|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.