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Friday, May 23, 2014

Pioneers post second straight shutout, blank Bulls

QB Cleveland McCoy goes airborne for a touchdown against the Bulls.

By Cassie Kickert

Although the St. Paul Pioneers made mistakes Saturday against the North Bank Bulls, the result was familiar to Pioneers fans: a win and another shutout.

St. Paul won 33-0 and headed into its first bye week at 3-1 overall, 2-0 in the NEFL.

Isaac Odim gains yards.
While the win was impressive, there were times that the Pioneers offense struggled to sustain drives. Time and again, however, the Pioneers defense was up to the challenge. Neither team could muster much until Riza Mahmoud weaved his way through the Bulls punt team to the Bulls’ 39 yard line. It was then that running back Isaac Odim took over, gaining 22 of the Pioneers 39 yards on the drive, including a five yard touchdown run.

Still, unlike previous games, including last week’s home win against the Rage, the Pioneers offense simply could not get into a rhythm. Despite regularly enjoying good field position, quarterback Cleveland McCoy and the offense often went nowhere.

When asked about the offensive struggles, McCoy said it’s hard to iron out the kinks when the team practices only one day a week. He said they will continue working to improve, week by week.

Linebacker Tierre Thompson and DB Terry Jones make the tackle.
One player who didn’t struggle was defensive end Ed Smith, who was named defensive player of the game and seemed to live in the Bulls backfield. After a Smith sack of Bulls quarterback Brett Schreiner, the Pioneers passing game found new life. Two perfect McCoy passed to Damien Lolar moved the Pioneers to the Bulls 10. On the very next play, McCoy threw to receiver Justin Miles, who ran in for a touchdown.
On the next Pioneers series, receiver Donte Pettis got in on the action, catching a pass from McCoy and running 17 yards to the Bulls 24. On fourth and 20, seeing no one open, McCoy took off through the Bulls defense and weaved his way to the end zone, leaping over the goal line for the score.

McCoy was asked how he decided to run for the touchdown:

“It’s instinct. As a quarterback, I never predetermine anything. My main goal was to get the first down. Then, when I saw the one-on-one matchups, I figured I could win.”

The Pioneers still led 20-0 at halftime.

After halftime, offensive struggles continued as McCoy was sacked and fumbled; the Bulls Joey Hiben recovered at the Pioneers 38 yard line.

Again, the Pioneers’ defense proved it was up to the challenge. Defensive lineman Brandon Murdock and Smith stuffed Bulls quarterback Garret Colao at the line of scrimmage.

The Bulls decided to go for it on fourth down. Smith made them regret that decision when he sacked Colao for a loss of eight. After another Pioneers punt, Smith notched another sack. Then, linebacker Billy Quistorff not only intercepted Colao but also ran it in for a touchdown.

Later, after an impressive punt return by Pioneer Lionel Lamarre, tight end Robert Wills made a one-handed grab in the end zone to give the Pioneers what would be their final score of the day.

Pioneers defensive back Brock Keaton was asked how he and the defense continue to dominate.

He said, “[We] play as a unit and good things happen. [We] take it one play at a time.”

The team is off for the Memorial Day weekend. Next Saturday, the Pioneers go to Mounds View to take on the Twin Cities Titans. Their next home game at Concordia is Saturday, June 7, against the Minnesota Sting.

Players of the game:
Offense- Thomas Broussard.
Defense- Ed Smith.
Special Teams- John Ostertag.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Pioneers dominate Rage with shutout win

By Cassie Kickert

St. Paul Pioneers defensive back Jake Lindsey said the defense had one goal Saturday against the Lake Superior Rage: Help the Pioneers offense get into a rhythm. 

Mission accomplished.

The Pioneers won 41-0 in the first shutout since beating the North Bank Bulls 30-0 last June 15.
Isaac Odim scores again.
“Every time the defense makes plays it helps the offense. We really wanted to get them going today and get them in a groove. It was really good to see them fired up and our d was able to give them good field position and let them loose,” Lindsey said.

It started quickly, when running back Riza Mahmoud ran the opening kickoff to the Pioneers 43 yard line. Fellow running back Isaac Odim wasted no time running rampant on the opposing defense, scoring the first of three touchdowns just a short time later.

The first one came after quarterback Cleveland McCoy and receiver Delane Woods connected for a first down and a Rage penalty took the Pioneers to the Rage four yard line. The second touchdown came on the very next drive, as Odim needed just one play to go 56 yards for the score. John Ostertag’s extra point went slightly wide right, leaving the score 13-0 Pioneers halfway through the first quarter.

Then Lindsey made a big play of his own, picking off Rage quarterback Kevin Gregory’s floating pass. On their next drive, the Pioneers running game took the ball down to the Rage 14, where slot receiver Joseph Mapson reminded Pioneers fans what he can do.

Joseph Mapson makes an impact.
Mapson played for the Pioneers for a couple years from 2003-2004 and again from 2009-2011, winning the NAFL (North American Football League) Championship Game MVP award in 2009. He has played for the Chippewa Valley Predators for the past two seasons but rejoined the Pioneers this season.

When McCoy handed him the ball at the 14, he jumped over Rage defenders for his first touchdown of 2014.

“I think that was my only option. Someone slipped so I thought I might jump and hoped nobody was behind to hit me from the side,” Mapson explained.

Defensive lineman Cliff Gordy was the next Pioneers defender to make a statement. His statement: The Rage weren’t going anywhere if he could help it. He sacked Gregory for a loss of 8, which led to another Rage punt.

The Pioneers weren’t perfect, though. They made some mistakes, too, such as the bad snap on the ensuing punt. As a result, the Rage started at the Pioneers 17. It didn’t matter because defensive back Brock Keaton intercepted Gregory at the one yard line, stopping the Rage’s best chance of a score.

Brock Keaton had an interception.
The Pioneers turned it over on downs on the next possession. But, again, it didn’t matter, as the defense once more stepped up and continued to help the Pioneers’ offense succeed.

On the Rage possession, after Hollis Dukes was taken down by defensive lineman Jeff McGaster for a loss of one, the Rage punted again. This time, it was the Rage’s turn for a bad snap. New Pioneer Devin Waters made them pay for it, as he tackled punter Chris Meier on the Rage eight yard line.

Another Odim touchdown, this one from four yards out, followed. After a Rage fumble, Woods got in on the scoring action when McCoy threw him a six yard pass.

All of this happened before halftime, at which point the score was 34-0 Pioneers.

Delane Woods also had a big day.
After halftime, McCoy and Woods connected again – this time 66 yards – making the score 41-0 Pioneers.
According to McCoy, the offense must still work on its production in the second half. After the last touchdown pass to Woods, the Pioneers didn’t score again. However, it was more than enough to win the game.

Lindsey said this game was the good team win the Pioneers needed to bounce back from the loss against the Blaze last week. To win this coming Saturday against the Bulls in Cottage Grove, he said the Pioneers need to focus on playing Pioneer football and not worry about the opponent.

Head Coach Mark Heiser agreed.

“Guys were ready [for the game Saturday against the Rage], we were more focused. That’s the way we have to play the rest of the year and just remain focused,” he said.

Next, the Pioneers go to Cottage Grove to face the North Bank Bulls. Their next home game at Concordia is June 7 against the Minnesota Sting.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Pioneers unveil new television commercial to run on ESPN, NFL Network, other stations in St. Paul viewing area.

The video will begin broadcasting on several Comcast stations, and on the Xfinity home page, beginning Tuesday morning. It will run many times each day for the week of the team's next three home games.

We hope you enjoy it. We also hope you will come out and support us, starting Saturday, May 10, at Sea Foam Stadium. Kickoff is 5 p.m.

Pioneers fall to Blaze in battle of league champions

The Des Moines Blaze has not lost a football game in three seasons and are defending champions of the Midwest Football Alliance. The St. Paul Pioneers, four-time champions of the Northern Elite Football League, have been pretty tough themselves. Both teams have won national championships. Something had to give.

Turns out, it was the Pioneers who faltered on the road in Des Moines, falling to the Blaze 21-7 at Johnston High School.

It was a closer game than the score indicates. Both defenses dominated the first half, with the Blaze taking a 7-0 lead into halftime. The Pioneers would strike first in the second half, knotting the score at 7-7 after quarterback Cleveland McCoy took the ball through the heart of the Des Moines defense for his second rushing touchdown in two games. The score remained tied at the end of the third quarter.

That would be it for the Pioneers offense, however, as the unit struggled all day to find a rhythm. Turnovers and penalties would repeated put the Pioneers into bad field position. Des Moines eventually capitalized, going ahead 14-7 in the fourth quarter. The Blaze scored their final points with about two minutes to play on a DeMareo Darrah quarterback bootleg, one of two Darrah touchdowns on the day.

"We just didn't execute, we didn't take advantage of the chances we had," Head Coach Mark Heiser said. "But Des Moines' defense had a lot to do with that."

Defensive coordinator Kahn Powell said his Wrath of Kahn defense turned in a good game, just not quite good enough.

"You guys played hard, you did everything we asked," he told the squad after the game. "We had a good game plan, we just needed to put some more points on the board."

The Pioneers, 1-1, 0-0 in the NEFL, return home Saturday to open the NEFL regular season against the Lake Superior Rage. The rematch from last season's Elite Bowl, won 21-0 by the Pioneers, will start at 5 p.m. at Sea Foam Stadium at Concordia University-St. Paul.

The game will be the Pioneers' Military Appreciation Day game, with all U.S. active-duty military and veterans admitted to the game free of charge with an appropriate ID. Admission is $10 for all other adults. Children 12 and under are free.