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Pioneer placekicker Mark Brannigan uses perfect form to add the extra point against Frankfort Square.

Orland Park Pee-Wee A team
hogs ball, points in shutout win

Pioneers opening TD drive spans entire 1st quarter


By Kevin McGavin
Photos by Ken Dado

CHICAGO -- The Southwest Junior Midget Football League does not witness too many game-opening drives like the one the Orland Park Pioneers Pee-Wee A team engineered against Frankfort Square on Saturday afternoon at Marist High School.
Possessing the ball for the entire nine-minute first quarter as well as the first 26 seconds of the second period, the Pioneers’ team, composed of 11-year-olds, used 16 plays to cover 55 yards.
Orland Park quarterback Luke Sefcik converted the Pioneers’ third fourth down of the drive, connecting with John-Michael Scumaci from six yards out for the first of three unanswered touchdowns in the Pioneers’ 22-0 victory at Marist High School.
“Our offensive line was holding the blocks,” Sefcik said of the game-opening, 16-play drive. “That helped me a lot. John-Michael did an out, and he was right there.”
Scumaci hauled in the touchdown reception for his seventh touch of the nine-minute, 26-second drive.
He led all ball carriers with 88 yards on 13 carries and capped the drive one play after Mark Brannigan was ruled out of bounds in the end zone on third down.
“(Brannigan) stepped out,” Sefcik said of the catch along the left sideline.
But Brannigan figured prominently on the point-after try -- his successful kick gave Orland Park an 8-0 lead.
The Scumaci touchdown almost certainly wouldn't have happened had Michael Walsh not made the conversion of the game.
The Pioneers (3-3) stared at fourth and 11 at the Frankfort Square 46-yard line when Walsh made a sliding catch of a Sefcki throw for a 12-yard pickup.
“I always know that Michael — with those long arms — is going to make the catch,” Sefcik said.
Scumaci added: “That was good for our offense to use all of the (first-quarter) clock."
The first half was almost totally consumed by the opening two drives of the contest.
Frankfort Square (3-3) milked five-plus minutes off the clock in its opening possession which went for 38 yards.
Jacob Coleman, however, denied the Wildcats with his fourth-down stop one yard short of a fresh set of downs at the Pioneers’ 24-yard line.
It would be an emblematic tackle for the Pioneers, who were fundamentally sound the entire game on defense.
Zach Bateman was the cornerstone of the Pioneers’ defense, making eight tackles on the day.
Justin Eagan (top) and James Roche wrap-up a Frankfort Square runner in the Pioneers' victory Saturday.
Scumaci made the first of his two long runs of the game two plays later. His 33-yard burst — which featured a deft cutback to the right — put the Pioneers back in enemy territory.
But with the second-quarter clock winding down, the Pioneers’ attempt to pad their lead was thwarted by an intentional grounding penalty. Orland Park had to settle for an 8-0 halftime lead.
The Pioneers were looking to avenge a shutout loss to the Wildcats three weeks earlier in the season.
The prospects of evening up the season series improved dramatically when the Pioneers stopped the Wildcats on downs deep in Frankfort Square territory.
Elliott Cook made a pair of stops during the defensive stand; Nathan Rodriquez added a one-yard tackle-for-loss, and Tyler Milani deflected a Frankfort Square pass.
Operating from the Wildcats’ 22-yard line, Scumaci carried twice for a quick nine yards.
Later, Sefcik called his own number on third-and-goal from the Wildcats’ one-yard line to double the Pioneers’ lead to 14-0. Brannigan added another pair of points with the PAT.
Dylan Sigel thwarted the Wildcats’ plans for a counterstrike with an eight-yard sack on the ensuing possession.
The defensive gem once again gave the Pioneers ideal field position.
Two plays later, Scumaci applied the backbreaker. His 34-yard burst to the end zone capped the two-play, 35-yard drive.
“There were three guys on me,” Scumaci said. “I broke a tackle and went through all of them. The offensive line kept making holes for me.”
Bateman made sure the lead was protected. His presence on the defensive side was inescapable.
“We were winning 8-0, then it was 16-0 and then 22-0,” he said. “I wanted to keep it that way. I had to do it for the team and keep making tackles.”
Coach Jim Roche was very pleased with the performance.
“The best game of the year,” he said. “For some reason, when we come to Marist, we play well. We had a couple of tough games in a row that were close (losses). We played 36 minutes today. We had been playing 18, 25 minutes.”
Nicholas Devos, Brian Funk, Danny Durkin, Jack Gentile, Justin Egan, Max Poda, Matt Stubenfoll, Connor Dixon, James Roche, Robert Griffin, Andrew Messineo and Danny Witkowski also contributed to the win.
Cheering the Pioneers to victory were: Leilah Abdematif, Alivia Achterhof, Brooklyn Cooper, Carleigh Fountain, Mara Gonsch, Haley Kolinski, Ella McDonald, Megan Murphy, Kara Stevens and Nicole Tatar.
Today's Schedule: Season Schedule