's super effort
falls just short in title game

Pioneers drop 20-14 Super Bowl OT decision to Tinley Park

 
By Ed Muniz
 
 
JOLIET -- Ever thought about how large or small a foot-and-a-half is? 18 inches? When you think about it, it really isn’t that large or long or wide or big. It’s about the width of an average person’s measurement from shoulder to shoulder.
 
The span became huge to the Orland Park Pioneers Junior Varsity. It prevented them from being crowned River Valley Youth Football League Super Bowl champions.
 
With the title on the line and facing fourth down, three yards from the endzone, the Pioneers tried a quarterback draw by Tommy McAuliffe but only got half the ground they needed. The end result was an elated and unbeaten Tinley Park Bulldog team that finished 13-0-0 on the season after the 20-14 overtime thriller over the Pioneers (11-2-0) Nov. 6 at ATI Field.
 
“I think it was one of those games where we simply made too many mistakes against a very good team,” said defensive coach John Stefanos. “We were up 7-0 and deep in their territory, and we get the holding penalty to push us back. They made plays. 
 
“We are closing out the half, and we have as good a coverage as you can have, and they complete a long touchdown pass in triple coverage. They had a talented receiver, and I knew going in. He’s big, he’s fast, and he’s athletic. He just made a play.”
 
What could be viewed as the turning point in the game came with 1:35 left in the first half. The Pioneers had all the answers up to that point, and Tinley Park couldn’t break through the stout Orland Park defense. But on second down from the Pioneer 32-yard line, the Bulldogs quarterback flung a deep, high pass to his tall receiver with three Pioneers blanketing him.
 
Prior to that, Julian Loeza had quashed any attempt targeted at the big receiver, and this play looked like it would result in another stop. But he outleaped a trio of Pioneers defenders, broke free of Nicholas Edelen's grasp and stunned the visitors' sideline with a 32-yard touchdown.
 
After the conversion kick, the Bulldogs took the lead against a Pioneers team that had dominated much of the play up to then.
 
One factor in the game was the inability of the Pioneers to take advantage of Bulldog mistakes, especially in the first half -- Tinley Park threw an interception and lost a fumble.
 
In each case, the Pioneers were on the midfield side of Bulldogs territory and were unable to sustain a drive to enhance their lead. That trend continued into the second half when a Bulldog pass was again intercepted only to be squandered on the opening drive. 
 
Pioneers quarterback Tommy McAuliffe fights for extra yards against Tinley Park.
 
To say the Pioneers had their chances would be stating the obvious.
 
Both teams had obviously scouted each other, but the Pioneers came in with the thought of continuing their way of play with a few wrinkles. It had worked each week of the playoff run and now just needed the finishing touches. But unbeaten and top-seeded Tinley Park was not going to just roll over.
 
The Pioneers opened with their “ground 'n' pound” game featuring the running attack of Jimmy Rolder and Jake Maziarka. The tandem backs had shouldered a huge load of the offense all year and each had recorded stellar seasons carrying and receiving the ball.
 
The Pioneers also used the air to their advantage, finding the quick pass to the slot man or a running back out of the backfield. The play was good for huge yardage and moved the Pioneers downfield nearly every time. Quarterback McAuliffe was efficient in quickly finding the right guy to make the play work.
 
Beginning at their own 40-yard line, the Pioneers used Maziarka and Rolder to grab a couple of first downs. Throw in an out-pass from McAuliffe to Maziarka and the Pioneers were quickly moving downfield and keeping the Bulldogs on their heels.
 
On third down from the Bulldogs 33-yard line, McAuliffe called Loeza’s number. The receiver managed to get behind the defense down the near sideline and the long lofted pass was cradled in his arms for the opening touchdown of the game. When McAuliffe ran in the point-after, the Pioneers quickly led 7-0.
 
All season the Pioneers defense seemed to play its best and this game was no different. On the opening Tinley Park drive, the hard hitting began on the very first snap. Defenders Zakery Bowman, Nicholas Edelen, Michael Ulleweit, Loeza and Rolder all grabbed a tackle or defended a pass and gave nothing to the Bulldogs. When Loeza came up with an interception and returned it to his own 45-yard line, the Pioneers had a chance to extend their lead.
 
Back on offense, Orland Park opened with the pass. Completions to Maziarka and Loeza had them quickly in Tinley territory. Rolder took them to the Bulldogs 41 on a short carry as the first quarter ended, but a penalty welcomed them to the second quarter followed by a loss of yardage and an incomplete pass that forced the Pioneers to punt.
 
Following a 17-yard punt return by the Bulldogs, the Pioneers defense was at it again. Maziarka and Loeza each made big tackles but Bowden stood out in this series with his hard hitting. When he came up with a Bulldogs fumble on a reverse attempt, the Pioneers had another opportunity to add to their tally with good field position at the Bulldogs 47.
 
The advantage was short-lived. A quick three-and-out by the Pioneer offense preceded a punt.
 
To this point, the Pioneers defense had been comfortable with the play amd limited the Bulldogs to little success and this possession looked much the same. In seven plays, the Pioneers gave up little. Rolder, Edelen, Ryan McPolin, Maziarka, and Loeza all grabbed tackles and also managed to defend any pass attempt.
 
With under two minutes left in the opening half, The Bulldogs were looking to score quickly and attempted a long pass play down the middle of the field that fell incomplete. Knowing what Tinley Park wanted, the Pioneers moved several defenders back. On the eighth play of the drive, the Bulldogs went back at it, and this time made the improbable pass completion. After the point-after kick, just like that, the Bulldogs now led 8-7 with 1:35 left before the break after being dominated nearly the entire first half.
 
 
Jimmy Rolder charges upfield after intercepting a pass.

 

The second half opened with the Pioneers on defense and again the unit stepped up when Rolder snagged an errant Bulldog pass for the interception, the Bulldogs third turnover of the game.
 
The following Pioneers offensive series produced just four yards and again resulted in a punt. To make things worse, the Pioneers were kicking from deep in their territory.
 
Tinley Park changed its offensive attack in the second half and found an advantage going to two backs. They were not big in stature and difficult to see. Using several lead backs to hide the ballcarrier, the strategy worked over and over for the Bulldogs. It gave them an advantage for much of the remainder of the game as they managed moved the ball against the tough Pioneers defense. 
 
Then came a key play that assisted Tinley Park. A pass attempt was clearly tipped by a Pioneers defender but was missed by several officials and not rectified after minutes of discussion. The blown call moved the ball to the Pioneers 13 and from there the Bulldogs immediately scored and led 14-7 after a failed kick try for the conversion.
 
Things looked bad for the Pioneers when they coughed up the ball and lost possession on the following series.
 
Needing a big stop, the Orland Park defense came up with it behind Rolder, Maziarka, Joey Shelton, Edelen and Loeza, and forced a punt which Loeza returned 20 yards.
 
Now with 7 minutes left in regulation and down a score, the Pioneers delivered their best drive of the game. Beginning at their own 29, they mixed short passes and key runs by Maziarka , Rolder and McAuliffe to move the ball downfield. Each player focused on what was needed.
 
Three-straight pass completions to Maziarka, Rolder and Loeza moved the Pioneers to the Bulldogs 47. Maziarka's run was followed by a huge 13-yard gain by McAuliffe who refused to go down. A 15-yard pass to Maziarka and a Rolder run now had the Pioneers just 14 yards from the endzone.
 
Behind the running of Rolder and McAuliffe, the Pioneers sat at the Bulldogs 2-yard line. After McAuliffe passed to Maziarka, the game was just a conversion play from being tied with just 2:57 left in regulation. The combo of McAuliffe to Maziarka again came through on the vital extra-point to tie the game at 14-14.
 
The Pioneers now had all the momentum and quickly shut down the Bulldogs ensuing series but just as quick, the Pioneers turned it back over when a McAuliffe pass was intercepted with 1:24 left.
 
The defense responded and came away with the fourth turnover of the game when Loeza again intercepted a Bulldogs pass with just 15 seconds left in regulation. The Super Bowl was headed to overtime.
 
The Bulldogs got the shot at scoring from the 10-yard line. They hit paydirt on the third play but failed on the kick for a 20-14 lead.
 
If the Pioneers could score and add the point after they would come away with the championship. The offense took to the field and on the first three plays managed to get 7 yards. Needing to score on fourth down with the game on the line, the Pioneers called a quarterback draw for the elusive McAuliffe but came up short. Eighteen inches!
 
Pioneers who contributed to an unforgettable season 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, Jacob Masino, 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.
 
The sixth- and seventh-grade cheerleaders who did a great job all season 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.
 
Today's Schedule: Season Schedule