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Pioneers running back Jake Maziarka fends off a would-be Frankfort Square tackler in Orland Park's first round playoff win.

Junior Varsity sharp in playoff opener

Post 25-8 1st round win vs. Frankfort Square

Text by Ed Muniz
Photos by Ken Dado
OTTAWA -- “We’re still a better football team, and we proved that. We’re going to go out and play our game, do what we do and move on.” 
Head coach Mark Mikesell's words had every Junior Varsity player listening intently as he addressed the team after the Pioneers dismantled a heavily overmatched Frankfort Square Wildcats Black team 25-8 in the opening round of the River Valley Youth Football League playoffs Saturday in Ottawa.
What Mikesell and defensive coach John Stefanos have done is have every player believe they can succeed no matter what. The mantra is: just know your job and do it, and you’ll succeed as a player and as a team. And to a man, that's what the Junior Varsity players do!
As expected in the opening rounds, the better-seeded teams tend to win and dominate. The Pioneers came in as the third-seeded team and faced off against the 14th-seeded Wildcats. Winning 25-8 didn’t truly indicate how much control the Pioneers had in every facet of the game.
Under the guidance of coach Mikesell, the Pioneer offense made it look easy beginning on their first series. Initially the Pioneers used their ground attack to move the ball with carries from Jake Maziarka and Jimmy Rolder.
Pioneers quarterback Tommy McAuliffe throws a pass downfield thanks to the block of running back Jimmy Rolder.
Within five plays, the Pioneer running backs had their offense at the Wildcats 25-yard line. From there, the Pioneers caught the Wildcats looking for another running attempt. But quarterback Tommy McAuliffe found running back Maziarka lined up in the right slot. McAuliffe pump faked and waited for Maziarka to clear the wheel route and lofted a soft pass right to him for the 25-yard touchdown. After the failed point-after, the Pioneers led 6-0 early.
The Pioneer defense quickly made short work of the Wildcats first offensive series forcing a punt after losing yards on four plays.
Again with the ball, the Pioneers showed why they came in heavily favored. Starting at their own 47, McAuliffe quickly pitch-passed to Maziarka on his left. The play resulted in a 26-yard gain down the Pioneer sideline.
Having success via the pass, the Pioneers again went to the air. This time McAuliffe pump-faked right then looked left and sent a long pass downfield where receiver Julian Loeza pulled in the 27-yard touchdown throw.  McAuliffe ran in the point after and the Pioneers now led 13-0.
The Pioneers were relentless. You sensed this game was going to go however the Pioneers wanted when Zakery Bowden sacked the Wildcats quarterback. Followed by an incomplete pass and then another sack, this time by Jack Harty, the Wildcats had to punt.
The Pioneers went through the air on four of the next five plays as they closed out the first quarter and opened the second. McAuliffe was found the passing  game to his liking and completed all four passes he attempted to Maziarka and Rolder which culminated with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Jack Schramm for a 19-0 lead.
Defensive end Zakery Bowden collects one of the Pioneers two sacks in their playoff game against Frankfort Square Black.
On the other sie of the ball, things weren’t getting any better for the Wildcats offense, which was stuffed on every running attempt. Frankfort Square tried the pass and that too turned out to be a bad idea when Loeza came up with an interception.
The Pioneers followed with a nine-play drive that ended with McAuliffe again finding Loeza for a 9-yard score and 25-0 lead. 
Tackles by Rolder, Loeza and another sack by Bowden closed out the first half.
For Loeza, playing in big games is where you bring your best effort and you saw that as the regular season concluded and into this first playoff game. Whether it's punt or kickoff returning, playing the wide-out position or blocking for the ball carrier, Loeza does everything he can to help his team succeed. He spoke of this game.
“I caught the ball whenever I got the opportunity. I run full speed and use my size on the smaller defenders," he said. “My size somewhat helps especially on jump balls, but I think my speed is the main factor of my game. I think I could be more aggressive defensively. Sometimes I don’t finish a tackle because I shy away. I have to improve on that. I’m glad we won and are moving on.”
Due to the Pioneers large lead, the second half started with a running clock as league rules require. Besides the continuous clock, the Pioneers elected to sit their starters on offense and also several on the defensive side, giving the second and third units an opportunity to participate in the opening round playoff game.
The Pioneers kicked off to start the second half and were immediately back on offense when Andrew Dado ripped the ball from the Wildcats returner's arms and the Pioneers recovered.
Orland Park's first series of the second half was a quick three-and-out. Quarterback Jake Stefanos and running backs Nick D’Antonio, Dado and Max Montgomery couldn’t make headway against the Frankfort Square defense and turned over the ball on downs.
Although subbing in many second- and third-unit players, the Pioneers still kept the Wildcats to limited positive yardage. Joe Shelton and Drew Saunders grabbed a couple tackles, along with the ever-present Rolder at linebacker, to once again force another Wildcats punt.
The Pioneers second unit did begin to move the ball on the ground as D’Antonio, Dado and Montgomery kept the drive going into the fourth quarter. Reaching the Wildcats 9-yard line, the Pioneers stalled and had to give up the ball after they were unable to get one more first down.
Frankfort Square did manage to score late in the game. Beginning inside their own 10-yard line, they pulled of a couple of big plays which included a 17-yard pass and a 16-yard run that got them to midfield. From there the Wildcats sprung a 50-yard surprise on the Pioneers which ended up in the endzone for Frankfort Square's lone score. After the kick, the Pioneers lead stood at 25-8.
Orland Park's running game of Dado, D’Antonio and Montgomery ate the rest of the clock and sealed the comfortable win for the Pioneers.
For defensive coach Stefanos there was still much work ahead and he let his players know.
“That’s the expected outcome. We never like to talk about it, but we expect that," he said. "We have to be disciplined and have a lot of film to watch. 
“We know who we are playing. This is what we are here for now, play the big boys. One game at a time, we have to go through the New Lenox Warriors, and they’re going to come. They’re a proud team. You've got to raise your level, play the best you’ve played all year.”
Pioneers who contributed to the win were: Martinas Petruska, Ryan Welch, Nergui Munkbat, John Thompson, Troy Faille, Tommy Durkin, Sean Halloran, Conor McCormick, Charlie Soltys, Jacob Masino, Joseph Calacci, Brian Devlin, Drew Saunders, Frank D’Antonio, Abdel Ghouleh, Tommy Stotts, Gavin Kissane, Nicholas Presbitero, Connor Beach, Jackson Beach, Kenneth Gillette, Tyler Biszewski, Mike Rafazti, Angelo Citarella and Max Urbas.
The Pioneers sixth- and seventh-grade cheerleaders Alivia Achterhof, Brittany Booker, Madeline Casey, Kayla Conrad, Brooklyn Cooper, Jazmine Estrada, Carleigh Fountain, Paige Gasparas, Ella Gillund, Maria Gonsch, Erin Haw, Emma Herout, Audrey Hickman, Amber Hoak, Brianna Iraci, Samantha Jeffries, Giselle Jreisat, Chloe LaVelle, Jocelyn LaVelle, Ella McDonald, Grace McReynolds, Ariana Morris, Megan Murphy, McKayla Onderwater, Gianna Patterson, Sydney Pisarik, Dana Rafati, Angelina Salaita, Claudia Sawik, Kara Stevens, Nicole Tatar, Yoanni Trevino and Lija Vigants did all they could to cheer on the Pioneers.
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