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The Pioneers' Jaden Weaver tackles a Mokena running back in the Lightweights 20-14 win.


Lightweights remain undefeated

Late 1st half scores key tense 20-14 victory

Text and photos by Ed Muniz
NEW LENOX -- Another unbeaten Pioneers team was tested on September 11 when the Lightweights took on the host Mokena Burros.
Having opened with a three-game win streak and looking all the part of a true contender early in the season, the Pioneers knew they would be in for a tough challenge and would be fortunate to leave town with a victory. 
A gritty, hard-hitting Burros team didn’t want to let their fans down, especially at home, so they were determined to give it their all in this game. That’s exactly what they did. Fortunately, the unbeaten Pioneers prevailed and improved to 4-0-0 after a tough 20-14 win.
One thing teams get in the River Valley Youth Football League is tough play at all levels. From the Varsity down to the Super Lightweights, this league is as competitive as it gets. And the nearby locales of the programs create natural rivalries.
The Pioneers, led by co-coaches Ken Stack and Larry Tischer, showed they came to play from the opening whistle. An eight-play drive culminated in a 32-yard touchdown run around right end by speedster Braden Tischer. During the drive, the Pioneers used the two-back attack of Tischer and Frankie Edelen to soften the Burros defense. Once clear of any traffic, the duo used their speed to outrace their hosts. With the extra-point added by Edelen, the Pioneers quickly led 7-0.
Now on defense, the Pioneers made short work of the Burros forcing a three-and-out behind the surge of Tischer and Jake Scumaci, and a huge sack by Johnny McAuliffe.
Not able to add to their opening offensive success, the Pioneers punted and gave the Burros their second chance at evening the score, and that’s exactly what they did. Marching on a six-play drive, the Burros tied the Pioneers at 7-7 after a quick run up the middle from the 9-yard line.
Knowing they were now in a game, the Pioneers geared it up and used the speed of Edelen, who was possibly the fastest player on the field. A first down pitch started going left, then with a quick cutback, Edelen was looking to the endzone. But a misstep saw him go down at the 10 after 36-yard run.
From there, Scumaci lateraled to Tischer, who easily ran in from the 10 for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:15 left in the first half.
Now leading 13-7, the Pioneers got another shot when Johnny McAuliffe recovered a loose ball after the kickoff at the Burros 43-yard line.
The next play saw a Scumaci pick up a fumbled Pioneers snap and advance the ball 20 yards. Next Edelen added an 8-yard burst. Now at the Burros' 17, Scumaci found a wide open McAuliffe on a pass play that delivered the third touchdown for the Pioneers, who built the lead to 20-7 after Scumaci added the point-after with just 43 seconds left before halftime.
But in those few seconds, Orland Park got a scare. The Burros drove down the field and threatened to score until Edelen snatched a Mokena pass to stop a promising quick-strike attempt.
After the break, the Burros came out fired-up. They received the kickoff and proceeded to drive deep into Pioneer territory. The Pioneers got tackles from Michael Sczurek and McAuliffe before a big interception by Connor Stack stopped the Mokena threat.
“It isn’t easy because I’m 9, and I’m playing with 10- and 11-year-olds,” the diminutive star. “Sometimes the guys are just bigger, and I get caught up behind them but I do my best still. I think our team is doing good, and I’m happy to be undefeated.”
Now in the last quarter, the Pioneers offense couldn’t get kickstarted and turned the ball over on downs. Mokena then went on a short drive with Stack and Sam Jaunich and McAuliffe putting up some big tackles. But that didn’t stop the determined Burros who got to the Pioneers 4 and pounded up the middle from there for their second touchdown. 
During a timeout, coach Ken Stack gathers his defensive force.
With the score now at 20-14, and the Pioneers offense almost nonexistent, Mokena quickly forced a punt as the game clock wound down.
With just enough time to possibly win the game, the Burros desperately went to the pass and nearly completed each of their first three attempts. On fourth down, pressure by Evan Benos forced a bad throw and sealed the win for the Pioneers.
“We knew this was going to be a tough team, one of the best in the league," coach Stack said. "I was worried about a let-down, and I felt it all week.
“After a big win against Frankfort, that worried me. I didn’t think we came out right, but we had a good first half. The second half just dragged on and on. They did a good job adjusting to us. 
“Coming out of this and heading to Homecoming 4-0, couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Others Pioneers who contributed to the Pioneers streak-saving win were: Santino Chlada, Gavin Vahl, Liam Legrand, Corey Kurecki, John Masino, Matt Coleman, Brian McBride, Ryan Sullivan, Jonathan Snider, Jack Elliott, Sami Alrazzaq, Matt Villarreal, Mitch Kieklak, Dominic Palumbo, Eloy Molina, Alan Fako, Dominic Citarella, Vince Villa, Jaden Weaver, Ryne Sterbergen, and Colin Ferguson.
Also adding to the excitement of the game from the sidelines were the fourth- and fifth-grade Pioneer cheerleaders. They included: Nicolette Allen, Nicole Bonfitto, Allyson and Kate Burke, Annabella Cannici, Emma Collias, Aubree Conroy, Ciara Coyle, Lexi Eurkaitis, Natalie Felthouse, Gianna Frech, Grace Gardner, Nadia Ghouleh, Gianna Hernandez, Bianca Kios, Angelina Lamantia, Alexandra Laska, Sarah Martino, Samantha Masino, Abby McCasland, Mckenna Patton, Emily Ramirez, Reese Rodriguez, Giana Shepley, Olivia Skrocki, Sieira Sporleder, Gianna Staudt and Allison Welch.
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