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Pioneers running back Jake Maziarka (36) finds an opening against Homer.


JV stonewalls Homer, earns Super Bowl berth

Pioneers hold Stallions to negative yardage in 12-0 win

By Ed Muniz
The Junior Varsity Pioneers have had what most folks would consider a successful season. The lone loss in 11 games came by one point to the Homer Stallions. Heading into their River Valley Youth Football League semifinal, coaches Mark Mikesell and John Stefanos faced that same foe. The meeting gave the Junior Varsity a chance at redemption and a berth in the RVYFL Super Bowl.
From that first day of practice way back in early August, coach Mikesell has repeatedly said their goal all year was to win a championship. So here they were on October 30 facing the team that handed them their lone loss and was between them and a Super Bowl opportunity.
Knowing the task at hand, the Pioneers were a unit of one. A unit with one goal as the game began. They were so efficient in their play, that in the end the Stallions were just another playoff foe used as a stepping stone to get to their ultimate and season-long goal.
With a dominating defense and a new wrinkle to their offense, the Pioneers (11-1-0) shutout and avenged their lone loss with a 12-0 win over the previously unbeaten and second-seeded Homer Stallions (11-1) team.
On this day, the Pioneers were so dominant, they did what no one had been able to do to a Homer offense that was an offensive juggernaut the whole season. The Pioneers defense held the Stallions to negative 12 yards for the game. By quarter, the Pioneers were a stingy bunch. They allowed Homer one yard in the opening quarter, followed by -5 yards in the second for a total of -4 yards in the first half.
The Pioneers defense gave a little bit in the third quarter when Homer managed 6 yards of offense but then sealed up tighter than a jar of pickles in the fourth quarter when Homer had -14 yards.
“Unbelievable performance by the entire team,” said Mikesell. “Coach John (Stefanos), he had a great scheme based on the first game at Homecoming and put in a little bit of a new wrinkle with a new defense and that really helped us. We hadn’t blitzed much all season and decided to take some chances today and blitz and, it worked out.”
It worked out so well that even with the score at 12-0, the Pioneers were so dominant defensively it seemed like it was 72-0 with no threat of giving up a score. Homer just couldn’t get anything started and from the get-go were in trouble.
Pioneers running back Jimmy Rolder looks downfield against Homer.
The Homer ground game came to a complete halt with the pressure the Pioneers gave the Stallions offense. And when they went to the air, a pair of interceptions welcomed them. Throw in multiple sacks and Homer had an offensive quandary at the worst time, all due to the Pioneers relentless pursuit of dominance.
The opening quarter set the tone of the game. Even though the Pioneers didn’t score, they held the ball for most of it. When Homer went on offense, they lost yardage and threw an interception to Julian Loeza.
Getting the second opportunity of the half from the Homer 24, the Pioneer offense made the most of it. A new wrinkle to the offense also became evident when quarterback Tommy McAuliffe found his feet and took off several times. McAuliffe didn’t waiver when he ran. He took off up the middle, bashing his way for every yard possible. 
Gaining 11 yards on his first attempt, McAuliffe next went to the air and found Loeza who made a spectacular one-handed 14-yard catch to advance the ball to the Homer 8. A Jimmy Rolder run and a Stallions penalty put the Pioneers just two yards from pay-dirt.
Orland Park grabbed the lead and game-winning score when Jake Maziarka powered in for the 6-0 lead on the next play.
The Pioneer defense was just kicking into gear and quickly gave notice to the Homer offense what they'd face all game. The tackling of Zackery Bowden, Rolder, Maziarka, and Ryan McPolin stifled every Stallions attempt and again forced Homer to give up the ball.
The Pioneers made the Stallions pay after the punt. McAuliffe started by connecting with Maziarka for 9 yards and again with Loeza for 19 yards. McAuliffe again took off running and added 7 yards to put the ball on the Homer 18-yard line. From there, McAuliffe found a wide open Jack Schramm for 15 yards. When Maziarka blasted in for the Pioneers second touchdown from 3 yards out, Orland Park now led 12-0 just 28 seconds before halftime.
Quarterback Tommy McAuliffe (center) takes a look downfield before improvising with a run in the Pioneers semifinal win.
Trying desperately to get on the scoreboard, the Stallions tried passing downfield only to see an errant pass find the arms of Pioneer defender Michael Ulleweit to end the first half
The difficulties continued for the Stallions in the second half. On their opening down they were penalized, and it didn’t get better from there with Bowden grabbing a tackle for a loss and Jack Harty contributing a 4-yard sack. Throw in a Nicholas Edelen solo tackle and Homer quickly punted.
The Pioneer offense took the remainder of the third quarter and meticulously paraded downfield using the rushing combo of Rolder and Maziarka for much of the drive. The running of McAuliffe in key spots kept the drive moving forward.
McAuliffe didn’t hesitate to take off and at one point during the drive ran the ball on five-consecutive plays after not finding a teammate open or because of heavy pressure from the Stallions.
“Coach (Mikesell) said it was going to be open a lot today since we didn’t do it much during the season and the line blocked great on those I ran. We didn’t do a lot of called runs this year, but today coach called a lot.  I’m happy running the ball. Oh yeah, it’s awesome,” said the elated Pioneers quarterback.
Taking the drive into the fourth quarter, the Pioneers used up much of the clock but eventually bogged down and gave up the ball on downs after a series of penalties.
With the game in their control, the loose and confident Pioneer defense didn’t falter and kept up their constant pressure on the Homer offense. Rolder led the charge and when Bowden and McPolin each grabbed consecutive sacks of 6 and 8 yards respectively, the Stallions had to punt from their own 8-yard line ending any opportunity they had to get back in the game.
For Bowden and McPolin, playing defense at a high level was a gimme. 
“I got off the ball really quick, and I didn’t get doubleteamed so it was easy to get through,” said Bowden. “We wanted to shut down the running game coming in and we did.”
For McPolin, doing one thing well was important to him. 
“I was focused on my “C” gap and trying to make some plays in the backfield. I think I did pretty good doing that, but maybe I could have exploded a little more off the ball. But we played really well today as a team.”
The Pioneers offense again used the tandem of Maziarka and Rolder to seal the game and burn the remaining time.
“We talked about being stronger up front, we made some adjustments based on how we played them at homecoming, couldn’t be prouder of the boys,” said Mikesell. “When we went to the ground game we were effective and wore them down.”
The Junior Varsity will make the Orland Park Pioneers program's first appreance in the RVYFL Super Bowl in only their second year in the league. The Pioneers will face the unbeaten Tinley Park Bulldogs at 3 p.m. on Saturday, November 6 at ATI Field in Joliet.
The Pioneer also had excellent efforts: Christian Evans, Martinas Petruska, Ryan Welch, Nergui Munkbat, Andrdew Dado, Joe Shelton, John Thompson, Troy Faille, Tommy Durkin, Sean Halloran, Scott Rybak, Lukas Pukstys, Max Montgomery, Conor McCormick, Charlie Soltys, Jake Stefanos, Jacob Masino, Nick D”Antonio, Jimmy Lalezas, John Mazenko, Joseph Calacci, Brian Devlin, Drew Saunders, Frank D’Antonio, Abdel Ghouleh, Tommy Stotts, Tom Starcevich, Gavin Kissane, Nicholas Presbitero, Connor Beach, Jackson Beach, Kenneth Gillette, Tyler Biszewski, Mike Rafazti, Kyle Peterson, Angelo Citarella and Max Urbas.
The Pioneers sixth- and seventh-grade cheerleaders who aided the upset from the sidelines were: 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 cheered on the players all game.
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