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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?

No.

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.

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