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Mohammed Elagha (10) gets ready to fire a pass downfield while teammate Connor Stack (12) protects him Sunday.

Scarlet Super Lightweights too generous in loss

Late Stack TD only points squad can muster in loss to New Lenox 

By Ed Muniz
Photos by Ken Dado
ORLAND PARK -- Generous would be the appropriate word used to describe the giving ways of the host Scarlet Super Lightweight Pioneers during their regular season-ending game against the New Lenox Jr. Knights at Sandburg High School.
The Jr. Knights came into the game unbeaten having already dispatched seven foes on the season, while the Pioneers had lost just twice before. 
An excessive giving nature from the Pioneers toward New Lenox made things too difficult against an already favored opponent.
Five Pioneer turnovers gave New Lenox too many possessions and put the Pioneers in an early deficit they never overcame in a 24-6 loss.
Coach Ken Stack's offensive and defensive squads were game, but it was too much for them to defeat the unbeaten visitors, and their own mistakes.
In each of the first two drives, the Pioneers fumbled on the third play of the series which led to two Jr. Knight touchdowns.
On their third possession and again on third down, the Pioneers went to the air. They avoided a fumble, but the pass was intercepted. That made it three turnovers in three series to a team that didn’t really need any help. 
The Pioneers still kept at it and defensively finally stopped an aggressive Jr. Knights offense.
Holden Whittam did all he could to stop New Lenox with several tackles in the first half including a huge stop after an interception on fourth down. His solo tackle on another key play gave the ball back to the Pioneers offense and quarterback Connor Stack, who did all he could to kickstart the trailing attack.
Jaden Weaver (70) chases down a New Lenox runner.
Defensively, the Pioneers showed their toughness throughout the first half as they spent much of it on the field. Stack, Whittam, Luke Basiorka, Matt Coleman, Mohammed Elagha, Brian McBride and Mitchell Kieklak grabbed tackles and applied hard hits to the Jr. Knight ball carriers. 
Mohammed Elagha made the hit of the game when he penetrated the New Lenox backfield and stopped a Jr. Knights running attempt cold with a textbook tackle-for-loss.
Offensively, nothing seemed to work for the Pioneers throughout the game, and most of the limited success came when quarterback Stack called his own number and busted through the line or went hard around the end, where he gained 18 yards on one burst.
The continued backfield presence of the Jr. Knights made nearly every other running attempt by the Pioneers futile. 
Trailing 12-0 at half, coach Stack's Pioneers came out fiery and made sure the next Jr. Knight score had to be earned as they again stopped New Lenox behind the play of Stack, and consecutive stops by Elagha that forced a punt.
But Orland Park couldn’t move their offense downfield and once again gave the ball back to the Jr. Knights via a punt.
Neither team could sustain a drive in the third quarter. When the Pioneers went back on offense early in the last quarter, their generosity again came into play when a Stack pass was intercepted. Three plays later New Lenox extended its lead to 18-0 after a 36-yard touchdown run.
Later in the quarter, the Pioneers committed their fifth turnover of the game which led to a score and 24-0 deficit. 
Connor Stack (12) tries to turn the corner behind the blocking of Ali Elagha (9) and Matt Coleman (32).
The Pioneers never quit trying, and that never-ending pursuit of the endzone was rewarded when quarterback Stack crossed the goal-line late in the game after a 4-yard scamper to prevent a shutout.
Orland Park had much more success during its  fifth quarter pre-game scrimmage. On defense, the Pioneers were a bend-but-don’t-break team. They limited the unbeaten New Lenox squad to a solo score. Terrell Patterson contributed an early interception. The constant up-front pressure of linemen Basiorka, Matt Iannitelli, Sami Alrazzaq, Lukas Boyce, Ali Elagha and McBride made things very difficult for the Jr. Knights offense.
Limiting the Jr. Knights outside success were Pioneers Chase Czerwonka, Luke Pietsch, Patterson, Joey Epley and Colm Coyle.
Offensively, the Pioneers matched the Knights score when Mitchell Kieklak rumbled and powered his way into the endzone from 19 yards out for a touchdown.
“I ran it right up the middle and then I went outside and then a guy was chasing me. And then I got the touchdown before he got me,” said the surprised Kieklak. 
Kieklak added that he thought his “inside-out” and his “outside-in” games were bad and that "We could have done better tackling, too bad we didn’t.”
The Pioneers came close again behind the running of Luke Detampel, Patterson and Czerwonka but couldn’t elude that final tackle for their second touchdown.
Other Pioneers doing their best were: Brody Wantroba, Jack Fei, Evan Benos and Jaden Weaver. 
Providing spirit on the sidelines were first-and-second grade Pioneer cheerleaders: Mia Vassalla, Kenzie Whitlow, Vanessa Annel, Kennidi Bensfield, Natalie Dado, Kamile Petruskaite, Isabell and Gabriella Rodriguez and Natalie Schmidt.
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