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John Bickel (42) snags a Frankfort Sqaure runner with teammate Michael Bobber (13) in pursuit in the Varsity's impressive 28-0 opening game win.

Varsity dominates in Scarlet Division opener

Bickel runs wild in shutout win over Frankfort Square 

By Kevin McGavin
Photos by Ken Dado

It was the ultimate run to daylight for John Bickel on Sunday afternoon in Orland Park.
The varsity member of the Orland Park Pioneers had already played a central role in the Pioneers’ first three touchdowns in Scarlet Division play against Frankfort at Sandburg High School.
But the rising eighth grader saved his last of eight carries for the most prolific of the afternoon in the Pioneers’ 28-0 opening-game victory.
Three plays after the Pioneers preserved their shutout against the Wildcats with a goal-line stand, Bickel took a pitch from quarterback Noah O’Connor and made a quick, darting move toward the left sideline.
Bickel split a pair of would-be tacklers and scampered untouched the remainder of the way to complete an 89-yard run.
The touchdown with slightly under three minutes to play in the team's debut in the River Valley Youth Football League capped the scoring.
The Pioneers’ featured running back finished with 154 yards on a mere eight carries.
“It was great,” Bickel said of the career-long scamper. “I just took off and never looked back.”
He had an earlier touchdown in the third quarter as the all-purpose player returned a punt after the Wildcats were forced to kick from their own end zone.
Bickel scooped up the short kick and raced 27 yards for the Pioneers’ third score of the game.
“My goal was to get a touchdown, and I completed it,” Bickel said of his punt return.
It was a dominant all-around performance by Orland Park in its debut in a new league.
The defense was as stingy as the offense was opportunistic.
The team had but two breakdowns the entire game: a turnover two plays into the second half and allowing a long kickoff return by Frankfort Square following the Pioneers’ third score.
But the Varsity squad had few issues in overcoming both mistakes.
Joe DeHaan was the face of the Pioneers’ overpowering defense.
The outside linebacker had, or collaborated on, five of Orland Park's tackles for loss or no gain on the day.
The two-way starter, who also gained 45 of the Pioneers’ 210 total rushing yards, had consecutive stops for losses deep in Frankfort Square territory after the Pioneers’ Ryan Fitzgerald opened the scoring with a short burst off tackle in the first quarter.
Joe DeHaan is untouched during one of his runs against Franklin Square on Sunday.
Bickel had a 15-yard reception from O’Connor one play after DeHaan had his 7-yard touchdown run negated by a holding penalty. The catch set up the two-yard score.
“The (defensive) line did a great job,” DeHaan said. “They opened up the holes and let me get free. I just attacked and made the tackles.”
DeHaan was virtually immune to the stifling conditions, made worse by the artificial turf at Sandburg.
"You have to be mentally tough,” he said of playing both ways. “The coaches did a good job of getting us breaks.”
The Pioneers were back in business on their second possession, which began in plus-territory after a Sandra Ajaj fumble recovery.
Following a mental mistake — an unsportsmanlike penalty inside the 10-yard line -- and the only O’Connor incompletion of the game, Nick Persha doubled the Pioneers’ lead to 12-0 midway through the second quarter with the longest pass completion of the game.
The Pioneers’ wide receiver overcame 26 yards in penalties with his catch-and-run from 33 yards out.
“It was a hook pass,” Persha said. “Coach (Rick Iannantone) said that I ran it perfect. It helped that our quarterback, Noah, shed a tackle. He was running the same (direction) I was running. He threw it perfectly. I just caught it, made a jab step, the guy missed me and I was able to score.”
Michael Charnot, Jocob Winistorfer and Bickel were the leaders for the Pioneer defense, which surrendered only three first downs on the afternoon.
“We’ve got a lot of speed,” coach Iannantone said. “They play to the ball; they play hard-nose football. This team has been together for a lot of years. They know how to jell together. Both sides of the ball, special teams, they all swarmed to the ball. We’ve got the numbers this year.”
Michael Alejo, Ryan Cotter, Anthony Tardos, Michael Bobber, Luke Oftendahl, Nick Barberi, John Ugo, Rocco Innantone, Danny LeConte, Jimmy Farrelly, Nikolai Austalnis, Donnie Gravitt, Matthew Garcia, Danny Condon, Dominic Gentile, Andrew Gorman, Eddie Palomado, Jace Hill, George Winistorfer and Caleb Patton contributed to the Pioneers win.
Austalnis converted a pair of extra points for the winners.
Cheerleaders Lexie Alfini, Caitlyn Brennan, Kennedy Costa, Maureen Fandl, Faith Fiore, Lexie Hansler, Meghan Haran, Maura Harty, Kayle Hoak, Ella Jeffries, Rugile Laurinaityte, Morgan McGuire, Lexie Nelles, Madalyn Riebel, Caroline Schmidt, Brianna Timmons, Michelle Vicencio, Natalie Villarreal, Meagan Walsh, Kenzie Whitlow, Rorie Wilson and Jenna Whitt performed on the sideline and kept the spectators in the game.
The Varsity cheerleaders stand at the ready to fire up the crowd Sunday.
Today's Schedule: Season Schedule