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Orland Park Pioneers Jaden Weaver (90) and Jack Elliott (46) pursue capture a Frankfort Falcon runner in Tinley Park on August 24.

Lightweights struggle with Frankfort speed

Visitors pull away in second half for 20-0 win



By Ed Muniz
Photos by Ken Dado


TINLEY PARK -- Under the direction of John Stefanos, the River Valley Youth Football League (RVYFL) implemented a unique idea that began partially last year. This year, Stefanos has organized a Wednesday Night League that gives many boys an opportunity to showcase their talents on the football field who otherwise would see limited time during regular-season scheduled games.

The Wednesday Night League consists of multiple teams. Unlike last year, when it was handled like a scrimmage game where teams alternated offense and defensive plays, the 2016 version features the exact same rules and regulations of regular-season games including referees, scores, and league standings with playoffs at the end of the season.

“I’m excited about the league and excited mostly for the boys," said Stefanos, who coordinates the league. “For some of these kids, they get a real opportunity to show their talents where they might not otherwise. I think this will be great for the RVYFL as well and really provide a real learning experience simply by getting that game instruction, and not solely in practice,” 

On August 24, the Orland Park Pioneers played host to a pair of games but some last minutes issues with the host field forced a move to Tinley Park. The opening game featured the Lightweights and a team from Frankfort looking to take home with a victory, but the Pioneers had thoughts of their own in hopes of securing a win in the new league.

Team speed worked to a big advantage for the visitors who used it to pile up 20 points while the Pioneers found the Falcons defense formidable and difficult to move against. The result was a 20-0 shutout loss.

Early in the game the Pioneers used timely tackling and a “Bend, but don’t break” defense behind the efforts of Dominic Palumbo, Scott Miklos, John Masino, Jack Fei and Jaden Weaver, who stopped the Falcons throughout the first quarter. Weaver forced a fumble that wound up in Fei’s arms and halted the Falcon threat. Ryan Sullivan made a touchdown-saving tackle that kept the game scoreless.


Pioneers running back John Masino (25) lunges for every inch during his carry against the visiting Frankfort Falcons.

Big plays made the biggest difference, and those came from the speed Frankfort possessed. Getting to the outside was key for the Falcons as the Pioneers were unable to match them, which resulted in the opening score on the first play of the second quarter from 18 yards.

Trailing 6-0, the Pioneers couldn’t answer the Falcons score and punted the ball back. It wasn’t long after the punt that Weaver again forced a fumble which was recovered by Jack Elliott.

The Pioneers still struggled to move the ball with the Falcons defense seemingly clogging up any opening. With the inability to advance the ball via the ground game, the Pioneers went to the air as quarterback Elliott connected with Palumbo for 28 yards.

With time winding down in the first half, the Pioneers again went to the air but an Elliott pass was intercepted by a Falcon defender just before half.

The second half saw the Pioneers really try to establish a running game and used the skills of running back John Masino with some success. The Pioneers went on a 7-minute drive, but just when it looked like the Pioneers offense had found its stride, the Falcons stuffed the promising drive and shut it down to force a turnover on downs.

On the very next play, the Falcons went around end and raced 62 yards for an apparent touchdown, but a penalty nullified it. The Falcons tried the other end two plays later and extended their lead after a 45-yard touchdown run.

Now trailing 12-0, the Pioneers tried desperately to stay in the game and looked to score but a fumble ended those hopes.

Following a safety by Frankfort that upped the lead to 14-0 and with time winding down and the game in hand, the Falcons again went outside and streaked 72 yards for the game-ending score with no time left for the 20-0 win.

“Obviously disappointed with the loss, but this is about developing the kids on the team,” said co-head coach Ken Stack. “We have 38 boys on the team, and we are developing them slowly. But there are some things we saw tonight that we have to work on. 

“The key on this team is for everyone to do their assignments, we do that, we’re good. But if one or two guys breakdown, you saw what happens. This was a good motivational tool.”

The Pioneers believe in having the whole team in attendance and suited up at the game to support the team even if starters know they won’t play. Working on the field and off to support the Pioneers were: Santino Chlada, Gavin Vahl, Sam Jaunich, Branden Tischer, John McAuliffe, Conner Stack, , Liam LeGrand, Scott Miklos, Corey Kurecki, Connor O’Reilly, Matt Coleman, Brian Mc Bride, Anthony Shelton,Jake Scumaci, Frank Edelen, Jack Johnson, Jonathan Snider, Nick McKibben, Holden Whitham, Sami Alrazzaq, Matt Villarreal, Evan Benos, Mitchell Kieklak, Eloy Molina, Alan Fako, Dominic Citarella, Brady Pisarik, Vince Villa, Ryne Sternberg, Michael Sczurek and Colin Ferguson.

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