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Monday, June 11, 2018

Pioneers hang on to defeat Invaders on the road

The St. Paul Pioneers, seven-time champions of the Northern Elite Football League, remained undefeated in league play after a gritty road win against a strong Fargo Invaders squad.
The Pioneers used a Cleve McCoy touchdown pass, and touchdown runs by McCoy and running backs Isiah Sims and Herschel Brazell Jr. to explode for 28 points in what proved to be a decisive second quarter.
Fargo had taken a 7-0 first quarter lead, on a rollout by Invaders quarterback Ja'Vonte Johnson. The second stanza, however, turned the tide as McCoy hit Cyrus Elliot for a 7-yard touchdown pass, Sims rumbled in for a 10-yard score and Brazell hit paydirt from 44 yards out. McCoy closed out the Pioneers scoring on a 23-yard run with less than two minutes left in the half.
Fargo was not done however. After a scoreless third period, the Invaders made their move, scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter and having the ball for another touchdown try as time expired. But St. Paul's defense ultimately denied the comeback attempt and the Pioneers remain in first place.
St. Paul is now 3-0 in NEFL play and 4-1 overall, with victories over Des Moines, Granite City, Fox Valley and Fargo, with only a last-second loss to Kansas City as the schedule blemish.

Photos by Marla Collins.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Pioneers fall in opener at home, 29-27.

The St. Paul Pioneers dropped their 2018 season opener on a last-second field goal to the powerful Kansas City Bulldogs 29-27 at Sea Foam Stadium.
In an exciting back-and-forth game, the Pioneers drew fist blood on a Cleve McCoy to Travis Griffin touchdown pass. But the Bulldogs would storm back and start the see-saw scoring that eventually saw St. Paul take a late lead on a quarterback sneak by McCoy with just a minute remaining. For the game, McCoy finished 7 of 11 passing for 62 yards and a score. He also had 33 yards rushing on five carries.
Despite the two teams being evenly matched, Kansas City made the clutch plays at the end to get into range to attempt, and make, the game-winning kick.
Pioneers' running back Herschel Brazell also scored on a rugged 5-yard run and finished the game with 33 yards on 5 carries. Quarterback Alex Neist, part of the Pioneers' two-headed monster attack at QB, hit receiver Matt Crandall for the other Pioneers points. Neist finished 8 of 14 passing for the Pioneers, with a score and two interceptions.
St. Paul's rushing attack was paced by Isiah Sims. The bruising back collected 82 yards on 18 carries. Dejonte Skie was the Pioneers' leading receiver, with 3 receptions for 63 yards.
On defense, the Pioneers were led in tackles by linebacker Corey Brenner, who had 8 total stops with a tackle for loss, and defensive back Creston Tolbert, who had 7 tackles, including one for loss. Pioneers defensive end Caleb Huls snagged an interception.
St. Paul (0-1) continues its daunting opening schedule with a road trip next week to Des Moines, Iowa, to face the always-stout Des Moines Blaze.
Photos by Marla Collins.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Pioneers announce exciting changes to coaching staff for 2018

Some teams use the offseason to tweak their coaching staff.
The St. Paul Pioneers are super-charging theirs.
Pioneers Head Coach Mark Heiser, who has won eight league championships and three national titles since taking the St. Paul helm in 2008, on Tuesday announced several impressive additions as well as new roles for some coaches from last season.
Ben Campbell, a longtime Pioneers defensive back and special teams stalwart, joins the coaching staff as Assistant Head Coach, Special Teams Coordinator and defensive backs coach after coaching with the Minnesota Brawlers in 2017.
Jason Grendzinski will be the Pioneers Defensive Coordinator in 2018, after serving as the team’s defensive backs coach in 2017. Grendzinski is also the team’s Recruiting Coordinator.
Bryan Wrich was officially named the Pioneers’ Offensive Coordinator, essentially filling the role he performed all last season and Rob Neumann, who once ran the Pioneers offense, rejoins the squad in 2018 as an offensive assistant.
Dave Ladd, the Pioneers’ linebackers coach in 2017, will fill the same role in 2018.
Devin Waters, who spent several seasons helping the Pioneers’ defensive line terrorize opposing quarterbacks, will move over to the coaching ranks in 2018 as the Pioneers’ new defensive line coach. And Shannon Johnson, who won several national championships as a tough-as-nails center on the Pioneers offensive line, will serve as the team’s offensive line coach this season after serving in the same role with the Brawlers in 2017.
John Nelson returns to coach Pioneers quarterbacks in 2018, after serving the same role in 2017.
And Damien Rochon Washington, who also won several national championships as a wide receiver and was named to the team’s Hall of Fame after a stellar career as an original Pioneer, becomes the team’s wide receivers coach in 2018.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Pioneers name new board members

Few things stay the same. Even for the St. Paul Pioneers, seven-time champions of the Northern Elite Football League.
At the Pioneers Board of Directors annual meeting Sunday, the Pioneers welcomed three new board members and said goodbye to three others.
New to the Pioneers board in 2018 are Ben Campbell, Bryan Wrich and Deb Wrich.
Stepping down from the board were Team President Pete Globa and team treasurer James Walsh. Board member Rick Barrett, who moved out of state, also was removed from the board.
The board also held an election to name new board officers. They are:
Team President Dan “Doc” Piper.
Team Vice President George “Juice” Hall.
Team Treasurer Bryan Wrich.
Team Secretary Ben Campbell.
The changes to the board are an exciting injection of new excitement and new ideas to one of the nation’s most consistently successful semi-pro football teams. From 2009 through 2016, the Pioneers won eight straight league championships and three national championships.
In 2017, the Pioneers fell in the league semi-finals, ending a streak of success that few teams in America can match. Board member and Head Coach Mark Heiser said Sunday’s meeting sets the table for continued success to come.
The Pioneers will hold their first tryout of 2018 on Jan. 6 at Concordia University-St. Paul, which has been the Pioneers’ home field since 2012.

Monday, October 23, 2017

A night of celebration… and goodbyes.

The 2017 St. Paul Pioneers turned the page on another successful season Sunday with their annual awards banquet at O’Gara’s Bar and Grill in St. Paul, celebrating teammates’ accomplishments and saying goodbye to two longtime coaches and board members.

While the Pioneers fell short of a championship – for the first time since 2009 – there was much to celebrate. Running back Isiah Sims, in his first full season as a starter, was named Team MVP and Offensive MVP for a season in which he led the NEFL in rushing.

Sims collected the most rushing yards, with nearly 1,100 yards, and the most touchdowns for the Pioneers this year. Other award-winners included Dominic Peace as Special Teams MVP; Phil Breidall, Defense MVP; Dejonte Skie as Rookie of the Year; Steve Giroux won the Pioneer Award; Jay Pearson received the President’s Award; Alex Hsu was named Lineman of the Year and Craig Ellestad was chosen to receive the Deanie Hooks Volunteer of the Year award.

The crowd gave a long ovation for the work of the team’s many volunteers.

Skie led the team in receptions. Breidall was the team’s leading tackler. Peace had the most interceptions and defensive end Caleb Huls led the team in quarterback sacks.
Several Pioneers were recognized for making the all-NEFL team. Linemen Jacob Husnik, Hsu and Jason Telin earned all-NEFL honors, as did Sims, receiver Stacy Kalkwarf, Skie and quarterback Cleve McCoy. Perennial all-star defensive tackle Jeff McGaster earned all-NEFL honors, as did Breidall, linebacker Mike Juberian and Peace. Kicker Jay Harding also was recognized for his outstanding season.

It was also an emotional night, as Team President Pete Globa, who also serves as the Pioneers’ special teams coordinator, and longtime board member James Walsh, the Pioneers defensive coordinator and defensive line coach, stepped down after careers that saw the team win three national championships and numerous league crowns.

Head Coach Mark Heiser praised his longtime friends and colleagues for their many contributions to the team… and he spoke with optimism about what the future holds.
“Our goal will be the same next year – an NEFL championship,” Heiser told the assembled players, volunteers and coaches. “I hope you all will want to continue to be a part of it. And it all starts again with tryouts in January.”