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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?