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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.