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Photo by Ed Muniz

Orland Park's defensive line of (from left) Nathan Uldrych (45), Holden Whittam (55), Dominic Citarella (77), Nathan Czerwinski (51) and Jack Elliott wait for the next snap during their 24-0 Homecoming win Sept. 13.


Pompons, colorful circumstance and
some awesome Orland Park Pioneers

Focus on fundamentals brings
Widgets 24-0 triumph over Tinley Park


By Ed Muniz

ORLAND PARK -- The festivities of Homecoming can at times be quite grand. The atmosphere of playing again -- and of the home crowd -- is a ritual that fans across our football nation enjoy yearly. The cool breeze and wet grasses on the lined fields of battle get trudged and slopped up while rabid fans line the edges rooting on their favorites.
If you happened on the John Humphrey Complex here this past weekend, you would have noticed lines of tents, chairs, blankets, coolers and of course parents and family members, all doing their part in this year’s version of Homecoming for the Orland Park Pioneers.
With more than 400 football players and cheerleaders ready to perform in a bevy of games scheduled throughout the day, the anticipation of that first game was much like that ketchup commercial as folks and players arrived as early as 6 a.m. for kickoff at 8:30 a.m. -- and this all for the opening game of 6- and 7-year-olds.
The Widget division 6-7 Blue Pioneers were ready and waiting for the Tinley Park Bulldogs. On their very first play, halfback Terrell Patterson ran past everyone and went 46 yards for the Pioneers’ opening score.
In a league where no score is kept on the scoreboard; the posted tally may have stayed 0-0, but to the parents and others in the stands, the Pioneers were up 6-0.
Orland Park gave the visitors from Tinley Park fits all day, and it started from the get-go. A stifling defense saw numerous players contribute huge efforts and was led by Jack Elliott, Joseph Gentile, Matthew Coleman, Conner Stack and Brady Pisarik.
The pressure and pursuit by the Pioneers limited the Bulldogs much of the first half, and after returning the ball to the offense, Stack added his first of two touchdowns in the game. The score closed out the first half and gave the Pioneers a comfortable 12-0 lead. Again the scoreboard read 0-0, but not on the bench.
Opening the second half, the Pioneers again pounded the ball behind the running of Patterson, Stack and Zach Hnilo. Stack burst through the line for his second score in his 1-yard plunge.

Photo by Ed Muniz
Holden Whittam (55) pursues his opponent during the 6-7 Blue Widget Pioneers 24-0 victory over the Tinley Park Bulldogs.

The next Tinley Park series saw Jack Elliot manhandle the offensive line, gaining a sack and helping to get the ball back for the Pioneers offense.
Closing out the game, the Pioneers ran off chunks of yardage. Evan Benos and Jaden Weaver also got into the ground-and-pound game set up by Sami Alrazzaq.
The Pioneers scored for the fourth time as time expired when John McAuliffe ran in from a yard out as the Pioneers fans cheered loudly in the 24-0 victory.
Pioneers coach Bill Sigel commented, “I have to say coaching these kids is much like corralling cats: They are everywhere at times, but I really do enjoy it and teaching them the fundamentals of the game.”
Other Pioneers adding to the win included Dean and Dillon Czerwinski, Beck Stukel, Gaviano Pawlikowski, Barret Sigel, Luke Pietsch, Jonathan Snider, Nathan Uldrych, Nathan Czerwinski, Brady Grimes, Anthony Edelen, Holden Whittam, Dominic Citarella and Joseph McAdams.
Along the sidelines, the cheer squads do their best to keep the fans involved in the game, and the Pioneers take a back seat to no one. even at the 6-7-year-old level.
Cheerleaders truly seem to enjoy revving up the crowd, and with the coaching direction they get, they do quite a good job of it. But ask one about the game and you might get a funny look, as they concentrate on their sideline skills.
“I just like cheering, that’s all,” said first-grade cheerleader Giselle Portillo, who was not about to say another word after doing her best just a few minutes before.
Also leading the vocals along the sidelines were cheerleaders: Vanessa Annel, Morgan Begley, Ava Bernardi, Natalie Dado, Mia Franzese, Emma Kanagy, Keira Kehlert, Kamile Petruskaite, Kaelyn Ponce, Natalie Schmidt, Aileen Tunney, Genevieve Turney and Mia Vassalia.
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