Dominant Defense Pushes Pioneers Over Bulls
By Cassie Kickert
Saturday at Concordia’s Seafoam Stadium, the St. Paul Pioneers took on a familiar opponent—a team they thought they knew—the North Bank Bulls. When the Pioneers took the field, everyone thought the Pioneers would score more than six points.
The Bulls, however, had other ideas.
Despite finishing just 3-5 in the regular season with two blowout losses to St. Paul – they were on a mission. A mission to defeat the Pioneers.
The week before, they pulled off an upset against the Minnesota Sting. Could they do it again at Seafoam against the Pioneers?
Well, no. But it it wasn’t because of lack of effort. Those in attendance clearly saw that the Bulls defense played their hearts out. However, the Pioneers defense was even better.
This game would be an emotional one filled with many significant plays, any one of which could have
changed the outcome. The Bulls’ first possession took almost nine minutes off the clock. The result? Zero points. Why? Because defensive lineman Ed Smith blocked Jimmie Mattson’s field goal attempt.
Then, after the Bulls defense forced quarterback Cleveland McCoy to fumble, it was defensive back Terry Jones’ turn. Jones took the ball right back, intercepting Bulls quarterback Brett Schreiner. McCoy took advantage, running around the right side for a touchdown. John Ostertag’s extra point was no good, though, making the score 6-0 Pioneers.
That’s what the scoreboard would say at the end of the game.
The running game, a Pioneers staple all season, wasn’t much help. Chunks of yards were hard to come by Saturday for Riza Mahmoud and Isaac Odim, the Pioneers usually-dominant running backs. Just when the Pioneers thought they were going to put more points on the board, the Bulls dashed their hopes by blocking kicker Jay Harding’s field goal attempt.
The third quarter was more of the same. Frustrations rose as the Pioneers could not score. Emotions were especially high after the Bulls recovered another Pioneers fumble.
|Lemarre after a pick.|
Then, just when it seemed that the Bulls were about to score and take the lead, Lionel Lamarre made an amazing interception, leaping to snatch the ball out of the air.
The Pioneers sideline erupted, everyone coming down to congratulate him. The play lifted the entire sideline.
Still, the offense couldn’t score.
So, a few minutes later, at the start of the fourth quarter, he did it again.
Time and again, the Pioneers defense had to stop the Bulls. Smith recorded a key sack. Running back Ronald Zollicoffer, who stepped in at corner, intercepted Schreiner yet again. It was the fourth takeaway of the day for the Pioneers.
Lamarre had this to say about the Pioneers’ performance:
“Defensively, I think we showed up and did what we had to do. We put a goose egg up. We come out every week trying to hold the other team scoreless. When our offense isn’t clicking, we pick them up and vice versa. We’ve had some bad games where our offense picked up the momentum. I think this game was important to let us know that we’re still the best defense in the nation in my opinion.”
|Odim found yards tough to get.|
On the next Bulls drive, defensive back Jake Lindsey delivered the fatal blow to the Bulls’ hopes of winning when he recovered Bulls receiver James Fields’ fumble.
Yes, the Pioneers only scored six points. They pulled out the win too, though, because all champions win and lose as a team.
Quarterback Cleveland McCoy said lack of creativity on offense contributed to the Pioneers’ struggles Saturday against the Bulls.
“We have to be more creative and consistent on offense. We left a lot of plays in the playbook on Saturday, we have to open things up, and when we do have a chance to capitalize on offense we can't squander those opportunities,” he said.
This Saturday, the Pioneers battle the Fox Valley Force for the NEFL Championship.
According to Lamarre, the Pioneers have not forgotten their two losses to the Force last year.
|McCoy wants to be more creative.|
“They beat us twice last year. That resonates. Our team hasn’t forgotten that. We’re definitely excited to face them. We expected to play them and we’re glad our season culminated into us playing them. They feel they’re the best team in their division and we feel we’re the best team in our division and the nation. It will be nice to have a great offense go against a great defense and see who comes out on top,” he said.
Game time is 7 pm at Concordia’s SeaFoam Stadium. It is sure to be another exciting, emotional game as two of the best teams in the country take the field. Please come join us!The St. Paul Pioneers will be playing for a fifth straight Northern Elite Football League title on Aug. 9th, after escaping with a hard-fought 6-0 victory over a determined North Bank Bulls.
This will be the second time the Pioneers and Force have faced off for the title. In 2010, St. Paul defeated Fox Valley to win its first of four straight NEFL crowns.
Please come join us!