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Monday, October 23, 2017

A night of celebration… and goodbyes.

The 2017 St. Paul Pioneers turned the page on another successful season Sunday with their annual awards banquet at O’Gara’s Bar and Grill in St. Paul, celebrating teammates’ accomplishments and saying goodbye to two longtime coaches and board members.

While the Pioneers fell short of a championship – for the first time since 2009 – there was much to celebrate. Running back Isiah Sims, in his first full season as a starter, was named Team MVP and Offensive MVP for a season in which he led the NEFL in rushing.

Sims collected the most rushing yards, with nearly 1,100 yards, and the most touchdowns for the Pioneers this year. Other award-winners included Dominic Peace as Special Teams MVP; Phil Breidall, Defense MVP; Dejonte Skie as Rookie of the Year; Steve Giroux won the Pioneer Award; Jay Pearson received the President’s Award; Alex Hsu was named Lineman of the Year and Craig Ellestad was chosen to receive the Deanie Hooks Volunteer of the Year award.

The crowd gave a long ovation for the work of the team’s many volunteers.

Skie led the team in receptions. Breidall was the team’s leading tackler. Peace had the most interceptions and defensive end Caleb Huls led the team in quarterback sacks.
Several Pioneers were recognized for making the all-NEFL team. Linemen Jacob Husnik, Hsu and Jason Telin earned all-NEFL honors, as did Sims, receiver Stacy Kalkwarf, Skie and quarterback Cleve McCoy. Perennial all-star defensive tackle Jeff McGaster earned all-NEFL honors, as did Breidall, linebacker Mike Juberian and Peace. Kicker Jay Harding also was recognized for his outstanding season.

It was also an emotional night, as Team President Pete Globa, who also serves as the Pioneers’ special teams coordinator, and longtime board member James Walsh, the Pioneers defensive coordinator and defensive line coach, stepped down after careers that saw the team win three national championships and numerous league crowns.

Head Coach Mark Heiser praised his longtime friends and colleagues for their many contributions to the team… and he spoke with optimism about what the future holds.
“Our goal will be the same next year – an NEFL championship,” Heiser told the assembled players, volunteers and coaches. “I hope you all will want to continue to be a part of it. And it all starts again with tryouts in January.”

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