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Thursday, March 28, 2013

At Minicamp, Pioneers say they expect nothing but the best in 2013

By Cassie Kickert

In 2013, the St. Paul Pioneers are out to prove that 2012 was no fluke. Their mission is to do one thing: win. They have done that a lot, especially over the past three seasons. Toward that end, the Pioneers held their annual minicamp at Augsburg College on Saturday, March 23

In 2012, the Pioneers went undefeated on their way to winning their third NEFL championship and the USA Bowl National Championship in Daytona Beach, Florida. Starting quarterback Michael Spriggs said he believes the team will again lead the league in wins in 2013 and can also repeat as the league-leading offense.

Indeed, his high expectations are not unwarranted. The Pioneers return a group of talented receivers, including Marcus Foster, Delane Woods and Joe Ubani. Joining them this season will be Davarus Branigan, an exceptional tight end who played for the Quad City Raiders.

Michael Harley is another new Pioneers receiver who the team is also trying out at defensive back
Like the rest of the Pioneers, Harley just wants to win. He played for the Rochester Giants in the past

“I’ve been close a couple of times before but never won a title in anything. This is a good opportunity,” he said.

Other than playing football, Harley spends his time finishing school at Augsburg and running track to stay in shape.

Although the offense boasts some promising new weapons, Spriggs acknowledges that the Pioneers’ domination starts with the defense. Brock Keaton is one new addition to the Pioneers defense that impressed star corner/kick returner Lionel Lamarre. More help is always needed in the secondary, according to Lamarre, and “more competition is always a key championship ingredient,” he said.

Keaton is originally from the Twin Cities, graduating from Hopkins High School in 2008. He was a two-year starter for Minnesota State University-Moorhead until his coaching staff got fired and he lost his athletic scholarship.

He started researching semi-pro football teams in the Twin Cities, found the Pioneers’ website and liked what he saw. When not playing football, Keaton is finishing his bachelor’s degree in public relations. In his spare time, he also enjoys hanging out with his daughter.

The Pioneers 2013 schedule features the much tougher competition Lamarre referred to – starting with the Fox Valley Force on April 27th at St. Paul Humboldt High School.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Collins and Holt join Pioneers board

By Cassie Kickert

The Board of Directors of the St. Paul Pioneers decided it was time to add some new blood and vigor to the group that oversees the operation of one of the country’s most successful amateur football teams, expanding from seven to nine members.

After a series of interviews with interested candidates, the board chose Marla Collins and Sam Holt as its new members.

As it turns out, both Collins and Holt already had an interest and a passion in Pioneers football. Both started volunteering with the team several years ago because Jacob Husnik played for the Pioneers. Collins is Husnick’s mother; Holt is a friend.

Collins and Holt also shared a motivation for applying to be on the board: learning from the team’s current board members.

When asked why he wanted to be on the board, Holt said, “To help bring more ideas to the board and gain priceless experience from people that have been around running a team.”

Collins echoed Holt’s statements, saying the current board is a “fabulous group of people.”  She said she is eager to learn from, and contribute to, the board this season as well.

Holt, 18, has been with the Pioneers since he was 15. He has helped film Pioneers games, has volunteered for other game-day functions and has served as the unofficial championship ring guy, helping design and order several styles of rings.

When Holt is not working with the Pioneers, he stays busy helping another Minnesota sports team—the Minnesota Twins. In particular, he works in the team’s bullpen, catching when players are injured. He also works with the Twins’ youth training camps.

With the board this season, Holt said his mission is to bring the Pioneers more local and national recognition.

Collins said she hopes to increase the team’s fan base as well. She and her family have been avid fans since Husnik joined the team in 2008. She, too, has volunteered her time and talents in the past – serving as one of several unofficial team photographers at home and away games. She said she plans to draw upon her experience running a business, as well as her passion as a fan, to help the Pioneers expand their fan base and their sponsor pool.

In addition to the Pioneers, Collins and her husband, Mark, enjoy rooting for the Vikings and Twins. Like any mother and grandmother, her favorite thing to do is to spend time with her kids, Jacob and Chelsea, and her grandson, Emerson.

Both Collins and Holt are excited to be part of the board and for the upcoming season as well.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Pioneers post early practice schedule

Attention all Pioneers Players:

Here is our early practice schedule. NOTE: We will notify players here and on Facebook on Wednesday if snow makes practice impossible that week.

Pioneers Practice Schedule for the next few weeks:

MUNI (Rice/Arlington)
6:30-8:30 PM

SAT MAR 30  (optional)
McMurray Field-West
Noon – 3:00 PM

MUNI (Rice/Arlington)
7:00-9:00 PM

SUN APR 7  (optional)
McMurray Field-East
11:30-1:30 PM

MUNI (Rice/Arlington)
6:30-8:30 PM

Oxford-Jimmy Lee
 6:00-8:00 PM

Friday, March 1, 2013

Pioneers Collect Team, Individual Awards

The St. Paul Pioneers have long been viewed as one of the top semi-pro football teams in the country. Recently, the folks at 360 Sports, organizers of bowl games and championships all over the United States and Mexico, made it official.

St. Paul was named the semi-pro team of the year in the United States by 360 Sports after the Pioneers won the USA Bowl National Championship in Daytona Beach, Fla., in January. In addition, the Pioneers ended the 2012 season tied with the Central Penn Piranha as the top-ranked team in semi-pro.

Pioneers Head Coach Mark Heiser was also recognized, winning 360 Sports Coach of the Year honors. It is the second such award for Heiser, who was named NAFL Coach of the Year in 2009, following the Pioneers National Championship win over the Nashville Storm in Miami, Fla. When he is not coaching the Pioneers, Heiser is the head football coach at Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis.

And St. Paul's elite running back, Isaac Odim, was named Offensive Player of the Year by 360 Sports, following his 1,200-yard rushing season. Odim rushed for three touchdowns in the Pioneers 30-7 win over the North Texas Longhorns in Daytona, for which he was named Player of the Game.

Odim, who won a national collegiate title at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and spent time in training camp with the San Diego Chargers, is currently a graduate student at Duke University.