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Nicholas Edelen is all intensity as he tries to turn the corner for the Pioneers.

Electric line play powers
Pioneer White Lightweights

Domination up front pays off in 20-6 Homecoming win

By Kevin McGavin
ORLAND PARK -- There are certain absolutes about the sport of football, no matter what level the game is played.
“We controlled the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense, and that’s what wins football games,” Orland Park White Division Lightweight coach Frank Edelen said after the Pioneers’ 20-6 Homecoming victory over Morris on Saturday at the Humphrey Sports Complex.
With the win, the Pioneers improved to 3-2 in River Valley Youth Football action this fall.
The Pioneers scored 20 unanswered points to usher in a running clock only moments before halftime.
Meanwhile, the Orland Park defense did not allow Morris (2-3) a single first down during the opening half.
The hosts used a methodical, time-consuming drive to begin the game.
Jake Stefanos’ quarterback keeper on fourth-down-and-inches gave the Pioneers a first-and-goal, and Collin Jennings struck paydirt for the first-of-two times moments later.
The halfback also caught a Stefanos pass in the right flat for the conversion to give Orland Park a 7-0 lead. Jennings completed both of his scoring drives with successful conversions.
“The offensive line blocked on all of them,” Jennings said of his two touchdowns and subsequent one-point conversions.
The Pioneers’ offensive line — center A.J. Grimes, guards Tyler Biszewski and Connor O’Reilly, tackles Aidan Hanley and Connor Begley and tight end Nikola Absura — were the central storyline of the game.
“I told them (after the game) that even I could have run through some of those holes the boys created out there,” Edelen said. “I thought Hanley opened some holes that were three-players wide.”
Absura personally stymied Morris’ opening possession. At defensive end he recovered a muffed pitch on fourth down to give Orland Park optimal field position at the Warriors’ 43-yard line.
“I just saw the ball and went down and grabbed the ball,” Absura said of his recovery in Morris’ backfield.
With Orland Park dominating the line play, Jennings had few issues on the Pioneers’ ensuing possession.
The Pioneers’ feature back had runs of seven (twice) and 10 yards as part of their six-play scoring march.
“(The offensive line) made it easy for me,” Jennings said. “They opened up the holes for me to run through.”
“I stayed with my blocks,” Absura said. “That’s how we made the holes.”
Absura, on his lone carry for the game, scampered 13 yards to give Orland Park first-and-goal from Morris’ 4-yard line.
Jennings’ next touch was the first part of the Pioneers doubling their lead on the Warriors with a second less than eight minutes to play in the second quarter.
The Pioneers’ defense overwhelmed Morris on the Warriors’ following possession.
Jennings and Absura had consecutive stops for losses; the latter had two-straight stops behind Morris’ line of scrimmage, including a six-yarder on fourth down, to give Orland Park the ball at the Warriors’ 26.
“To contain on the outside and fill in the gaps,” Jennings said of the Pioneers’ defensive game plan. “We didn’t want them to get outside.”
Stefanos’ nine-yard pass to Nicholas Edelen on second down put the Pioneers in the red zone.
The team needed but one play to initiate a running clock Braden Tischer took a lateral from Stefanos and scampered into the end zone untouched from 17 yards out.
“I just caught (the ball) and ran all the way,” Tischer said. “That’s my first touchdown of the year. (The play) was supposed to go to me.”
Joe Calacci (55) and Nicolas McKibben (19), of the White Lightweight defense, await the Morris snap.
Stefanos gave credit to the Pioneers’ game-altering line play.
“We can’t do anything without the offensive line,” Stefanos said. “They opened things up for us.”
League rules stipulate the Pioneers had to remove all their skill-position players during the second half of a running-clock game.
Morris’ lone first down of the game came midway through the third quarter when Sam Reddinger scored on a 30-yard run.
Coach Edelen reinserted the first-team defense on Morris’ next possession as the Warriors were primed to score again after stopping the Pioneers on fourth down.
“You want to give everyone a chance to play, but you want to win the game,” coach Edelen said. “It would have been a one-score game had they scored again.”
But the Pioneers stuffed Morris’ fourth-down play, and the Warriors never threatened again.
All members of the team played in the Homecoming game for Orland Park. Contributors to the win included: Nicholas Zahara, Nicolas McKibben, Logan Frazier, Charlie Soltys, Tommy Durkin, Jake Scumaci, Nick D’Antonio, Frank Edelen, Kyle Evoy, Colin Drew, Nathan Crnich, Joe Rizza, Jack Johnson, Joseph Calacci and Xavier Fernandez.
The Pioneers’ Jacob Corluka, Anthony Shelton and Tommy Stotts are currently out with injuries.
Cheering on the team to victory were the Pioneer cheerleaders: Nicolette Allen, Allyson Burke, Lucie Chicvara, Aubree Conroy, Natalie Felthouse, Gianna Frech, Samantha Masino, Tasneem Othman, Gileena Rezzardi, Kayleigh Rose, Olivia Skrocki, Sieira Sporleder, Gianna Staudt, Kaylee Swiech and Allison Welch.
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