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Photos by Ken and Diana Dado
Orland Park's Alex Lalezas sacks the Tinley Park quarterback in the Pioneers 24-0 Homecoming victory Sept. 13 in Orland Park.

Orland Park junior varsity
too much for Tinley Park

Pioneers capitalize on early mistake and never look back


By Kevin McGavin

ORLAND PARK -- Special teams penalties are often the kiss of death in football.
Saturday afternoon at the Humphrey Sports Complex, Orland Park junior varsity wide receiver Mark Fassler made Tinley Park pay for its roughing-the-punter penalty in the opening quarter.
Fassler took a screen pass from quarterback Hayden Mikesell and sprinted almost untouched down the left sideline for a 60-yard touchdown one play after the Bulldogs’ infraction.
Big plays were the order of the day for the Pioneers’ JV unit. Ryan Leland initiated a running clock with a 25-yard touchdown reception from Mikesell late in the third quarter of the Pioneers’ 30-6 victory.
“We have great receivers,” said Mikesell, who doubled the Pioneers’ first-half lead to 14-0 with a 50-yard bomb to Jack Brannigan. “They’re always getting open. Our line blocked real good. It made it a lot easier on me.”
After the Pioneers’ early strike, Orland Park momentarily lost its momentum with a muffed punt.
But Alex Lalezas recorded the second of his three sacks to thwart the Bulldogs’ ensuing drive.
“He has been playing noseguard since he was in fourth grade,” JV coach Mark Mikesell said.
“I just throw the center and get in there every time,” said Lalezas, who also serves as the Pioneers’ left tackle on offense.
Following Lalezas’ tackle for a loss, Orland Park did not waste much time. Starting at its own 30-yard line, Orland deployed inside runs by Mike D’Antonio, Mikesell and Fassler to pick up an initial first down. D’Antonio then picked up a dozen yards on back-to-back carries to put the ball at midfield.
Brannigan lined up on the far right side of the field, and the Pioneers’ lead was soon 14-0 midway through the second quarter when he caught the Mikesell strike in stride, well behind the defense.
“It was a great pass by my quarterback, No. 39, Hayden Mikesell,” Brannigan said. “I just got by the defense, and there was great blocking by the line. We throw it deep a lot.”
“We knew (Tinley Park was) going to be our best opponent of the year so far,” coach Mikesell said. “It was a 0-0 game, except for the two big plays.”
Conversely, the visitors were never able to sustain any offensive consistency.
 Pioneers Ryan Leland eludes the Bulldog tackle and adds chunks of yardage en route to Orland Park's 24-0 Homecoming win.

The Pioneers Ryan Leland eludes a Tinley Park defensive tackle and adds chunks of yardage en route to the Junior Varsity's Homecoming win.

Orland Park, which improved to 3-0 on the young season, allowed but three first downs in the opening half.
The Pioneers’ domination continued into the third quarter. The quick-strike offense also returned to form.
Situated at midfield, the Pioneers had their third-consecutive touchdown of 50 yards or longer when D’Antonio busted loose for a 50-yard scamper less than three minutes into the third quarter.
After forcing a three-and-out on the ensuing Tinley Park possession, the Pioneers went for the jugular.
Mikesell hit Leland with a 25-yard strike to edge Orland Park closer to the red zone.
Jacob Dado decided enough was enough. Dado caught a throw-back, wide-receiver screen from Mikesell and deftly cut across the grain to extend the Pioneers’ lead to 30-0.
Brannigan missed his final PAT attempt, but his earlier three conversions provided Orland Park with a 24-0 advantage.
“We challenged the boys at halftime and were able to stick a couple more (touchdowns) in there,” coach Mikesell said.
Tyler Lucas’ three-yard touchdown run for Tinley Park in the waning minutes cost the Pioneers their shutout bid.
Jali McLaughlin, Dylan Namrowski, Brian Donlevy, Tyler Villa, Tristan Stefanos, Joshua Heavrin, Patrick Nolan, Malik Abdallah, Ibraheem Affaneh, Kyle Laird, Brandt Sureyk, John Pappas, Kevin Kost, Gregory Molda, Luis Rodriguez, Alexander Abdellatif, Mohammed Abuzir and Jake Hesselman round out the Pioneers’ JV team.
The 25-member cheerleading squad for the Pioneers features: Lexie Alfini, Presley Bedno, Kenadee Berry, Kennedy Costa, Nina Dixon, Breanne Ferguson, Faith Fiore, Fiona Gallagher, Meghan Haran, Alexandra Henninger, Shea Jones, Alyssa Kochanny, Rugile Laurinaityte, Veronica Leafblad, Lola Mancera, Lexie Nelles, Bailee Panfill, Samantha Poda, Madalyn Riebel, Caroline Schmidt, Nicole Sendera, Sophia Senese, Rorie Wilson and Jenna Witt.
A family tie was how one of the cheerers joined the program.
“My sister (Ashley) got me started,” said Alfini. “I like the competition.”
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