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.
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.