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Pioneers quarterback Jack Shelton passes to a teammate against Frankfort Square on Saturday.

Victory slips away from Lightweight B squad

Frankfort Square takes advantage
of breaks in 22-7 win over Pioneers


By Kevin McGavin
Photos by Ken Dado


CHICAGO -- Luke Kedzierski could not have envisioned a better opportunity to tie the football game for the Pioneers Lightweight B team Saturday.
The Orland Park 12-year-old slipped free of the Frankfort Square defense from his tight end position, wide open by seven or eight yards.
But instead of a potential 54-yard catch and run for a tying touchdown, the play turned into an incomplete pass as the missed connection glanced off his outstretched fingers.
The play proved to be a symbolic what-if for the Pioneers, who did not score until the waning moments in their 22-7 loss to the Wildcats at Marist High School.
The Wildcats’ Matthew Wasso proved to be the difference-maker for Frankfort Square. The athletic quarterback gave the Pioneers defense a matchup nightmare.
“They had that big kid, No. 12 (Wasso), for their quarterback,” said Orland Park Lightweight feature athlete John Burner. “We couldn’t do much against him. He was tough to bring down.”
Frankfort Square (4-2) took the opening kickoff, and Wasso consumed much of the first-quarter clock with a methodical drive that he capped off from the Pioneers’ 5-yard line.
Orland Park (3-3) never found an equalizer for the remainder of the game.
Turnovers thwarted the Pioneers’ offensive attack repeatedly in the blustery conditions.
Burner's 20-yard run was the Pioneers’ longest first-half play from scrimmage and framed the opening possession for Orland Park.
But the run was rendered moot on the following play when the Wildcats’ Michael Newmann was picked off.
Burner forced a fumble on the Wildcats’ second possession, but the near-miss to Kedzierski followed. It was the Pioneers’ best chance to score in the opening half.
The game changed dramatically over the next two possessions that closed out the first half.
Vincent Messineo recovered a fumble to deny Franklin Square a strong scoring chance as the first-half clock ran down.
But on the next play. The Wildcats recovered a muffed lateral in the Orland Park backfield.
“It changed the game,” Orland Park Lightweight B coach Ken Stack said of the play.
Using a virtual carbon copy of its opening drive, Franklin Square doubled its lead. Wasso once again chewed up valuable yardage on keepers out of the shotgun formation for the Wildcats. He plunged in from the Pioneers’ 5-yard line to complete the short drive.
Mike Bosco opened the second half with a nifty run for the Pioneers, only to have the drive stall on a critical holding penalty.
Hugh Brennan (45) and Sean Hanley (22) get involved in a pile-up. 
The Pioneers responded defensively to the surrendered drive on downs when John Slechta recovered a fumble.
But Orland Park's luck didn't change. The Pioneers turned the ball over on an interception one play later.
“You can’t come back when you throw the ball away three times,” Stack said of the Frankfort Square picks. “Turnovers are the killers, just killers.”
Two possessions later, Frankfort Square cinched the victory. Masso scored from short yardage after the Pioneers’ failed to convert on a fourth down.
But at least Slechta gave the Pioneers one final burst of optimism.
Entering the game at quarterback for the first time, he found a seam along the right side of the Wildcats defense on a bootleg.
Slechta created separation and beat two Wildcats defenders to the pylon to complete the 51-yard scamper and avert the shutout.
“I cut over and just kept going,” Slechta said. “I was able to dive into the end zone.”
The long run with three minutes, 51 seconds to play was 31 yards longer than any previous Pioneers play from scrimmage.
“We have to keep our heads up and keep moving forward,” Stack said. “Hopefully we’ll see them again in the playoffs.”
There are 28 members on the Pioneers Lightweight B team.
In addition to Slechta, Messineo, Burner and Bosco, the other Pioneers contributors were David Antoine, Tarik Deeb, Jack Shelton, Devin Thorpe, Giovanni Fricano, Brandon Sewers, Ryan Cary, Sean Hanley, Kyle McGrath-Ullrich, Robert Patterson, Matthew Murphy, Zachary Stack, Brett Fasler, Jason Uldrych, Hugh Brennan, Anthony Stotts, Ethan McCormick, Jacob Goodman, Anthony Dombrowski, Isaiah Portillo, Omar Elagha, Rayan Agha and Jacob Murphy.
The Pioneers cheerleaders featured Caitlyn Brennen, Anna Crnich, Eman Deeb, Kayla Dombrowski, Hannah Ford, Gabriella Gianakas, Lexie Hansler, Maura Harty, Kayle Hoak, Ella Jeffries, Samantha Kowalski, Abigail Kuesis, Hannah Scanlon, Libby Schout, Christine Shannon, Ava Stroubossder and Hannah Stroubossder.
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