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The Pioneers' Jimmy Lelazas (right) takes a hand off and looks for running room as Andrew Dado (7) looks to lead block Sunday against New Lenox.

Tough times continue for Scarlet Lightweights

Offense can't get untracked vs. New Lenox

By Ed Muniz
Coach Ken Dado and the Scarlet Lightweight Pioneers can take solace in knowing that they never quit trying during this difficult season. 
After leaving a league the Pioneers had been in for numerous years, the competition of the River Valley Youth Football League was going to test the Orland Park Pioneers football organization in many ways.
For some levels the stiff and more difficult competition has been a welcomed challenge, for some it has been all they could handle, and for others the change has been very difficult.
Coach Dado’s team falls in the latter group. At 1-7 on the year and having been shut out in 5-of-8 games, the season has tested the players and coaching staff.
The difficulties of jelling and getting a group of young 9- and 10-year-olds to work together and become a team can be trying. Sometimes it’s a natural fit when practice begins and all the pieces fall into place. And sometimes it just doesn’t ever come together.
The Scarlet Lightweights game against the New Lenox Jr. Knights showcased the difficulties some teams face throughout the season. Having not scored a point in two-consecutive games, the Scarlett Pioneers Lightweights looked to end that streak playing before the home crowd.
Coach Dado’s Pioneers have some very talented football players and athletes on the roster but those talents have rarely been on display at the same time in games.
Having to punt on their first offensive possession, during which the Pioneers gained just 3 yards on three carries, Orland Park was hopeful that its defense would find unity in the last game of the season. Unfortunately, the visiting Jr. Knights proceeded to go on an eight-play drive which resulted in the first score of the day midway through the first quarter. After adding the point-after, the Jr. Knights led 7-0.
When things are going poorly, even the simplest of things can go wrong. A snap exchange is messed up, players are lined up wrong, someone forgets to put their mouthpiece in, players are offsides, passes are dropped, etc. It just piles up. 
Sometimes even what looks like a wide-open receiver ends up going the other way as it did on the Pioneers next series. Quarterback Scott Rybak’s pass found a home in a Jr. Knight defender's arms.
New Lenox made the most of the interception and completed a short 6-yard pass resulting in a touchdown two plays into the second quarter for a lead of 13-0.
Defensively, the Pioneers had two players stand out -- Rybak and J.P. Czerwinski grabbed most of the tackles and did some damage to the Jr. Knights charge.
When the Pioneers next received the ball, their very first play again was intercepted and gave New Lenox another chance to extend its lead. The visitors did, just as the first half concluded when a 13-yard run wound up in the endzone for a 20-0 halftime lead.
The second half saw the Jr. Knights change a few things offensively and give other players a shot feeling the game was well in-hand. From that point on, the two teams went back and forth the rest of the game. 
The Pioneers running game, featuring Andrew Dado, Jimmy Lelazas and Rybak, never really found much success. Lelazas had the largest offensive play going for 17 yards on one of his runs but mostly the Jr. Knights kept Dado, Lelazas and Rybak to short gains.
Harrison Hebert (32) slows down the New Lenox runner so Pioneer teammates Christian Evans (55) and Vincent Villa (12) can make the tackle.
The Pioneer defense did hold the Knights scoreless the remainder of the game behind the constant tackling of Czerwinski. 
“I just blitzed and saw where the ball went, so I was flowing to the ball,” said the defensive Pioneers' standout. "I would slant to the ball, like on an angle and get to where the ball was and make the tackle.”
Czerwinski also didn’t mince words about the season: “I think kids are just giving up and at practice they don’t do much. We have kids on the sidelines that just don’t care so it’s even harder to get better as a team. It’s hard, but I just do what I can.”
The “Fifth Quarter” action before the game was quite a different story. The Pioneers dominated the visitors and controlled much of the action and even saw some offensive success when Rashaun Faniel sped past every Jr. Knight en route to his 52-yard touchdown run. The back field of Faniel, John Massih and Alanas Linge carved up the New Lenox defense and should have had several scores if not for some last-second touchdown-saving tackles.
That good fortune came behind the Pioneers offensive linemen Sean Halloran, Connor Beach, Jared Malone, center John Mazenko, Ryne Sternberg, Matthew Villarreal and Coregan Kuempel, who made huge holes for their backfield mates.
The Pioneer defense was at their best too, giving very little to the Jr. Knights. Massih led the tackling followed by Halloran, Harrison Hebert and Kuempel, who each recorded key tackles.
Other Pioneers who gave their all in the game were Colin Cloutier, Vincent Villa, Peter Kavouras, Brian Harms, Trevor Zelasko, Dennis Tarandy, Amr Alian, Nathan Gray, Christian Evans, Michael McDonough, Justin Hilgenberg, Kenneth Gillette and Michael Sczurek.
Cheering the player efforts were the 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.
Today's Schedule: Season Schedule