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JV Pioneer quarterback Christian Evans (right) eludes several Frankfort defenders during Wednesday Night League action on August 24. The Pioneers won 7-6.

Junior varsity breaks through
for Wednesday night win

Running of D'Antonio and Dado, stingy defense deliver 7-6 win


By Ed Muniz
Photos by Ken Dado
ORLAND PARK -- Looking for their first victory in the Wednesday Night League, the Orland Park Pioneers Junior Varsity took on the Frankfort Falcons on August 24 in Tinley Park.
In what was a tight, low-scoring game where the defenses were the stars of the evening, the Pioneers came from behind to squeak pass the Falcons and gain a 7-6 victory.
Getting the ball first, the Pioneers did all they could to get their offense going. Quarterback Christian Evans, and running backs Nick D’Antonio and Andrew Dado, found advancing the ball against a quick and ballhawking Falcon squad difficult. On their first two possessions, the Pioneers couldn’t sustain drives and quickly turned over the ball on downs.
It wasn't easy for the Falcons either as a quick, swarming Pioneer defense wasn’t willing to be kind hosts. Jimmy Lalezas and Abdel Ghoulen led the efforts but a busted play that went for 39 yards gave the Falcons and 6-0 lead right before the first quarter expired.
The Pioneers continued to struggle against the Falcons defense which gave next to nothing and once again forced the Pioneers to give up the ball on downs.
Defensively, the Pioneers weren’t going to let another long run happen. Linebackers and corners tightened at the line of scrimmage and pursued the ball wherever it went. Dado and Jake Stefanos were there to grab several tackles, making sure to limit the Falcons to very short gains.
Things just seemed off for the Pioneers on the offensive side. Running the ball was getting next to nothing on many plays and when they went to the air, the ball found its way into the arms of the Falcon defenders.
As difficult as things were for the Pioneers offense, the defense was stellar after that initial Falcon score that gave the visitors a halftime lead.
The second half began with the Pioneers again showing their defensive dominance, and they quickly forced a punt. From there, the Pioneers used the legs of D’Antonio and Dado to finally kickstart an offense that misfired the previous two quarters. A 38-yard D’Antonio sprint showed his power and elusiveness when he banged and cut back through the Frankfort pursuers.
D’Antonio’s run put the Pioneers 10 yards from evening the score. Dado managed to put those 10 yards in his pocket as he scored an Orland Park touchdown on the very next play. The Pioneers took the lead when D’Antonio plowed in the point after for the 7-6 lead midway through the third quarter.
“I feel there is a lot of room to improve,” said Dado. “We just didn’t want to lose our second Wednesday Night game, so we worked really hard in the second half. But we have to improve on blocking and on our tackling and just get better each game.”
The Pioneers' Tommy Stotts (center) becomes a human pinball as he bounces off a Frankfort defender during one of his runs.
Frankfort was now reeling, a stark contrast after they kept the Pioneers in check while sitting on the lead. That advantage was nearly theirs once again if not for a touchdown-saving tackle by Scott Rybak, who was the lone defender between a Falcon runner and the endzone.
Several Pioneers now worked even harder to stop the Falcons, but it wasn’t easy. Trying to regain the lead, the Falcons offense picked up the pace and were adding yard after yard in their quest to score again. But the tackling of Martinas Petruska, Jackson Beach, Troy Faille, John Thompson and Drew Saunders stalled and ultimately ended a promising Frankfort drive at the Pioneer 23-yard line. Dado’s huge tackle for a 7-yard loss, was the key play to stall the Falcons.
The last several minutes of the fourth quarter featured some big plays on both sides of the ball for the Pioneers. D’Antonio busted free again for 31 yards that kept possession for the Pioneers when it needed it, and Beach became a major factor defensively grabbing tackle after tackle while also sealing the win when he sacked the scrambling Falcon quarterback on fourth down.
For D’Antonio, the run wasn’t easy as it looked. 
“Without Dado I can’t really hit the hole, because he always hits someone, and I try to bounce it outside," D'Antonio said. “I was a little bit shaky at the beginning of the game, so I’m going to work on going 100% the entire game. But it isn’t easy.”
“I was always looking where the ball was going and attacked from there,” said the game defensive MVP Beach. “I looked where the most space was for me and got into it and pushed and threw them off. I think if we get better blocking we will be pretty good, like we are on defense.”
Again the full 47-member Pioneer team was there in full regalia supporting their teammates. Some played while others cheered on. Players included Martinas Petruska, Christian Evans, Ryan Welch, Munkhbat Nergui, John Thompson, Troy Faille, Scott Rybak, Lukas Pukstys, Max Montgomery, Tommy Durkin, Sean Halloran, Conor McCormick, Charlie Soltys, Jacob Masino, Nicholas Edelen, Joseph Calacci, John Mazenko, Michael Ulleweit, Ryan McPolin, Brian Devlin, Frank D’Antonio, Abdel Ghouleh, Tommy Stotts, Thomas Starcevich, Gavin Kissane, Jack Harty, Niccholas Presbitero, Connor Beach, Ken Gillette, Tyler Biszewski, Mike Rafti, Zakery Bowden, Kyle Peterson, Angelo Citarella, Max Urbas. Jimmy Rolder, Tommy McAuliffe, Jacob Maziarka, Joe Shelton and Jullian Loeza.
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