For the first time since 2003, the St. Paul Pioneers lost in a national championship game, falling 37-18 to the Muskegon Mustangs in Daytona, Fla., on Jan. 16.
The Pioneers trailed only 20-15 at the half, but could not overcome a balanced Muskegon attack. The Mustangs scored touchdowns three times on fourth down and converted another fourth down attempt to continue a scoring drive.
St. Paul recorded touchdowns by running back Riza Mahmoud and quarterback Cleve McCoy, along with two field goals by kicker Eric Ellestad -- including one of the only Pioneers points of the second half.
With the loss, the NEFL champion Pioneers closed out the 2015 season with a record of 13-1. The top-ranked Mustangs finished 14-0.
The Pioneers now turn their attention to the 2016 season, the team's 15th year of competition, as they try to win the Northern Elite Football League for a seventh consecutive time. St. Paul will hold its second 2016 tryout on Saturday, Feb. 6, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Concordia University-St. Paul.