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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? 

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