LANSING, Ill. (September 22, 2023) – TF North football is back on the map, and much of the credit goes to first-year coach Anthony Pignatiello.
That’s the view of junior offensive lineman and kicker Carlos Roa.
“As soon as he came in, he put a stamp on the team,” Roa said of Pignatiello, a TF North alum who played football and baseball for the Meteors. “He set the standard inside the school, outside of the school, in practice, everywhere. I’ll appreciate him forever for giving us this chance to become 4-0.”
That’s TF North’s record after a 17-14 victory over TF South in their South Suburban Blue opener on Saturday in Calumet City.
The Meteors haven’t been perfect through four games since 2009, and they haven’t had possession of the Wooden Shoe-Mushroom Trophy since 2019. The trophy, created after Thornton Fractional split into two schools in the late 1950s, features nods to Lansing’s Dutch background (the shoe) and Cal City’s days as a farming community (the mushroom).
Now that the trophy is back at North, Roa and his teammates have their sights focused on other goals. The Meteors haven’t been to the IHSA playoffs since 2011; one more win will make them postseason-eligible and two more victories will clinch a berth.
Roa especially is motivated by helping his older teammates reach the playoffs after they endured some tough times, including the pandemic-delayed 2021 spring season.
“The seniors, I grew up with them,” he said. “I played varsity with them last year. I grew up with them playing Pop Warner.”
Roa contributed on offense and special teams in Saturday’s win. He and his linemates paved the way for the Meteors to rush for 208 yards and gain 292 yards overall.
And he converted all three of his kicks, a pair of PATs and a 27-yard field goal with 2:23 remaining. That gave North a 17-6 lead and proved crucial when TF South recovered a short kick and marched down to score with 1:25 left.
Senior quarterback Dominic Gradford led the North offense to touchdowns on its first two possessions sandwiched around a successful onside kick.
Tristan Jackson (15 carries, 68 yards) scored on a 5-yard run with 3:43 left in the first quarter and Gradford threw a 29-yard TD pass to Terrion Long with 2:05 remaining in the first period.
TF South (0-4, 0-2) pulled within 14-6 at halftime on Seneca Smith’s 1-yard TD run with 2:40 left in the second quarter. That was it for the scoring till the game’s closing minutes.
Gradford ran 20 times for 62 yards and was 5-of-9 passing for 84 yards.
“The kid’s only been involved in the offense for about 4 1/2 months and that’s not easy,” Pignatiello said of Gradford. “But he’s a football player first and foremost. That’s what he does. As I said in the summer, he’s an unbelievable leader with his actions. I can’t be more proud of the young man.”
TF South scored its second touchdown on Christian Streeter’s 3-yard run, a TD set up by his 47-yard reception from quarterback Nick Ford.
Streeter finished with 96 yards on 19 touches, all but one of them runs. Smith had 67 yards on 10 carries.
It was a step forward for a Red Wolves offense that had nine points in its first three games.
“I think we made progress,” TF South coach Bob Padjen said. “Just being (down) 14-0 and coming back and making it a ballgame. And then at the end of the game, we were still fighting. We didn’t give up.
“It’s been a funny year for us where we’re right there and just let everyone get away.”
Girls cross country
North’s Karen Zepeda took fifth in the Julian Urbina Invitational hosted by TF North on Saturday, covering the 3-mile course in 20:48.2. Yulissa Villarreal was 19th in 24:22.9 for the Meteors, who did not field a full team.
The Meteors edged Bremen 3-2 on September 14 as No. 1 doubles partners Precious Agwu and Alex Thomas improved to 7-1.
North also had doubles wins from Favor Babatunde/Alexa Cervantes (No. 2) and Melany Espinoza/Shannon Fulsom (No. 3).
TF North lost 25-22, 25-14 to South Suburban Blue rival Oak Forest on Tuesday.
North lost 217-262 to Bremen on September 14 at River Oaks.
The Red Wolves finished fourth in the South Suburban Blue Meet on Tuesday at Inwood in Joliet, shooting 436.
Scorers for South were Ryan Marnell (101, one birdie, two pars), Andrew Danehl (106), Anthony Gianoli (106, two pars) and Jacob Lindsey (123).
South split a triangular on September 14 at The Meadows in Blue Island, shooting 203 against Evergreen Park (172) and Shepard (210).
Scorers for the Red Wolves were Gianoli (46, one par), Marnell (51, one par), Danehl (52, two pars) and Lindsey (54).
South defeated Reavis 217-240 September 13 at Centennial Park in Munster.
The Red Wolves’ top four were Gianoli (51, one par), Marnell (52), Danehl (55, one par) and Lindsey (59).
South improved to 9-11 with a 25-15, 25-13 South Suburban Blue win over Hillcrest on Tuesday.
Earehc’ Hill had seven kills, three digs, and two aces to pace the Red Wolves.
Boys cross country
The Red Wolves finished fifth among eight full teams at TF North’s Julian Urbina Invitational on Saturday with 112 points.
Scorers for South were Antoine Morgan (23rd, 19:20), Jesse Terrazas (25th, 19:27), Rodrigo Cortez (26th, 19:30), Brandon Chavez (27th, 19:46) and Carlos Cervantes (32nd, 20:22).
The Red Wolves lost 7-0 to Lincoln-Way East on Monday.
South beat TF North 4-1 on Sept. 13.
Deisy Salto and Angela Mendez won at No. 1 and No. 2 singles respectively for the Red Wolves, who had doubles victories from Elizabeth Alvarez/Kaylyn Imala at No. 2 and Emily Cabrera/Azuri Akbar at No. 3
North’s Precious Agwu and Alex Thomas won at No. 1 doubles on a super tiebreaker.
Girls cross country
South finished fifth among nine full teams at TF North’s Julian Urbina Invitational with 121 points.
Top finishers for the Red Wolves were ShyBria Starkley (21st, 24:56.3), Kailyn Keys (31st, 26:23.1), Dawn Birkenfeld (33rd, 26:42.6), Jarena Shell (40th, 27:56.8) and Adetutu Sokunbi (53rd, 32:25.3).
TF United (TF South/TF North co-op)
United stayed perfect in conference play with a 7-0 shutout of Evergreen Park on Tuesday.
Giovanni Melgoza and Dimitri Kouemo each scored twice for United (8-2-2, 3-0-2 South Suburban Blue). Joaquin Terrazas and Oswado Tovar each added a goal and an assist, while Ezrah Gonzalez had one goal. Kalachi Mbah, Donovan Rivera, and Angel Saenz each contributed an assist, while Oswaldo Mendoza had one save.
United tied Lemont 2-2 on September 14 as Melgoza scored twice. Gonzalez had an assist, while Edgar Rodriguez had three saves and Oswaldo Mendoza added two saves.
United beat Bremen 89-45 on Tuesday as sisters Aaliyah and Bibianna Harb went 1-2 in the 200-yard individual medley.
Appolonia Villalpando added a victory in the 100 freestyle for United.
United defeated the Thornton co-op 72-25 on Sept. 14, getting personal bests from freshman Sarah Perry (50 freestyle) and sophomore Jamya White (100 breaststroke).
Boys cross country
The Vikings won the Class AA title at Saturday’s New Prairie Invitational, scoring 56 points to beat 24 other full teams. Scorers for Illiana were Jarvis Mickles (third, 16:41.3), Nolan Bouwman (sixth, 16:44.8), Josh Wondaal (11th, 17:14.4), Cody Aardsma (14th, 17:31.5) and Dane Scheeringa (22nd, 17:42.9).
Girls cross country
Illiana was runner-up among 22 full teams at Saturday’s New Prairie Invitational with 140 points. The Vikings’ top five were Avery Olthof (sixth, 20:05.4), Ella Olthof (15th, 20:19.8), Adeline Mulder (27th, 21:05.4), Ellie Ratliff (52nd, 22:43.3) and Madelyn Schurman (61st, 22:57.3).
Illiana finished sixth among 10 full teams in the Lake Central Sectional on September 15 at Palmira, shooting 451.
Scorers for the Vikings were Jonna Balkema (103), Kati Dobrijevich (107), Tess Hensley (118) and Amalia Barnes (123).
The Vikings, who are in just their third season as a stand-alone program, won their first conference title on September 5 when they edged Boone Grove 420-421 for the Greater South Shore championship.
Dobrijevich (90) and Balkema (101) earned first-team all-conference honors, while Hensley (108) was second-team all-conference. Hailey Smith (121) rounded out Illiana’s scoring.
Illiana moved to 9-3-1 with a 6-1 win over Hanover Central on Tuesday.
Nolan Flipse had a goal and two assists for the Vikings, who also had goals from Will Bloom, Josh Carter, Grant Terpstra, and Michael Zylstra. Terpstra, Zylstra and Eli DeGraff also had assists, with Aidan Drost contributing one save.
The Vikings shut out Andrean 6-0 on Saturday, getting two goals each from Flipse and Noah Sons.
Bloom and Adam Molenaar also scored for Illiana, while Noah Davids had two assists.
Adding one assist each were Carter, Divine Olikagu, and Andrew Calix. Eman Calix had one save.
Illiana edged Wheeler 2-1 in overtime on September 14, getting goals from Sons and Zylstra with an assist from Flipse. Calix had three saves.
The Vikings blanked Griffith 5-0 on Wednesday, getting straight-sets doubles wins from the teams of Hunter DeYoung and Gise Gibson at No. 1 and Tyler Groenewold and Brandon DeYoung at No. 2.
Griffith forfeited the three singles matches.
Illiana shut out River Forest 5-0 on Monday, winning every match in straight sets.
Hunter DeYoung (No. 1), Chase Lindemulder (No. 2) and Wyatt Jones (No. 3) won in singles. Gibson and Brandon DeYoung (No. 1) and Silas Olthof (No. 2) picked up doubles victories.
The Vikings blanked Calumet 5-0 on Sept. 14, losing just two games.
Singles winners were Hunter DeYoung (No. 1), Jones (No. 2) and Brandon DeYoung (No. 3). Lindemulder and Gibson won at No. 1 doubles, while Olthof and Groenewold won at No. 2.
The Spartans scored the game’s last 22 points en route to a 36-6 CCL/ESCC Red win over De La Salle on September 15 in Chicago.
Tyler Lofton had TD runs of 9, 9, and 60 yards and also ran a kickoff back 63 yards for a score. He finished with 30 carries for 216 yards.
Kansas commit Austin Alexander had a 57-yard interception return for a score and Caden O’Neil blocked a De La Salle punt out of the end zone for a safety.
The Spartans blanked Oak Forest 5-0 on Monday, dropping just one set.
Winning in singles for Marian (4-6) were Athena Jaculbe (No. 1) and Morgan Bolton (No. 2). Doubles winners were Shelah Boyd/Zinnia Rosas (No. 1), Lailani Allison/Avalyn Humbert (No. 2) and Mikyah Ward/Lauren Kyte (No. 2).
Marian finished ninth in the nine-team East Suburban Catholic Conference Meet on Monday at Highland Woods, shooting 347.
Scorers for the Spartans were Jack Markos (82), Alex Kvasnicka (86), Max Mele (89) and Josh Davis (90).
Boys cross country
Marian was sixth among eight full teams at Saturday’s Julian Urbina Invitational hosted by TF North, scoring 129 points.
The Spartans’ Daniel Kasperan was the individual runner-up in 15:53.7 for 3 miles. Other scorers for Marian were Jayden Downs (16th, 18:11.9), Jeremiah Bolar (42nd, 21:43.6), Christopher Watkins (48th, 23:18.4) and DeMario Jackson (50th, 24:18.5).
The host Spartans finished third in a quadrangular on Sept. 13, scoring 123 against Homewood-Flossmoor (24), Bloom (48) and Rich (142).
Top 10 runners for Marian were Kasperan (third, 18:16 for 3 miles) and Downs (eighth, 19:58).
Girls cross country
Marian finished fourth among nine full teams with 100 points on Saturday at TF North’s Julian Urbina Invitational.
Scorers for the Spartans were Lydia Casillas (ninth, 21:17.4 for 3 miles), Lily Raftery (20th, 24:41.4), Joselyn Guzzo (24th, 25:11.5), Megan Tomaka (26th, 25:12.6) and Kimberly Munoz (30th, 26:14.2).
Casillas took first in a home quadrangular on September 13, running 22:38 for 3 miles. Raftery was fourth in 25:06 for the Spartans, who did not have a full team.
- Photo gallery: Battle for Burnham – TF South takes on TF North football (September 19, 2023)
- Athlete spotlights of the week: Giovanni Melgoza, Joya Hurev-Scott (September 16, 2023)
- TF North Football starts 3-0 in turnaround season – other local scores (September 14, 2023)