New Pioneers Step Up In Win Over Crush
By Cassie Kickert
You could tell something was different when receiver Bobby Wright flew towards the Eau Claire punter just in time to swat the ball at the end of the Crush’s first series of the game.
The big play placed the ball at the Eau Claire 17 yard line. Then, running back Brian Holmes took over. Four plays later, Holmes rumbled into the end zone behind a massive block from defensive lineman Jeff McGaster, and the Pioneers were on their way to their first victory of 2013.
A few minutes later, Holmes was back at work when he ran in from three yards out to give the Pioneers a 13-0 lead. It would be all Pioneers all day, as St. Paul defeated Eau Claire 47-8, to improve to 1-3 overall and 1-1 in NEFL play.
Yep, the Pioneers are in familiar territory again.
The familiar sightings continued when cornerback Lionel Lamarre stepped in front of a Brock Pottenger pass and grabbed the ball. Then, new Pioneers running back/slot receiver Riza Mahmoud took it 83 yards for a touchdown.
Three touchdowns in about eight minutes – let flashbacks to last season commence.
New quarterback Cleveland McCoy and offensive coordinator Rob Neumann decided the passing game was going to join the party, too. McCoy would throw two touchdown passes, both to Mahmoud, who showcased his athletic ability when he caught the first one and ran 67 yards untouched for a touchdown.
Mahmoud credited the offensive line’s great blocking as the reason for his long runs.
“This week they stepped their game up, got a lot of push on the line and held their blocks and it opened up a lot of lanes for me,” he said.
Neumann said much the same thing. “The offensive line took charge early and set a tone [that] we were able to ride for the length of the game.”
Mahmoud’s second touchdown came just before halftime. He ran an excellent, precise route to the right corner of the end zone where McCoy hit him right on target to make the score 34-0 Pioneers at halftime.
Yes, Zero points allowed. The Pioneers defense did more than their part all game long. In addition to Lamarre’s interception, a big reason for the return to dominance by the Pioneers defense was the inspired play by new defensive lineman Ed Smith.
The Pioneers have played well in spots in their three previous games, but missing star defensive ends Garrett Johnson and Cliff Gordy has not helped the cause. On Saturday, Smith showed he’s more than capable of helping fill the void.
It started early when he tackled Crush running back Tommy Green in the backfield in the first quarter. He continued to make his presence felt all game long. He finished the game with four quarterback sacks among his 12 tackles and seven tackles for loss on the day.
Indeed, he made his presence felt. Whatever the Crush game plan was, it failed. Smith said, “Not in our house.”
The source of Smith’s inspired play, it turns out, is found in a pre-game speech by McGaster, a team captain. McGaster talked about playing with intensity, emotion and motive. It was definitely heard.
Later, in the third quarter, Smith gave the Pioneers great field position when he sacked Pottenger at the Crush 18 yard line on fourth down.
It took only one play for the Crush to regret not punting the ball away. Pioneers running back Vernon Johnson covered the 18 yards in record time, scoring another Pioneers touchdown.
Kicker John Ostertag’s extra point went straight through the uprights, making the score 41-0 Pioneers late in the third quarter.
The Pioneers defense wasn’t done yet, though.
Defensive end Val Ndikum, who also had a terrific game containing the Crush attack, tipped a Pottenger pass that was intercepted by defensive back Andre Spencer. Then the offense went back to work.
McCoy threw to Marcus Foster, who eluded tacklers and ran to the left corner of the end zone for yet another Pioneers touchdown. The extra point attempt was unsuccessful, leaving the score 47-0 Pioneers.
Both Mahmoud and Delane Woods had nothing but good things to say about McCoy.
Mahmoud said he has “Smart decision-making [skills]... [He] doesn’t lose his head when he has to scramble. He’s a very composed quarterback.”
Woods said he thinks McCoy is great at throwing and running the ball.
The Crush would break up the shut out in the fourth quarter, when, on Josh Gawrysiak carry, the ball came out but it was recovered in the end zone by the Crush. Pottenger’s pass to Gawrysiak for the two point conversion made the score 47-8 with four minutes left.
That would be the final score of the first Pioneers victory this season.
The Pioneers have a bye this week for Memorial Day. They return to action at Sea Foam Stadium on Saturday, June 1, when they take on the undefeated Lake Superior Rage. Game time is 5pm. Come join us as Mahmoud, Smith, and the rest of the Pioneers go for their second win this season!