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Pioneers running back J.P. Czerwinski hits the hole between teammates Andrew Dado (left) and Jimmy Lalezas (34) during the season opener.

Lightweight Scarlet squad
falls to Frankfort Square

Pioneers at size disadvantage in 20-7 loss

By Ed Muniz
Photos by Ken Dado

ORLAND PARK -- When the Lightweight Scarlet Pioneers took to the field at Sandburg High School on Sunday, the players and coaches looked about as ready as they could be. Five coaches and 30-plus players all had hopes of giving the home crowd lots to cheer about as they opened the 2015 River Valley Youth Football League season.
The opponents were the Frankfort Square Wildcats -- a rival when both teams played in the Southwest Junior Midget Football League. With the new league came new rules and weights. ”Stripers” and “Older/lighters” is the new terminology used to describe players who are either too heavy or too light but are still allowed to play with similar-aged boys and girls.
The visiting Wildcats seemed noticeably bigger than the Pioneers and in the end, that advantage seemed to be the difference that earned them a 20-7 win which spoiled the debut of Pioneer head coach Ken Dado.
“Very tough game” said coach Dado. “We had problems with kids not being in the right spots. We have to work on our blocking. We were struggling there, and we had a little bit of confusion on some of the plays. We will be working on our fundamentals this week.”
It was obvious that the Wildcats had more veterans playing than the Pioneers. That is a factor coach Dado and his squad will have to deal with moving forward -- the lack of experience with his large group. 
“We do have a lot of new players and are limited on those who can play both ways right now," he said. "We will work hard at it to improve, and I’m sure we will be much better as the season goes on.”
With the opening kickoff, Frankfort Square put the Pioneers quickly on the heels. The Wildcats needed only three plays to jump out to a 7-0 lead after a 52-yard touchdown run.
Harrison Hebert and Jimmy Lalezas did all they could defensively for the Pioneers but the quick score seemed to stun the Pioneer defense.
Quarterback Scott Rybak (center) calls out the signals against Frankfort Square.
Offensively, the Pioneers struggled all day. Quarterback Scott Rybak did his best to get plays off, but a quicker Wildcat defense gave the Pioneer offensive line fits throughout the game.
“Sometimes it was pretty tough playing them today, because they had a really good defensive line,” said the Pioneer signal caller. “We struggled with our blocking. We didn't have a good day today. I just try and do my job, but I also try to lead. I'll be better next game.”
The Pioneers first possession didn't gain any positive yardage, so the hosts punted and headed back on defense. This time the Pioneer tacklers responded and held the Wildcats in check behind stops from Lalezas, Andrew Dado, Nathan Gray and Justin Hilgenberg. 
Back on the “O” side of the ball, the Pioneers went three-and-out again when they couldn't gain any yardage. Penalties also stunted their progress in the early stages of the game.
A short punt gave Franklin Square a great opportunity to score again. When it looked like the prowess of Pioneer defenders Brian Harms and Hebert would stop the advancing Wildcats offense, a quick burst through the line and cut right gave the Wildcats another touchdown from 11-yards out. After another extra point gave the Wildcats a 14-0 halftime lead.
The second half began with the Pioneers on offense but much like before, they were again unable to gain a first down and punted the ball away.
Looking to hold off any more scoring, teammates Dado and J.P. Czerwinski turned it up a notch and led the way defensively for the Pioneers with multiple tackles. 
Linebacker Dado said: “I think after they scored their first two touchdowns, we got down and it made it harder for us. But next game we are gonna be way better, you'll see. Our blocking and tackling is where we need to get better. We will.”
Improved tackling initially kept Frankfort Square off the scoreboard in the second half. But like a machine they continued to press the Pioneer defense and gained yards on every play until the Wildcats got to the Orland Park 1-yard line. 
The start of the fourth quarter saw the lead grow to 20-0 after the Wildcats quarterback lunged forward for the touchdown.
On the Pioneers last drive of the game, Lalezas made sure each time he touched the ball he gained yardage. That culminated in the only Orland Park score of the day when he darted in from 6-yards out.
“Better late than never,” said Lalezas. “We kept running a play, but it wouldn’t work until the last time when I scored. I got the ball three-straight times and I kept thinking 'Give me the ball.' They were a lot bigger than us and a little quicker maybe. Their size was a big deal.”
Other Pioneers who gave their all in the game were: Colin Clouter, Rashaun Faniel, Vincent Villa, Sean Halloran, Peter Kavouras, Brian Harms, John Massih, Matthew Villarreal, Coregan Kuempel, Trevor Zelasko, Dennis Tarandy, Jared Malone. John Mazenko, Amir Alian, Nathan Gray, Troy Faille, Christian Evans, Connor Beach, Michael McDonough, Alanas Linge, Kenneth Gillette, Ryne Sternberg and Michael Sczurek.
Prior to the start of the game, the River Valley has a “fifth quarter” which is a 20-24 minute timed scrimmage between the teams for the boys who are in the developmental stage or just beginning to play football.
It is an opportunity for those players to get on-field experience during live game situations.
During their fifth quarter, standouts for the Pioneers were Linge, Villa, Kavouras, Halloran, Malone, 
Sternberg, Villarreal, Hebert, Beach, Faniel and Mazenko. All showed they plan on being a huge part of the Pioneers' football plans.
The third and fourth grade chher squad prepares to fire up the crowd.
Urging on the Lightweight Pioneers were third- and fourth-grade Pioneer cheerleaders: Annabella 
Cannici, Kaitlyn Cloutiev, Ciara Coyle, Mariana Cuevas, Linda Floyd, Reanna Iannantone, Lilly Jeaner, Abby Overman, McKenna Patton, Reese Rodriguez, Vivian Villa, Abby Fandl and Kierstin Cappello.
They cheered under the guidance of coaches Annette Rodriguez, Kim Putz and Alex Cannici.
Today's Schedule: Season Schedule