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Saturday, August 4, 2018

Warriors roll in 4th, send Pioneers home again

For the second year in a row, the Minneapolis Warriors ended the St. Paul Pioneers' season in the NEFL semi-finals, scoring 29 unanswered points to defeat St. Paul 36-9.

Minneapolis scored on their opening drive of the game to take a 7-0 lead. But the Pioneers led the game going into the 4th quarter, 9-7, on the strength of a Ken Jenkins 100-plus-yard interception return for a touchdown and an Eric Ellestad field goal. It wouldn't take long, though, for a game that was looking like a defensive battle through three quarters to break wide open in favor of the Warriors soon after the start of the final stanza.

The flood gates opened after a Warriors touchdown put the defending NEFL champions up 15-9 with nearly 12 minutes left in the game. The Pioneers ensuing possession could generate nothing, prompting a punt, and the Warriors' Riza Mahmoud returned the kick from deep in St. Paul territory for a touchdown and a 22-9 lead. A Minneapolis interception return for a touchdown and a 2-point conversion soon after made the score 30-9 and a final dash to the end zone when the Pioneers were stacking the line of scrimmage gave the Warriors their final points on the night.

St. Paul struggled throughout the game to generate any consistent drives on offense and, on the handful of drives where the Pioneers went deeper into Warriors territory, they couldn't hit pay dirt. Minneapolis' offense didn't fare much better -- until the fateful fourth quarter.

The Warriors will next travel to Sioux City, Iowa to face the top-seeded Stampede in the NEFL championship game, the Elite Bowl. They will be attempting to win their second straight league title after ending the Pioneers' run of seven straight league championships in 2017.

Pioneers face Warriors in playoff rematch

The St. Paul Pioneers travel to Burnsville Saturday to take on the defending NEFL-champion Minneapolis Warriors in a rematch of last season's NEFL semifinals.

Minneapolis was the first team to dethrone the Pioneers as champions since St. Paul entered the league for the 2010 season. Now, the Pioneers will be hoping for their own taste of vengeance and keep the Warriors from repeating. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.

St. Paul defeated the River City Rough Riders last week in the playoff opener 55-14. Minneapolis enjoyed a first-round bye.

While the Pioneers have two league regular season losses this year -- to the Warriors and the Northland Bulls -- the Pioneers also earlier defeated the NEFL's top seed Sioux City Stampede on a last-second 54-yard field goal that proved St. Paul still can conjure up the offense, defense and special teams play to defeat top squads. Other notable Pioneers victories this season include nail-biters against Fargo in league play and Des Moines in a non-conference tussle.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Pioneers hang on to defeat Invaders on the road

The St. Paul Pioneers, seven-time champions of the Northern Elite Football League, remained undefeated in league play after a gritty road win against a strong Fargo Invaders squad.
The Pioneers used a Cleve McCoy touchdown pass, and touchdown runs by McCoy and running backs Isiah Sims and Herschel Brazell Jr. to explode for 28 points in what proved to be a decisive second quarter.
Fargo had taken a 7-0 first quarter lead, on a rollout by Invaders quarterback Ja'Vonte Johnson. The second stanza, however, turned the tide as McCoy hit Cyrus Elliot for a 7-yard touchdown pass, Sims rumbled in for a 10-yard score and Brazell hit paydirt from 44 yards out. McCoy closed out the Pioneers scoring on a 23-yard run with less than two minutes left in the half.
Fargo was not done however. After a scoreless third period, the Invaders made their move, scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter and having the ball for another touchdown try as time expired. But St. Paul's defense ultimately denied the comeback attempt and the Pioneers remain in first place.
St. Paul is now 3-0 in NEFL play and 4-1 overall, with victories over Des Moines, Granite City, Fox Valley and Fargo, with only a last-second loss to Kansas City as the schedule blemish.

Photos by Marla Collins.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Pioneers fall in opener at home, 29-27.

The St. Paul Pioneers dropped their 2018 season opener on a last-second field goal to the powerful Kansas City Bulldogs 29-27 at Sea Foam Stadium.
In an exciting back-and-forth game, the Pioneers drew fist blood on a Cleve McCoy to Travis Griffin touchdown pass. But the Bulldogs would storm back and start the see-saw scoring that eventually saw St. Paul take a late lead on a quarterback sneak by McCoy with just a minute remaining. For the game, McCoy finished 7 of 11 passing for 62 yards and a score. He also had 33 yards rushing on five carries.
Despite the two teams being evenly matched, Kansas City made the clutch plays at the end to get into range to attempt, and make, the game-winning kick.
Pioneers' running back Herschel Brazell also scored on a rugged 5-yard run and finished the game with 33 yards on 5 carries. Quarterback Alex Neist, part of the Pioneers' two-headed monster attack at QB, hit receiver Matt Crandall for the other Pioneers points. Neist finished 8 of 14 passing for the Pioneers, with a score and two interceptions.
St. Paul's rushing attack was paced by Isiah Sims. The bruising back collected 82 yards on 18 carries. Dejonte Skie was the Pioneers' leading receiver, with 3 receptions for 63 yards.
On defense, the Pioneers were led in tackles by linebacker Corey Brenner, who had 8 total stops with a tackle for loss, and defensive back Creston Tolbert, who had 7 tackles, including one for loss. Pioneers defensive end Caleb Huls snagged an interception.
St. Paul (0-1) continues its daunting opening schedule with a road trip next week to Des Moines, Iowa, to face the always-stout Des Moines Blaze.
Photos by Marla Collins.