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Looking for a block from teammate Michael Clifford (87), Pioneers runner Mark Brannigan tries to elude a Wildcat defender.

Varsity regains footing with 22-6 win

Kedzierski scores 2 TDs for Pioneers

Text by Ed Muniz
Photos by Renee Kaspar
TINLEY PARK -- When Pioneer Varsity coach Jim Roche went back to his running game last week, it was something that had been missing in the previous two weeks -- consecutive losses after a 2-0-0 start to the season.
At their Homecoming, the Pioneer Varsity leader went back to a good mixture of pass and run plays and his team was dominating in their 24-8 win.
This week visiting the Frankfort Square Black Wildcats, Roche wanted to stay with what had worked so well in weeks one, two and five.
With a steady mixture of the pass and the run, the Pioneers (4-2-0) easily outlasted a struggling Wildcats (2-5-0) team with a 22-6 decision for their second win in a row.
The Widlcats moved the ball on their first possession. They got to the Pioneers 35-yard line, but on fourth-and-short, Michael Bobber led a stiff defense and made a big tackle-for-loss that turned the ball over to the Pioneer offense.
Even with the big surge in momentum, the Pioneers couldn’t move the ball and had a quick three-and-out that led to a punt.
Starting at midfield the Wildcats went on a 10-play drive and drove to the Pioneers 29, but Pioneers defenders Alex Knight, Michael Walsh, Dan Witkowski, John-Michael Scumaci, Anthony Stotts, Jalil McLaughlin, Gage Fauber and Luke Kedzierski, all teamed up to force a turnover on downs.
The Pioneers went to Kedzierski on the next play and with an added facemask penalty, the Pioneers found themselves at their own 45-yard line. Next, quarterback Justin Egan handed off again to Kedzierski and the power-back powered through the line, bounced off of a couple Wildcats defenders and created space as he has done all year. This time the result was a 55-yard run for the opening touchdown of the game. When Mark Brannigan added the point-after with a kick, the Pioneers led 8-0 with just under six minutes left in the first half. 
Gage Fauber (bottom) Brian Funk (right)), Zach Bateman (22) and John-Michael Scumaci (30) team up to take down a Wildcats runner.
Frankfort Square was forced to punt quickly after three plays when Knight, Walsh and Witkowski each grabbed solo tackles after minimal gains.
The Pioneers were approaching halftime and were looking to quickly score before time expired. Running up the middle and gaining big yards were Kedzierski and Scumaci. 
A Brannigan run gained nothing, and then Egan went to the air and connected with Kedzierski but only for a few yards. 
Sitting at the Wildcat 37 with time ticking away, Egan looked to his left on the next play and found running back Kedzierski in the flat. He tossed him the ball and watched Kedzierski evade everyone until he reached the endzone for the Pioneers second touchdown. The missed extra-point kick left the score at 14-0 at half but not before Scumaci picked off a Wildcats last ditch pass attempt and returned it nearly 50 yards.
The second half started off well for the Pioneers. On their second play from scrimmage, Alex Knight went in motion to his left and took the snap from Egan and headed to the sideline. He got clogged up but somehow found a gap at his 35-yard line and raced another 50 yards to the Wildcat 15. 
After a penalty, the Pioneers went to lightly used running back Zach Bateman, who went right up the middle and ran in for the touchdown. With the Brannigan kicked point-after, the Pioneers led 22-0.
“I was thinking if I ever get the chance to run the ball, I know I’m going to make the most of it,” said Bateman. “I tried to change the game, and clearly I did. I just got the ball, ran it and saw the hole and ended up scoring the touchdown.”
Bateman did state that he prefers to play offense because he loves to carry the ball and is hopeful that it turns into something more.
“I hope working hard gets me more plays on offense; that would be cool,” he said.
After the Pioneers extended their lead, the Wildcats went to the air and completed several passes to move to the Pioneers 35. But Pioneer defenders Fauber and Adam Winistorfer made sure that’s all they got and forced the ball back to the Pioneers offense.
On their next possession, the Pioneers used the running of Scumaci, Bateman and Jacob Coleman to drive close enough for a field goal attempt, but Brannigan pushed his 31-yard try wide right, and the score stayed at 22-0.
The Pioneers Gage Fauber goes low and looks for help from teammate Michael Walsh (41) to take down the Wildcats runner.
The final quarter did see plenty of defense and most every Pioneer got into the game defensively. Neither team did much but the Wildcats did manage to finally cross the goal line for their solo score of the game with just under 5 minutes left to play. 
The Pioneers milked the rest of the clock as much as they could and with the Wildcats unable to score further, the Pioneers walked away with the 22-6 victory.
For Pioneers running back Kedzierski it was good to get back to where they were earlier in the year.
“It’s good to continue how we are going right now," he said. "For me I just happen to be in the right place. I think we’re a very good team overall, and I hope everyone on the team goes to Sandburg to keep the team together, I don’t know if that’s going to happen, but I sure hope so.”
More points may lay ahead for the Pioneers, because the offense continues to progress.
“I feel pretty good,” said quarterback Egan. “I really got used to the new offense and because now we’re running a lot more spread, I’m really letting the game slow down for me a lot. I had to get a lot better at making good reads. This year we’re sending 3, 4, 5 guys on routes, and I'm getting much better at making the reads. I like that.”
Egan felt he still needs to improve his accuracy and also his leadership but felt that too will come.
Coach Roche was satisfied with his team's play and also the opportunity to get everyone involved.
“The most important thing today, being up three scores, is getting all 40 guys in the game and we did that,” he said. “We made an effort on that. I thought we came out real physical and tackled and set the tone in the first half on defense. 
“You could see guys hitting hard on that first series and also making a commitment to the run. That’s what it’s about, and we blocked up front. We had others guys contribute on offense. We have to count on other guys not just 7 (Egan) and 21 (Brannigan) and 47 (Kedzierski). Those guys every week make big runs, but we have to count on 22 (Bateman) and 30 (Scumaci) and 4 (Knight).”
Roche was also happy with his line play and the team's overall performance. He said it was a great win, but he was already looking ahead to the next game.
Kevin Zimmer, Danny Durkin, Aidan LeGrand, Tyler Milani, Luke Stefanos, Ahmad Alrazzaq, Connor Dixon, Jacob Coleman, Luke Masino, Joshua Graska, Matt Stubenfoll, James Roche, Brett Laird, Nicholas Devos, Brett Fasler, Connor Anderson, Adam Zolnik, Tony Shamma,  John Alfarah, Danny Witkowski, George Winistorfer and Alex Kopley contributed to the Varsity win.
Cheering on the Pioneers were: Efosa Atoe, Anna Crnich, Kayla Dombrowski, Maureen Fandl, Marisa Garza, Lexie Hansler, Maura Harty, McKenzie Hedinger, Kayle Hoak, Ella Jeffries, Kylie Kehlert, Nicole Kubacka, Morgan McGuire, Hannah Scanlon, Kasey Slusarczyk, Ava Stroobosscher, Hannah Stroobosscher, Brianna Timmons, Victoria Vargas, Natalie Villareal and Meagan Walsh
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