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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Pioneers add two more to coaching staff

The St. Paul Pioneers are proud to add two more assistant coaches to our excellent staff for 2014.

Rick Barrett:  Linebackers coach

Joining the St. Paul Pioneers in 2014, to coach the linebackers and assist with special teams, is Rick Barrett. Rick played ball at the Division I level at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC, where he was the team long-snapper and a linebacker.

Rick, a lifelong student of the game, brings great enthusiasm to one of the team’s most decorated units, the linebacking corps. His goal, the same as the rest of the coaching staff, is to help the Pioneers to the championship in 2014.

Rick is married and lives in downtown Minneapolis with his wife and fellow football fanatic, Missy. He works for Midwest Hardwood Corporation of Maple Grove and, when not involved with the Pioneers, travels the world overseeing the company’s sales and marketing efforts.

Sam Geissinger: Offensive Assistant

Sam comes to the Pioneers with his longtime coaching friend and mentor, A Minus, to work with the Pioneers offense in 2014. Sam brings a growing coaching resume to a team he hopes to help reach even greater heights.

He played football at St. Paul Humboldt High School, where he was named All-Conference Honorable Mention at quarterback and was chosen to play in the Urban Bowl. In 2012, Sam led the Minnesota Silverbacks to a 4-4 record and was selected to play in the SPFL all-star game.

He has coached since 2008, when he joined Minus’ staff at Humboldt. He has coached quarterbacks and wide receivers. In 2012, Sam was named offensive coordinator for Rosevill Area High School’s sophomore team, then was tabbed as the head coach of the freshman team.

In 2013, Sam and the rest of the Roseville staff led a thrilling state playoff run that culminated with the Raiders reaching the Class 6A Semi-Finals. Also in 2013, Sam was the Defensive Coordinator for the Minnesota Silverbacks, who posted a 4-4 record overall on the Season.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pioneers add two top offensive assistants to coaching staff

The four-time NEFL Champion St. Paul Pioneers are adding to their offensive coaching staff – in a very big way.

Anthony Minus, a former St. Paul City Conference Coach of the Year who won a National Championship as a player with the Pioneers in 2009 and has coached at the high school, college and amateur football levels was named the Pioneers offensive coordinator for 2014.

Bryan Wrich, an original Pioneer who has led the Minnesota Sting offense to championships the previous two seasons, was named an offensive assistant with the Pioneers who will work closely with Minus and Head Coach Mark Heiser to help the Pioneers continue their productive and high-scoring ways.

Both coaches begin their new duties immediately.

Minus most recently was the head coach of the Minnesota Silverbacks amateur team. A dean of students for the St. Paul Public Schools, Minus has a long and distinguished football history and a sharp football mind.
A one-time tight end for Concordia University-St. Paul, who went on to play offensive line for Southwest Minnesota State University, Minus in 2004 was offered a contract to play with the Sioux City Bandits of the Indoor Football League. As an amateur, Minus won league championships with the Minneapolis Lumberjacks, the Twin Cities Titans, the Buffalo Wildcats and the St. Paul Pioneers. In 2009, Minus helped the Pioneers win the first National Championship ever captured by a Minnesota team, when the Pioneers topped the Nashville Storm in a thrilling last-second victory in Miami, Fl.

Minus’ coaching career has been filled with accolades, as well. He coached the defensive line at Augsburg College from 2004 through 2006, working with all MIAC and all region players. From 2007 through 2011, he was head football coach at St. Paul Humboldt High School, where he was named 2010 St. Paul City Conference Coach of the Year. Minus coached the school’s first all-state player in a decade, as well as conference players of the year and all-academic players. The former Nike and USA Football clinician was credited with rebuilding the Humboldt program from just 18 players to a roster of 55.

He left high school coaching to spend more time with his family. But Minus said the pull of rejoining the Pioneers family was too strong to stay away.

“When I saw the Pioneers had an opening for an O coordinator, I just had to try to come back. My commitment to this team is strong. I want to be a part of another national championship,” he said.

Minus said he intends to coach in a collaborative style, using input from players and coaches to help build upon the Pioneers’ history of offensive success, forged over the past four seasons by Rob Neumann and, before that, Jason Fleming.

“This is a great offense, a great team,” Minus said. “I want to help take what we do well and help it become better. We have great players, a lot of talent. This will be fun.”

The Pioneers may be the only team in local amateur football to be adding two championship offensive coordinators to its coaching ranks. Bryan Wrich, the offensive coordinator for the high-scoring Minnesota Sting, is joining the staff as an offensive assistant. Wrich helped guide the Sting offense to Minnesota Premier Football League records for total offense, passing, rushing and scoring.

A coaching change with the Sting, who are joining the Northern Elite Football League in 2014, and a chance to rejoin the Pioneers are the reasons Wrich is coming back to the Cardinal and Black.

“I am pretty excited too,” said the former Pioneers offensive lineman, who played with the original Pioneers squad in 2002. “It’s a good time for a change of scenery for me. I’m looking forward to it.”

Wrich is a 1995 graduate of Park of Cottage Grove High School who went on to play for Minnesota State University-Mankato. He came into adult amateur football with the Woodbury Warriors, before joining the Pioneers. A neck injury ended his playing career but Wrich was itching to get back into the game as a coach. In 2005, he was an assistant at St. Francis High School and with the Oakdale Outlaws, another amateur team.

Wrich went on to call the offense for the Minnesota Phoenix, who regularly faced the Pioneers in the Mid-America Footall League and the North American Football League. He then spent a season coaching with the Minnesota Rhinos, before moving on to the Sting.

Wrich said rejoining the Pioneers is like reaching the pinnacle of amateur football. The team’s tradition of excellence and professional organization make the Pioneers a model for other teams to follow.

“The Pioneers that first year, I think we were 7-6. And, still, it was clear this would be a great team,” he said. “Even though we were losing games, the organization never fell apart. There was that drive to get better, week after week.”

He said he can’t wait to get started with the Pioneers.

“Honestly, it’s a little bit of a homecoming. It’s also a challenge for me… it now gives me an opportunity to coach with one of the Midwest’s, if not one of the nation’s, top teams,” Wrich said. “I am really excited to work with Anthony Minus. I am excited about the Pioneers’ history of collaboration.”

Heiser said both coaches will be big contributors to the Pioneers’ continuing efforts to be among the best, if not the best, amateur football teams in the country.

“I think A Minus will do very well for us. He obviously has a lot of experience, coaching at the high school, college and semi-pro levels,” Heiser said. “I expect that our offense will be as good as it has always been with him joining our team.”

About Wrich, Heiser said: “Bryan Wrich gives us another quality coach, another piece to what is, I think, the best offensive staff in the NEFL.”

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pioneers announce first tryouts for 2014 season

The four-time NEFL Champions St. Paul Pioneers will host their first tyouts for the 2014 season on Saturday, Jan. 25, at the Bethel University Sports and Recreation Center, 3900 Bethel Drive, St. Paul, MN.

The tryout will be held from 1-3 p.m., with registration starting at 12:30.

Cost to participate: $20. Players who finished the 2013 season on the Pioneers roster will be admitted free of charge.

Participants should wear workout gear. The facility is a field house with a hard court surface.

Many teams talk about DYNASTY. With eight league championships and two national titles since the team was founded in 2002, the Pioneers ARE A DYNASTY! Do you have what it takes to compete with the best?

For more information about the event on Facebook, go to: https://www.facebook.com/events/649349471751989/

Monday, August 12, 2013

2013 All-Stars Announced!!! Mahmoud named league offensive player of the year

St. Paul Pioneers running back Riza Mahmoud tops a list of Pioneers players who were voted all-star honors by the teams of the Northern Elite Football League. Mahmoud, who finished his first season in St. Paul with more than 1,000 yards rushing, was named the league’s offensive player of the year and made the all-star team as a second-team running back.

Other Pioneers to be honored on offense were:

Center Shannon Johnson, who was named All-NEFL Second Team
Tackle CJ Sanderson, All-NEFL Honorable Mention
Wide receiver Delane Woods, All-NEFL Honorable Mention
Wide receiver Justin Miles, All-NEFL Honorable Mention.

On the defensive side of the ball, several Pioneers were recognized as being among the best in the league, including:

Defensive tackle Jeff McGaster, All-NEFL First Team
Defensive end Edmond Smith, All-NEFL First Team
Safety Jake Lindsey, All-NEFL First Team
Linebacker Bill Quistorff, All-NEFL First Team
Corner/Safety Terry Jones, All-NEFL Second Team
Corner Lionel Lamarre, All-NEFL Second Team.
Linebacker Phil Breidall, All-NEFL Honorable Mention

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Team Effort Gives Pioneers Fourth NEFL championship in a row

By Cassie Kickert

Team:  A group of people coming together for a common goal.

A team effort is what it took to beat the Lake Superior Rage Saturday night in St. Paul.

Team defense: The Pioneers’ always-dependable defense was dominant throughout the game. It started when defensive back Jake Lindsey intercepted Rage quarterback Keldric Stokes on the second play of the game.

Then, when the Rage reached the Pioneers’ 28 on their next possession, defensive lineman Jeff McGaster decided it was time for the Pioneers’ offense to have the ball. He caused a fumble that teammate defensive back Terry Jones recovered.

Team offense:  League-leading rusher, running back Riza Mahmoud showed his speed and athleticism as he ran 35 yards to the Rage 37. Then, quarterback Cleveland McCoy turned to speedy, elusive Delane Woods to get the Pioneers on the scoreboard. Woods obliged, going 20 yards for the score, which was then 7-0 Pioneers.

With the offense struggling in the second quarter, defensive lineman Ronald Buck made sure the Rage didn’t reduce the Pioneers’ lead as he sacked Stokes twice in the quarter, the second time for a loss of 12. Then, McCoy’s magical arm came through when he arch
ed a pass high in the air that came down right to Joe Ubani’s outstretched arms. Ubani then ran in for another touchdown, making the Pioneers lead 14-0.

Both teams’ defenses dominated the second half. McGaster and Buck once again ended a Rage threat when they sacked Stokes in the backfield in the third quarter. McCoy was intercepted once by the Rage’s Addison Griffin. He had nothing to worry about. His defense had his back, forcing the Rage to turn it over on downs.

Later, after the Rage recovered a Pioneers fumble, it took just two plays for cornerback Brock Keaton to snatch it right back. Nickel back Bobby Wright also picked off quarterback David White twice after Stokes went out with an injury.
Wright’s second interception led to the final score of Elite Bowl VI—a Pioneers touchdown pass from McCoy to all-star receiver Justin Miles.

Twenty-one points was all that was needed to secure their fourth consecutive championship. It was evident the Pioneers defense took it upon themselves to ensure their team was hoisting the trophy at the end.
Mahmoud said persistence was the key to victory Saturday.

“Persistence. Will. It wasn’t an easy win by any means,” he said.

However, the Pioneers would not have reached this point—or this game, probably—without Cleveland McCoy. After a 1-3 start, he helped bring the team together with his positive attitude and strong work ethic. His football skills, which include a magnificent arm and quick legs, didn’t hurt either.

Both Lionel Lamarre and Mahmoud acknowledged switching to McCoy at quarterback was a big reason for the Pioneers success this season.

“His first practice everybody knew his talent level. I think when we made that switch it brought the team back closer, a lot closer. Cleve brought the chemistry and brought the team together as a whole,” Lamarre said.

The Pioneers also overcame many injuries—especially on defense. At least five starters – Garrett Johnson, Cliff Gordy, John Robinson, Everett Wilburn and Nate Beulah – were lost to season-ending injuries this year. This season truly was a team effort from start to finish.

Lamarre and Bobby Wright said winning the championship this season feels a lot better than last season because of how hard the team had to work to get it.
“Last year came really easy; everything just fell in place so perfectly…This year is way sweeter than last year. We went through more of a struggle as a team. The struggle brought us together. This year we really, really worked and fought for it,” Lamarre said.

Wright echoed Lamarre’s sentiments.

“It feels a lot better because we had to work hard this season. It wasn’t a blowout every single game. We had to play this year,” he said.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Pioneers dominate Predators, earn title game berth

By Cassie Kickert

The atmosphere before Saturday’s game against the Predators was different. It was calm. On any other game day, you could hear defensive back Terry Jones pumping up his

Saturday, all was quiet. Players and coaches could be seen sitting on the bench focusing in on the task ahead—beating the rival Chippewa Valley Predators to go to their fourth straight NEFL championship. The only sound that could be heard was that of the football hitting a receiver’s hands as quarterback Cleveland McCoy and his receivers perfected their routes.

As soon as the game started, the Pioneers left no doubt who wanted the win more—they did. Within the game’s first two minutes, running back Riza Mahmoud ran back a punt 42 yards for a touchdown.
The sideline and stands exploded. It was as if, on that 42 yard run, everyone’s nerves melted away. Then, on the Pioneers’ first offensive play, McCoy handed the ball to Mahmoud.

What happened next?

He zigzagged through the Predators’ defense, going 82 yards for the score. Kicker John Ostertag’s extra point made the score 14-0 Pioneers.

McCoy threw three passes to one of his favorite targets, receiver Delane Woods, on the next drive. The last one, a four-yard touchdown pass, put the Pioneers up by 21 at the start of the second quarter. 

That would remain the score until defensive back Brock Keaton extended the Pioneers’ lead in the third quarter when he snatched a pass by Predators’ quarterback, and former Pioneer, Joseph Mapson, and ran it back for a 50-yard touchdown.

When asked about the marked improvement in the offense’s performance against the Predators Saturday compared to earlier in the season, McCoy said when you play a team twice, you start to figure out their weaknesses and exploit them.
“When we went to Chippewa, we started well. We just went back to what we did well. It worked out. We put up some good numbers today.”

This game wasn't all about the offense.

All week, the Pioneers had been hearing about how powerful and talented the Predators offense was, how many weapons it had. So, what happened Saturday? A defense led by a dominating Jeff McGaster kept the Predators out of the end zone until late.

"It was a team effort," defensive line coach Jim Walsh said. "But Jeff was unblockable and made several huge plays for us -- including three sacks -- to snuff out their chances."

In all, the Pioneers recorded eight sacks on the night, to go along with Keaton's interception and score.

Running back Jamal McNutt all but sealed the victory when he ran in for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The Predators’ Vince Furby did score with about a minute to go. By then, though, it was too late. The Predators’ attempted a two point conversion unsuccessfully.

At that moment, everyone knew for sure the Pioneers were headed to their fourth straight NEFL championship. Smiles were abundant and rightly so.

Now, there is one game left: NEFL Elite Bowl VI against the Lake Superior Rage, who the Pioneers have defeated twice already this season. The Rage defeated the Fox Valley Force 22-13 and will travel to St. Paul where they will face the Pioneers this Saturday, August 10, at 7pm at Sea Foam Stadium. Will you be there? 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Pioneers beat Bulls, secure #2 Seed for Playoffs

By Cassie Kickert

St. Paul Pioneers fans were reminded early and often that, although their defense has sustained a number of injuries this season, they, by no means, have given up.

No, they just keep pressing on.

Defensive lineman Ed Smith, one of the few remaining starters from the beginning of the season, made his presence felt Saturday. It is doubtful the North Bank Bulls offense will forget his name anytime soon.
Just three minutes into the game, Smith recovered a Bulls fumble and ran it back for a touchdown. The extra point made the early score 7-0 Pioneers.

Smith said he just followed his instincts to the ball:

“I just remember Mark [Simmonds] making a tackle. [Then, the ball] fell on the ground. I saw 6, picked it up and ran it in full speed,” he said.

On the next Bulls possession, Smith forced Bulls quarterback David Connors out of bounds 23 yards behind the line of scrimmage. No, that’s not a typo. The Bulls, obviously, were going nowhere.

The Pioneers were, though, when running back Riza Mahmoud ran 19 yards for another Pioneers touchdown.

Smith was all over the field Saturday, making tackles for a loss, forcing Connors out of bounds and generally making life miserable for the Bulls offense. Those instincts afforded the Pioneers great field position, which they took advantage of when quarterback Cleveland McCoy threw a beautiful strike to receiver Delane Woods. Woods would run the rest of the way to give the Pioneers a 21-point lead at halftime.

Defensive back Lionel Lamarre seemed to be playing on another level, too. Or maybe he was doing it for his friend, defensive back Nate Beulah, who won’t be back in a Pioneers uniform this season due to a knee injury.

Lamarre intercepted Connors twice in the second half. Unfortunately, the Pioneers were unable to take advantage.

When it looked like the Bulls might score early in the third quarter, Lamarre stopped them in their tracks when he intercepted Connors in the end zone. Then, shortly after the start of the fourth quarter, Lamarre took the ball away from a Bulls receiver and snared his second interception of the day.

The Bulls would kick a field goal after the Pioneers turned it over, after McCoy’s pitch to Mahmoud landed 
just in front of his outstretched arms.

A miscommunication on special teams led to the only Bulls touchdown, a kick return by Andy Allison.

The Pioneers have a first round bye this weekend. Next Saturday, August 3, they will host the highest remaining seed at Concordia University-St. Paul’s Sea Foam Stadium. Hope to see you all there!

Friday, July 19, 2013

St. Paul Pioneers again partner with Taho Sports on summer youth football camp.

The Pioneers are proud and appreciative of our longtime relationship with the Titan Fooball Preseason Padded Football Camp in Blaine. We encourage our fans to take advantage of this great developmental camp for young football players.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Pioneers Host Military Appreciation Day Saturday, July 20

Come join us as we take on the North Bank Bulls in our final regular season game of 2013... and honor the commitment and sacrifice of the men and women who have served or are still serving in our nation's military.

Admission is free for ALL active duty military and veterans of the armed forces. Admission for all other adults is $10. Children 12 and under are admitted free.

We seek to honor the courage, commitment and sacrifice of all of our men in women in uniform, past and present. Won't you join us and show your appreciation?

Game time is 5 p.m. at Sea Foam Stadium on the campus of Concordia University-St. Paul. There will be a Minnesota Army National Guard color guard presenting the flags during the National Anthem.

Pioneers ride Mahmoud to comeback win over Rage

By Cassie Kickert

Running back Riza Mahmoud has been a clutch player all season for the St. Paul Pioneers. When his team needs him the most, his legs seem to shift into overdrive, gaining yards where there were none before. It was no different Saturday against the Lake Superior Rage in Duluth. In the absence of starting quarterback Cleveland McCoy, Mahmoud quite literally took over the game.

Though the Rage scored first on a Keldric Stokes pass to Dre Sherill, the Pioneers also put three points on the scoreboard on kicker John Ostertag’s field goal. After that, it didn’t take long for the Pioneers to score again. This time, it was a touchdown – when two longtime Pioneers, backup quarterback Bryan Trulen and receiver/tight end Joe Ubani, connected on a 33-yard pass that put the team ahead by four, 10-6.

Trulen stepped up himself, managing the game well in McCoy’s absence, according to offensive coordinator Rob Neumann. He threw for 148 yards and the touchdown to Ubani.

But the Rage weren’t willing to give up just yet, sparking a furious second quarter that put them into what seemed a comfortable lead.

The Pioneers defense has overcome numerous injuries this season. However, Lionel Lamarre’s absence, in particular, seemed to have an impact on the game. The next two Rage touchdowns would also come via the passing game, the first one coming when Stokes threw to Hollis Dukes. Just a few minutes later, Sherill caught his second touchdown pass of the day.

Linebacker Corey Brenner said the defense is resilient. It had to be.

“No matter who is on the field, we will do whatever it takes to get the Win. I know if we come out flat like we did against the Rage, it will not make our job easy, but I am confident that we will come out with a win if all 11 guys on the field do THEIR job,” he said.

Pioneers players and coaches were starting to get frustrated. The frustration only mounted when, on the team’s next offensive play, as Trulen attempted to pitch the ball, a Rage player knocked it down, picked up the ball and ran into the end zone for yet another touchdown.  That made the score 27-10 Rage – with six minutes still to go before halftime. It could have been time to panic.

Or, you could think of it as time for Mahmoud to take over

He had 35 rushing yards on the next drive, including a six yard touchdown run to bring the Pioneers within ten points at halftime, 27-17.

He and running back Vernon Johnson, together with a long pass from Trulen to Justin Miles, brought the Pioneers inside the Rage 10 at which point, you guessed it, Mahmoud cut outside and ran along the sideline for another Pioneers score – and a 27-24 game.

Suddenly, because of Mahmoud’s speed and elusiveness, the Pioneers were within three points. Mahmoud said he knew he was going to have to step up his game Saturday for the Pioneers to win. He did that and more, running for 198 yards. In total, he had over 300 all-purpose yards on the day.

Brenner got in on the scoring action when he intercepted Rage quarterback David White and ran it all the way back for a touchdown. Then the Pioneers widened the lead to 11, 38-27, when Mahmoud outran everybody on his way to his third touchdown of the day, running this one 64 yards for the score.

This is what Mahmoud had to say about the play:

“That just unfolded beautifully. We misdirected the guys one way then a hole opened up on the back side and I saw it and just went with it. Blocking was beautiful today,” he said.

After a late Rage touchdown by running back Chris Henagin, Mahmoud showed he can play defense too when he emphatically tackled Hollis Dukes late in the game. The Rage battled to inside the Pioneers 10-yard-line, but time ran out on their comeback effort.

Mahmoud was named offensive player of the game. Defensive player of the game was cornerback Brock Keaton, who had an interception and several key passes defended. Ostertag was named special teams player of the game.

Brenner said that everyone doing their job is what brought the Pioneers the victory Saturday against the Rage.

“Everyone on the Pioneers can play ball, we just all need to be on the same level so that we have no loose ends. That is what got us the victory on Saturday vs. the Rage,” he said.

The final step in preparation for the playoffs comes this Saturday at Concordia’s Seafoam Stadium when the Pioneers face the North Bank Bulls for the second time this season. The Pioneers shut the Bulls out, 30-0, in Cottage Grove on June 15. This Saturday is also Military Appreciation Day at Concordia. All current and former military personnel will be admitted for free.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Pioneers to be Featured on WCCO Radio Friday Night!

Please tune in Friday, July 5, at 7 p.m., as the St. Paul Pioneers will be in studio with Mike Max at WCCO Radio 830.

Mike has done several stories and hosted several radio shows over the years

featuring the Pioneers and we thank him for his continued interest in our team.

Remember, WCCO is at 830 on the AM dial. Tune in to hear about the 2013 season for the 3-time NEFL champions and 2012 National Champions as they prepare for the playoffs in 2013.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pioneers seize the day against the Spartans

By Cassie Kickert

In a game that featured two championship teams, it might have come down to one critical possession.

The scoreboard clock at Greendale High School in Greendale, Wisconsin, said there was 9:06 to go in the third quarter. The score was 19-9 Pioneers after the Spartans blocked kicker John Ostertag’s punt in the end zone for a safety.

Then, the Pioneers kicked it away. The Spartans’ JaJuan Zolicoffer took the ball to the Pioneers 41 where the Spartans would begin. Pioneers linebacker Phil Breidall -- and their own mistake, a fumble, on third down – prevented  the Spartans from gaining much, if any, yardage. On fourth down, the Spartans attempted to punt. However, the Pioneers were called for roughing the kicker, giving the Spartans an automatic first down at the Pioneers 25 and, with it, new life.

The Spartans chose a mix of Bobby Windom runs and passes to confuse the Pioneers defense. Indeed, it seems they did for a time. A Pioneers offsides penalty helped move the Spartans to the Pioneers 4.
The Spartans knew this was their chance to score and take the momentum from the Pioneers.

Up until this point in the game, the Pioneers had the momentum. Despite driving five hours to the game, one could see the Pioneers offense was starting to click. After two field goals in the first quarter, quarterback Cleveland McCoy wanted a touchdown. He made sure the Pioneers scored one too, just three minutes before halftime, when he threw to Delane Woods, who then used his speed and athleticism to evade Spartans tacklers and run into the end zone. Harding’s extra point made the score then 13-0.

The Spartans did answer with a score of their own when running back Trevor York ran 44 yards to cut the Pioneers lead to 6, 13-7.

McCoy and the offense weren’t fazed. They came right back, turning to the ever-reliable Riza Mahmoud. Catching a McCoy pitch on the run, he wound his way through the Spartans defense for another Pioneers touchdown. The extra point was blocked, though. The score at halftime: 19-7 Pioneers.

That Spartans safety in the third quarter brings us back to the critical drive. The Pioneers 4 is the line of scrimmage. Would the Spartans score a touchdown and take some of the momentum from the Pioneers?


After Spartans’ quarterback Tony Henner took the ball to just inches from the Pioneers goal line and a first down and goal, the Spartans were called for a false start, moving the ball back to the 6. Then, the Pioneers defense took over, batting down every pass Henner attempted and giving the Spartans no choice but to attempt a field goal.

That three points was a major break for the Pioneers.

Safety Jake Lindsey said keeping the Spartans out of the end zone had a huge impact on the game.
“If our defense doesn't make that stop they would have been right back in the game with a lot of momentum,” he said.

Had the Spartans scored a touchdown, they would have trailed by just three points. A field goal would have tied the game. As it was, though, they were still down by seven. They would not score again.

The Pioneers did, though, when McCoy threw to Woods again, who marvelously kept his feet in bounds to give the Pioneers a two touchdown lead, 26-12.

Woods says it’s all about instinct, when he was asked how he kept his feet in bounds.

“It’s [all about] spacing. You have to know your surroundings. You have to have that instinct [where you think] ok, I have to know where I’m at and make sure I’m in bounds when I catch the ball,” he said.

That would be the final margin of victory, as the 2012 NEFL champion and National champion Pioneers beat the 2012 IFL (Ironman Football League) champion Wauwatosa Spartans 26-12. The Pioneers would slam the door in the fourth quarter, thanks to interceptions by Brock Keaton and Lindsey.

The Pioneers have a bye week for the 4th of July. Then, the team travels to Duluth to take on the always tough Lake Superior Rage.

Their next, and final, regular season home game is July 20th against the North Bank Bulls. It is also Military Appreciation Day at Concordia University-St. Paul’s Sea Foam Stadium. All current and former military personnel will be honored and admitted for free.

Photos above courtesy of George Hall and Chuck Sanger.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Pioneers Outplay Thunderhawks

By Cassie Kickert
It was a pivotal moment in a day of big plays.

Fans, players and coaches watched as the undefeated Menomonie Thunderhawks marched down the field to the Pioneers 30 to start the second quarter. It was there that their offense stalled, courtesy of the tough Pioneers defense. Then, Menomonie elected to go for it on fourth down.

Pioneers safety Nate Beulah made them pay for that decision.

On fourth and ten, he read quarterback Justin Bader’s eyes perfectly, jumped the pass and, as he caught it, rolled onto the ground.

This is how Beulah describes it:

“I lost my footing and tried to regain my balance but I couldn’t so I tried to somersault to make sure I didn’t hurt myself. I was sure they were coming but I heard everyone yelling to get up as I was just about to hit the ground. I had enough momentum to shoot myself back up. Then, my first thought was to stay in bounds so I checked my feet and looked down field and saw that I had big Ed [Smith] and a few others down there so I followed them and cut off of where they were blocking.”

Realizing no one had touched him, he got back up, ball in hand and ran down the left sideline, cheers going with him all the way to the end zone. Kicker Jay Harding added the extra point and the Pioneers led 14-0.

What was going through Beulah’s head as he was running toward the end zone?

“Once I got in the open field I just ran!!! I got in front of the pack and slowed up but saw they had a guy screaming down field so I sped back up, secured the ball and thought to myself ‘there is no way I’m gonna let this guy take my 6 away’."

Beulah’s play gave the Pioneers a ton on momentum. It was not, however, the lone highlight in a day full of them.

Earlier, in the first quarter, running back Riza Mahmoud ran 35 yards for a touchdown on what would be an excellent day for the Pioneers running game. The team rushed for 342 yards to only 141 for the Thunderhawks.

Kicker John Ostertag added a field goal after the Pioneers were unable to get in the end zone, making the score 17-0 at halftime

The, on the first play of the second half, it was Jake Lindsey’s turn.

On third down, deep in Piioneers territory, Lindsey spotted the ball, read the pass, grabbed it and ran the length of the field for another Pioneers score. Harding’s extra point was blocked; however, which made the score then 23-0.

A few minutes later, running back Vernon Johnson became the second Pioneers running back to run for a touchdown when he ran in from eight yards out to give the Pioneers a 30 point lead after Ostertag’s extra point.

Indeed, Saturday was the running game’s day to shine. According to quarterback Cleveland McCoy, the play of the Pioneers physical offensive line was the key to the running game’s success Saturday against the Thunderhawks. Mahmoud led all runners with 159 yards. Johnson added 103 yards as well. In total, five Pioneers were in double figures running the ball including McCoy, running back Jamal McNutt and running back Will Winters.

The Thunderhawks would sneak in a touchdown when Josh Murray caught a Troy Young pass and ran 15 yards for the score. That didn’t hinder the Pioneers running game, though. It just kept going, like a well-oiled machine. Johnson would get the call again, running 32 yards for his second touchdown of the day, extending the Pioneers lead to 37-6 after Harding’s extra point.

With about four minutes to go, quarterback Bryan Trulen and receiver Justin Miles put the exclamation mark on the victory when Miles caught Trulen’s pass in the corner of the end zone.
The final score: 43-6.

This Saturday, the Pioneers travel to Wisconsin to face the Wauwatosa Spartans. Offensive Coordinator Rob Neumann and Lindsey both said that, in order to beat the Spartans, the Pioneers need to maintain the momentum from the past two weeks and take what the defense gives them.

“We will simply take what the defense gives us, and make them pay as best we can,” Neumann said.

After a bye week for the 4th of July, the team will travel to Duluth to take on the Lake Superior Rage. The Pioneers’ next home game is the final regular season game, July 20, against the North Bank Bulls

Monday, June 17, 2013

Pioneers Rout Bulls in Cottage Grove

By Cassie Kickert

The anger St. Paul Pioneers players felt toward the Predators last week came out Saturday as aggression against the North Bank Bulls, another team made up partly of former Spartans, a former Pioneers rival.

After rain and lightning delayed game time about 45 minutes, the Pioneers running game took a little more time to get going. So, the team opted for field goals instead of touchdowns, making the first one this season when kicker Jay Harding’s boot went just inside the left upright.

After an interception by linebacker Billy Quistorff, former Spartan John Ostertag added three more points to give the Pioneers a 6-0 lead about halfway through the first quarter.

Quite a change from last week when the Pioneers scored just six points the entire game.

Then, when linebacker John Robinson intercepted Bulls quarterback Matt Kloss and returned the ball to the Bulls 9, the Pioneers running game got the juice it needed. In two plays, running back Vernon Johnson took it in for a touchdown. After Harding’s extra point, the scoreboard read 13-0 Pioneers and the game still had not reached the second quarter.

To this point, the Bulls had yet to score and the Pioneers defense started thinking shutout. Defensive lineman Ronald Buck kept the potential shutout intact near the end of the first quarter when he sacked Kloss in the backfield. It would be one of several Pioneers sacks and hurries on the day.

To start the second quarter, quarterback Cleveland McCoy and the offense went back to work. Once again, running back Riza Mahmoud came through in the clutch when his team needed him most. Rushing for 52 yards, he led the Pioneers to the Bulls 12 yard line, where McCoy threw a laser to tight end/receiver Joe Ubani, who ran into the end zone for a touchdown.

The Pioneers would add another field goal before halftime after Jake Lindsey caught the third Pioneers interception of the day.

Such was the story and, unlike last week against the Predators, it was a good one.

The Pioneers did make one mistake in the third quarter, though, when Lionel Lamarre fumbled a punt and the Bulls recovered. However, before Lamarre could get too down about it, the Pioneers snatched the ball right back – courtesy of Lindsey, who intercepted Kloss for the second time. Lindsey was named defensive player of the game.

How many interceptions did the Pioneers have? 4. Yes, that’s right. The Pioneers seem to have their swagger back.

Lindsey said the key to productivity in the game was a good practice Thursday. He also said,

“Everybody stepped up from the d line to the linebackers all the way back. Everyone came to play, not just a couple guys but the whole team.”

More evidence of that came just a few plays later when Mahmoud took a pitch from McCoy and ran 70 yards all the way to the Bulls 10. Then, McCoy threw to Ubani again. This time, Ubani wrestled the ball out of the Bulls defender’s hands.

When asked about the catch, Ubani had this to say:

“It was him or me. I heard some people yelling touchdown, other people yelling interception. One of us had to get the ball; [it] might as well be me.”

Would the Pioneers score again? No. With a defense led by Jeff McGaster, Ed Smith, Robinson and Lindsey that totaled four interceptions, they didn’t need to.

So, the chapter on the first Pioneers shutout this season, 30-0, closed with a Bulls pass falling incomplete.

Defensive Line Coach and Assistant Head Coach Jim Walsh said pressure, in particular on Kloss, was the key to victory Saturday against the Bulls. More of the same is the key to beating the Thunderhawks, who are currently undefeated, this coming weekend at Concordia.

“To beat the Thunderhawks, we need to continue bringing pressure. And we need to tackle well if we want to keep their offense in check,” he said.

The next chapter will be written at Concordia University in St. Paul on June 22, where the Pioneers will battle the undefeated Menomonie Thunderhawks starting at 5pm.