BUCKTOWN >> Sean Praweckyj was having a busy night Friday.
The Owen J. Roberts senior was in position to get his number called frequently during his team’s season-opening game with Conestoga. And he was a very visible presence for the Wildcats in their 26-6 victory over the Pioneers.
Praweckyj saw time on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, plus running with the special teams. A tall order for any high-school player, but he gloried in the workload.
“It’s fun,” he said. “I love being out there, having a good time.”
Praweckyj figured in on 147 yards of Roberts’ offense, in all three facets of ball movement. Working at quarterback in tandem with classmate Dawson Stuart, he ran for 39 yards and covered another 29 on 4-for-4 passing. He had even bigger gains at wide receiver, where he had two catches for 79 yards; one of them was a 69-yarder that set up OJR’s first touchdown little more than six minutes into the action at Henry J. Bernat Field.
It was a key component in Owen J. building a 26-point lead through the first three quarters. Its hopes for a shutout ended when Conestoga, coming off a 2-8 campaign last fall, scored with 7:02 left.
“I thought our effort was good,” Roberts head coach Rick Kolka said afterward. “We’re better than we played — it’s a strange thing to say after you win 26-6 — but we can play better, for sure.”
Stuart had himself a nice passing game, going 6-for-8 for 138 yards. He figured in on the Wildcats’ second and third touchdowns, going one yard up the middle at the 9:29 mark in the second quarter before hooking up with Hunter Hinrichs (three catches, 48 yards) on a 34-yard TD toss 1:05 before the half.
But the offensive steering wheel was put in Praweckys’s hands for the entire second half. He drove OJR to its final score with 4:31 to go in the third, the five-play drive capped by junior Marcus Martin going three yards off his left tackle before Cooper Chamberlain added his second conversion kick of the night.
“They both have different skill sets,” Kolka said of his two senior signal-callers. “That will make it difficult for teams to scheme for that.”
“I could get out of the pocket and extend plays longer,” Praweckyj added. “There’s a good mix between us.”
Conestoga found itself unable to get on track through a first half where it had just 46 yards total offense and three first downs. Its lone scoring drive, starting at the four, went 12 plays and was fueled in large part by senior quarterback Nick Braendel going 55 yards around his right end to the Roberts 18, from where he did most of the heavy lifting the rest of the way toward the end zone.
“They came out with the victory, but we still saw a lot of good things,” Pioneer head coach Marquis Weeks said. “Our defense did well, but it ended up out on the field too long.”
Braendel finished as Conestoga’s big gun on offense, rushing for 56 yards on 11 totes and completing 12 of 19 passes for another 57. Next to him, junior tailback Milton Robinson had 12 yards on 13 carries, and senior Sean Bailey had 29 yards on two catches.
“We’ll rely on Nick a lot,” Weeks said. “He’s a good athlete and a team captain. We’ll look to put the ball into his hands.”
For Owen J, there was considerable emphasis on getting a large number of players action. Kolka felt that plan paid his team dividends.
“It’s hard to simulate game reps. You can’t do that in practice,” he said. “We played more than 30 guys, so many got familiar with game reps and speed. Hopefully, they’ll be prepared.”
“We all know we can play better,” Praweckyj added. “We have to come in next week and work hard.”
NOTES >> A well-known OJR gridiron alumnus was present on the team’s sideline as ball boy. Nick Duliakas, the team’s 2016 Player of the Year, hung with his former mates on a visit home from college. … Martin emerged as Roberts’ rushing leader with 66 yards on six totes. His biggest gainer was for 32 yards around his left end on the team’s final TD march … The Wildcat running game got another yardage contribution from Hunter Scherfel (nine carries, 28 yards).
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