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Andrew Dado (7) and Justin Hilgenberg (88) crunch the Dolton ball carrier.

National Widgets fall to Dolton

Team speed carries visitors to shutout win


By Ed Muniz

ORLAND PARK -- Looking to recover from last week's trying performance, coach John Czerwinski’s National Widget Pioneers were hopeful some home cooking at Sandburg High School would be the perfect pick-me-up.
But the Pioneers lined up Sunday against a talent-laden Dolton Bears squad that hasn’t had much difficulty with anyone on its schedule. That trend continued, as the Pioneers just couldn’t muster what they needed to prevent a 24-0 loss to the Bears.
The first half was all Dolton. The Bears controlled the clock and the play. Initially the Orland Park squad went on offense and at times looked very much in control, but positive yardage soon turned into negative yardage as the Pioneers found consistency difficult against a quicker Bears defense.
The Pioneers' first drive resulted in a punt after several plays. Running backs Scott Rybak and Jimmy Lalezas tried to establish a ground attack, with Andrew Dado doing all he could every time he ran the ball, but Dolton made the going difficult.
The first time the visitors went on offense, it took them only two plays to bust loose for a 60-yard broken-field touchdown run. That left the Pioneers with an early 6-0 deficit.
On their next possession, the hosts were unable to maintain control of the ball, and Dolton recovered the fumble in Orland Park territory.
After two stops by the Pioneers, the Bears again used the big play. This time they went 45 yards for their second touchdown run, upping the lead to 12-0 with 10 minutes left in the first half.
Orland Park's offense struggled to get going on the next possession. Dado and Lalezas found no holes to run through as Dolton thwarted every rushing attempt. Along with mishandling the football, the Pioneers were frustrated and turned over the ball on downs.
Defensively the Pioneers found the encouragement from the home crowd uplifting and used that energy to start gang tackling on every Bears attempt. Dado, Rybak, Dennis Tarandy, J.P. Czerwinski and Justin Hilgenberg tracked down the Bears ball carriers and made each one earn every inch.
Dolton methodically pushed the ball toward the end zone and finally broke in from 3 yards out to gain an 18-0 lead just before halftime.

J.P. Czerwinski (59) is in "Protect the Quarterback" mode on a Pioneers passing play against Dolton.

Coming out to start the second half, the Pioneers defense looked ready. On the very first play, Rybak found a pass perfectly laid out for him and caught the errant ball for an interception.
Orland Park had no success on the ensuing three plays and punted, but soon got the ball back. The Pioneers defense this time smashed their way to the fumble recovery by Dado when Rybak made the hit of the game, forcing the Bears runner to lose the ball.
The Pioneers managed to get to the Bears 25-yard line. but a Rybak fourth down pass was snared by a Bears defender to end the drive.
Both J.P. and Luke Czerwinski, along with Hilgenberg, did all they could to stop any Bears momentum. But another big run of 37 yards capped off the Bears' scoring and left the Pioneers frustrated and down 24-0.
Dado showed his determination running the football on the last Pioneers possession. He was relentless in an effort to get on the scoreboard, and it took several Bear defenders to bring him down. But it wasn’t enough, as the Bears wouldn’t relent as they battled for the shutout. Dolton earned a turnover on downs and ran out the clock to end the game.
J.P. Czerwinski put in a solid effort all game for the Pioneers. When asked about his team's play, he wasn’t shy.
“They were just so much quicker than us," he said. "We have to run sprints and run faster and work on our tackling. We need to tackle lower. I tackled by being quicker than the guy that was in front of me, and I got by him. We all need to do that.”
Assistant coach Tommy Ambrose was content with his team's effort and had good things to say.
“I come out and help every week," Ambrose said. "I think they relate to me well because I’m a young guy, so they like it. I saw a lot of kids with a lot of heart in the second half. We kept fighting in the second half and asked 'Who wants to step up?' We saw our kids keep playing hard. I’m ecstatic with the effort, and we just played a very talented team over there, but we never quit. We keep improving, and I’ve seen it game to game. I’m proud of each guy out here.”
The fourth-grade Pioneers cheerleaders weren’t tackling, but they too were giving their all throughout the game, and the home crowd appreciated it. Doing their best again were Chloe and Jocelyn LaVelle, Emily Manning, Gretchen Steenvorden, McKayla Onderwater, Aleksandra Simkus, Ella Gillund, Kaitlin Bauer, Gianna Patterson and Brittany Booker.
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