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Quarterback Noah O'Connor looks for a receiver during the Scarlet Varsity's 22-6 Homecoming win over Homer on Saturday.

New Scarlet Varsity wins
1st Pioneer Homecoming game


Remains undefeated with win over Homer

Text by Ed Muniz
Photos by Ken Dado

ORLAND PARK -- Folks of Orland Park, meet “Mr. Inside” Joe DeHann and “Mr. Outside” John Bickel. 
Both of these outstanding Orland Park Pioneers football players do what they do best on the field. 
The two backfield aces chomp up yards as quickly as they can but both go at it very differently. 
DeHaan is your power back. You need a short yard, he’s your guy! This 13 year-old eighth grader pounds opponents and runs like a freight train squaring his shoulders and blasting his way through for all the yards needed. His counterpart, Bickel, is the slasher, the speedster who uses his elusiveness and quickness to outmaneuver most defenders enroute to his huge gains as he whizzes by them.
Pick your poison, either way, you’re in trouble. But they don’t only do it on the offensive side, these two-way players are also a nightmare for opposing offenses. They seem to have a knack for being wherever the football goes and get their healthy share of the defensive spoils.
Homecoming was the perfect opportunity for the Pioneer organization to be officially introduced to these two as well as the rest of their Scarlet Division Varsity Pioneer teammates.
Last season, for nearly the entire 28-man roster, the home field was in Orland Hills. With the disbanding of the Orland Hills Wolves football program, coach Rick Iannantone was left with a team without a home.
When the opportunity to join the Orland Park Pioneers Football and Cheerleading program became available, it was an easy choice.
The Pioneers welcomed the new team along with all their coaches which greatly satisfied coach Iannantonena and his players and their parents.
“We came from Orland Hills, our entire team," he said. "I want to say how great the Pioneers program has made us feel welcomed and how great they have been to us and our team,  to bring this whole team over here along with our coaching staff has been just great.
“Both John (Stefanos) and Mark (Mikesell) have been nothing but a great family to us and our boys. My boys love it here. I want folks to know that.”
On the season the new addition at the Varsity level has been flawless and looked to continue their winning streak after dispatching four previous opponents.
Showing up to test the Pioneers were the Homer Stallions who hadn’t had much luck on the season. As a program the Stallions had already spoiled three Orland Park homecoming games and the Homer Varsity looked to derail the unbeaten Pioneers. With DeHaan and Bickel and some dashes of Ryan Fitzgerald mixed in on offense, along with the hard hitting of Adam Winistorfer, Michael Bobber and Donnie Gravitt, that plan didn’t work out to well for the Stallions.
When the last seconds ticked off, the Pioneers gave the Homecoming crowd their first win on the day and upped the team's season record to 5-0 after the 22-6 win.
Running back Joe "Mr.Inside" DeHaan shows off his power running against Homer.
The fourth game of the day started out with the Pioneers' heavy-hitting defense holding Homer to negative yards on three downs. After the Stallion punt, the Pioneers went to work with DeHaan and Bickel runs. Fitzgerald and quarterback Noah O’Connor also gained yards on their rushes.
On Bickel's second run, he displayed his elusiveness and speed busting past the Stallions defenders and leaving them trailing him for 45 yards and the initial Pioneer touchdown. With their starting kicker out due to injury, Nick Barberi filled the void and converted the point-after to put the Pioneers up 8-0 late in the opening quarter.
Forcing the the Stallions to punt again, the Pioneers used a double reverse to close in on their next score. DeHaan took a second handoff on the reverse and looked as if he scored but a penalty nullified his 71-yard score into a 56-yard gain.
The Pioneers took just two plays from there when DeHaan blasted in from 10 yards out for the 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Strong defensive efforts from DeHaan and Bickel forced another Homer punt and it was back on offense for the Pioneers, who used their running game and a few passes to burn up much of the clock. 
Big runs by Fitzgerald, Gravitt and O’Connor along with an O’Connor connection via the pass to Rocco Iannantone and Fitzgerald left the Pioneers inside the Homer 10 but a couple of penalties stalled the drive.
The Pioneers got one more chance right before halftime and made the most of it when O’Connor found Gravitt wide open which resulted in a 41-yard touchdown pass right before half. Barberi added the kick after and now had the Pioneers up 22-0 at half.
These Pioneers are known for being a second half team but this game was a total opposite. Sure the Pioneers used the running of DeHaan, Bickel and Fitzgerald and saw occasional big runs but for the most part the Pioneers second half bogged down and play was sluggish. 
Defensively, they still maintained good technique and gave the Stallions fits with Gravitt, DeHaan and Bickel doing their part. But with a comfortable lead, it looked as if the Pioneers were just waiting for the clock to read zeros.
“We did come out sluggish in the second half,” said coach Inannantone. “Not sure if the field dictated that with the mud and soft footing. We had a lot of miscues and we tried to prepare for it. I don’t think we played down, but we had some miscues and our boys let the game control them instead of them controlling the game.”
Iannantone felt his team excelled on the line. 
“In this game, on a soft muddy field, you win in the trenches, and I thought we were excellent blocking. (Adam) Winistorfer, (Eddie) Palomado and (Michael) Charnot were the cornerstone of our offensive line and I tell them that.”
For DeHaan it was business as usual. His inside power running displayed his strength, but he also showed the ability to outrun opponents. He commented about his game: “The lineman did a great job opening holes, and I took off from there. I lower my shoulder and hit somebody when the line opens holes, but I think I can still learn to read the holes better. I’m going to keep improving day by day and every game.”
DeHaan did state he much prefers chasing down opponents. 
“I really like defense and putting a hit on someone,” he said. 
 Pioneers Varsity running back John "Mr. Outside" Bickel speeds to the edge.
For Bickel it just comes naturally.
“I hit the hole, and if it’s not there, all I do is bounce it outside, I’m more of a speed runner so I use my moves and speed. I want to be quicker to the hole and get outside quicker so I'll work at that. I’m more offensive as a player but also enjoy defense, but I prefer offense and carrying the ball.”
When asked about their pending collision with the other unbeaten Pioneer Varsity team in two weeks, both stars looked at each other and replied “day by day.”
The Pioneers gave up a late touchdown when the game was well in-hand.
Many Pioneers contributed to the win. They included: Michael Alejo, Ryan Cotter, Anthony Tadros, Sandra Ajaj, Luke Oftedahl, John Ugo, Danny LoConte, Jimmy Farrelly, Nikoli Auskalnis, Nick Persha, Matt Garcia, Danny Condon, Dominic Gentile, Andrew Gorman, Jace Hill and Caleb Patton.
Cheering on the boys and entertaining the home crowd were seventh-and-eighth grade Pioneer 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.
Today's Schedule: Season Schedule