|Pioneers honor their best and brightest
On Sunday, the NEFL champion St. Paul Pioneers honored their all-stars, named their most valuable players and bid what is hoped to be a short farewell to the heart and soul of the franchise at the team’s 2010 season-ending banquet.
Named as most valuable players for their 2010 performance were:
Joseph Mapson, offensive MVP. “Map” had an amazing year, with 40 receptions for 671 yards and six touchdowns. He was the man the team turned to again and again to make the game-turning play.
Nate Beulah, defensive MVP. Nate finished the season among the team leaders in tackles, had nine interceptions, recovered four fumbles – including one for a touchdown – and had three pass break-ups in a stellar season at strong safety.
Kyle Stelter, special teams MVP. Kyle, the Pioneers long-snapper on punts and field goals, brought a level of excellence and consistency and dedication that Head Coach Mark Heiser said is the best he has ever coached.
Michael Bellamy, Pioneer Award winner. Big Mike did everything you could imagine for the Pioneers in 2010 – spot starter on the offensive line, key reserve on the defensive line and a 100 percent effort player every day in practice. He is exactly what the Pioneer Award – and the Pioneers – is all about.
Other award winners:
Best Offensive Lineman – CJ Sanderson.
Most Touchdowns – Reggie Houston had 9 scores at wideout.
Leading Rusher – Wil Winters led the team with 303 yards.
Most Interceptions – Terry Jones proved a good thief, with 10 picks.
Most Sacks – Jeff McGaster was a disruptive force, with nine sacks.
Most Tackles – Middle linebacker Josh Hollie totaled 71 stops.
The team also recognized its NEFL league all-stars: Jones, Hollie, McGaster, Sanderson, Stelter, kicker Jay Harding, linebacker Deventri Jordan and defensive end Guillaume Paek. Harding kicked the game-winning field goal in the NEFL all-star game and Jones had an interception return for a touchdown.
Hollie was also named the Western Division Defensive MVP for 2010 by the league.
The most emotional part of the evening belonged to George Hall, the team’s owner for the past three seasons and the emotional leader of the Pioneers. Juice began life as a Pioneer as an offensive lineman, later became the team's game-day operations manager and, in 2007, took over ownership of the team when the Pioneers’ future appeared in doubt.
All he did in three seasons as owner was win two NAFL regional championships, a 2008 NAFL Elite Eight spot, a 2009 NAFL National Championship and another league championship – this time in the NEFL – in 2010.
Juice has bled cardinal and black since 2002 and Heiser praised him for not only keeping the team alive, but making it better. In nine seasons of Pioneers existence, Original Pioneer George Hall has been part of five championships. Juice said he is taking some time off in 2011 to reconnect with his family and tend to the home fires. The team presented him with a plaque in appreciation for his dedication, sacrifice and devotion to the St. Paul Pioneers. We hope he can rejoin us as we continue forward. Check back with us often here as we prepare for the 2011 season and hit the road for another potential championship in the Pioneers 10th season.
|Elite Bowl III Pictures by Becky Allen.
|CHAMPS ONCE AGAIN!
The St. Paul Pioneers topped the Fox Valley Force 27-10 Saturday on the Force's home turf in Appleton, Wis., to capture the 2010 Northern Elite Football League Championship. The trophy is St. Paul's second league title in less than 12 months -- the Pioneers won the North American Football League championship last November in Miami, Fla.
Appleton, Wisconsin is no Miami. But on Saturday, in the hot, steamy Banta Bowl at Lawrence University, it felt a little like South Florida. And the Pioneers played with the same kind of passion and precision they used in Miami -- this time winning their first-ever Elite Bowl. Once again, the Pioneers used an aggressive and smothering defensive attack, mixed in some tough and timely special teams excellence, and rode an opportunistic big-play offense to top the higher-seeded Force.
Wideouts Joseph Mapson and Reggie Houston and fullback John Robinson each caught a touchdown pass from Alex Neist. Jay Harding, a 2010 NEFL all-star, hit two field goals to account for the rest of the Pioneers' scoring.
The defense, behind stellar games by Josh Hollie, Jeff McGaster, Guillaume Paek, Deventri Jordan, Terry Jones, Nate Beulah, Val Ndikum, Brian Warden, Kym Trueblood, Ukee Dozier, Donte Pettis, Andre Spencer and Patrick Mitambo doused any offensive threat the Force tried to mount. If that sounds like a lot of names to list, it is. It was a true total defensive effort -- from Dozier's interception early to Jones' pick late. In all, Fox Valley -- one of the top offenses in the NEFL -- totalled less than 100 yards of offense for the game, including just 28 yards passing. Fox Valley quarterbacks finished just 9 of 26 passing for 28 yards and two interceptions.
The offense did what it has done all season -- take advantage of whatever the defense gave them. Neist finished 13 of 27 passing for 160 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Mapson was the leading receiver, with four catches for 60 yards and a score. Houston had a 47-yard touchdown reception and Robinson had one catch for 18 yards and a touchdown. Damien Rochon-Washington had three receptions fof 17 yards, Rashem Sharpe had three catches for 13 yards and Deshay Hudson had one grab for five yards.
The offensive line, missing two regualar starters, did a good job keeping a tough Force defense at bay. Thomas Broussard, Jacob Husnik, Anthony Minus, Shannon Johnson, Jermaine Riley and Michael Bellamy helped the Pioneers held the Force to only one sack and helped St. Paul gain 73 yards on the ground.
Hudson was the Pioneers' leading rusher, with 27 yards on eight carries. Brian Holmes had 17 yards on nine carries. Robinson had 21 yards on five carries and Will Winters gained eight yards on four carries.
Sharpe and Montae Bailey had fantastic games returning kicks. Sharpe had two kick returns for 55 yards and Bailey had three punt returns for 50 yards, giving the Pioneers terrific field position all game. On the other side, the Pioneers kick coverage units did a great job pinning the Force deep on its end of the field, with special teams stalwards Demario Walton, Tierre Thompson, Jason Bailey and Ben Campbell leading the way.
Put away all the stats, though, and this win, this trophy, this championship, only helps cement St. Paul's place among the top semi-pro football teams in the nation. Founded in 2002, the Pioneers have now won championships five times in their nine years of existence and have made the playoffs in eight of their nine seasons.
The win is Mark Heiser's second championship in three years as Pioneers head coach.
St. Paul sending a slew of Pioneers to the NEFL all-star game
|St. Paul earns title berth in thrilling 16-14 win over Preds
Someone had to lose. On Saturday, Terry Jones, Nate Beulah, Jeff McGaster and the rest of the St. Paul Pioneers worked hard to make sure it wasn't the team in white.
Jones had three interceptions, Beulah had two and McGaster had two sacks and three passes swatted down to help the Pioneers top the Predators 16-14 in Eau Claire, Wis. and send St. Paul to the Elite Bowl in the Pioneers' first season in the NEFL.
The game was a defensive battle. But it wasn't slogged out in the trenches. Both offenses made several big plays. The Predators gained 116 yards on the ground and 252 yards through the air. And the Pioneers' Brian Holmes and Reggie Houston scored touchdowns, with kicker Jay Harding hitting a field goal. Wideout Joseph Mapson also made several big catches in the dangerous middle of the Predators defense. Quarterback Alex Neist threw for 218 yards and a touchdown (to Houston).
But every time one team began to assert itself on offense, the other team's defense stepped up. It's just that the Pioneers defense stepped up more often, intercepting Predators' quarterback and league MVP candidate Keldric Stokes six times and recovering a fumble. Cornerback Ukee Dozier had the other interception. In all, the Pioneers played a bend-but-don't-break game on defense and the Predators made too many mistakes to prevail.
The win puts the Pioneers in the Northern Elite Football League's title game, the Elite Bowl. Once again, St. Paul will be on the road, playing at the Banta Bowl at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., on Aug. 7th. A win would give the Pioneers their fifth championship in their nine years of existence.
St. Paul won Mid-America Football League titles in 2003, 2004 and 2006. The Pioneers won the North American Football League National Championship in Miami, Fla., in November 2009.
Wideout Reggie Houston had three receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown. Joseph Mapson had seven catches for 99 yards. Damien Rochon-Washington had four catches for 12 yards and Rashem Sharpe had one reception for 13 yards. Neist finished 15 for 24 passing for 218 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
Terry Jones, with three interceptions, was the Pioneers defensive player of the day. But he was not alone making big plays. Beulah had two picks and Dozier had one. The Pioneers Andre Spencer also blocked a punt.
Josh Hollie was the leading tackler, with 13 total stops. Montae Bailey was especially active with 12 total tackles, including a couple that saved touchdowns. Beulah had 10 tackles and McGaster had 8, including two sacks.
|St. Paul Slays Dragons 17-12 in Exciting contest
The Pioneers topped the South Metro Dragons Saturday night at Minnetonka High School in the first round of the NEFL playoffs. St. Paul trailed at halftime 6-3, having scored on a 36-yard Jay Harding field goal. But the Pioneers offense came to life in the second half with two long drives for touchdowns. St. Paul had nearly 300 yards of total offense against a very tough Dragons defense.
The game marked wide receiver Joseph Mapson's return to action after two weeks away. And it didn't take long for quarterback Alex Neist to get back on the same page with the team's leading receiver. Mapson had eight catches for 102 yards, many of them eye-popping grabs in traffic. Neist finished 17 of 30 passing for 232 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
Receiver Reggie Houston, following up a top-flight performance the week before, had two catches for 48 yards and a touchdown. Wideout Rashem Sharpe had four grabs for 52 yards, including one highlight reel catch and run along the sideline. And Damien Rochon-Washington had three receptions for 32 yards.
Brian Holmes was the team's leading rusher, with 48 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
Defensively, the Pioneers were strong all game, giving up only two first half field goals and a second half touchdown after Dragons quarterback Will Staple completed a long bomb into tight coverage in the middle of the field. Cornerback Ukee Dozier had a strong game, helping neutralize the Dragons' dangerous receiving corps with three pass break ups. Strong safety Nate Beulah had an interception to snuff out a Dragons drive.
But the defensive players of the game were defensive ends Val Ndikum and Patrick Mitambo, the Cameroonian combo, who each had two sacks to help keep the Dragons quarterbacks nervous and off-target most of the game. Guillaume Paek, who celebrated his birthday, also had a sack.
St. Paul improved to 7-2 in its first season of NEFL play. The Dragons fell to 6-2 as their first year in the NEFL ended.
With the win, the Pioneers next travel to Eau Claire, Wis., to take on the Number One seed and defending NEFL champion Chippewa Valley Predators in the second round of the playoffs. The team that wins earns a berth in the Elite Bowl. Game time at Carson Park is 6 p.m.
As is often the case, middle linebacker Josh Hollie, with nine total tackles, and defensive tackle Jeff McGaster, with seven, were the Pioneers' leading tacklers in the game. Deventri Jordan played a strong game helping contain the Dragons' ground game and had six stops. Ndikum and nickle back Donte Pettis, in his first action this season, had five tackles each.
|Houston, we have a heckuva performance
Pioneers receiver helps St. Paul dominate Rochester
In almost every game this season -- whether it was a dominating victory or a close defeat -- the St. Paul Pioneers have enjoyed one steady and reliable constant, the receiving skills of wideout Reggie Houston. He has been a consistent top performer throughout the 2010 regular season campaign.
On Saturday, against the Rochester Giants, steady and reliable became explosive and spectacular as Houston turned in his best game of the season, catching a pair of Alex Neist touchdown tosses and racking up 159 yards receiving on eight catches in the Pioneers thorough 45-0 shellacking of a hard-working but undermanned Rochester Giants squad.
Houston's all-star effort should be rewarded with a selection to the league all-star game, Head Coach Mark Heiser said. "I don't know how Reggie doesn't make it," Heiser said. "His numbers for the whole season are really good."
Houston was not alone turning in a convincing performance. Wide receivers Rasheem Sharpe and Damien Rochon-Washington also turned in great days. Sharpe caught four passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns. Rochon-Washington had three grabs for 41 yards.
The Pioneers showed good balance, with 129 yards on the ground, led by Deshay Hudson's 63 yards and two scores and Will Winters 46 yards on 11 carries.
Neist continued his late season roll, throwing for 255 yards and three touchdown passes without an interception. In the past two games, Neist has thrown six touchdown passes and no picks. Backup QB Bryan Trulen also threw a touchdwon pass in what might have been the Pioneers most complete win of the year.
The Pioneers defense, too, rediscovered its mojo, posting a shutout for the third time this season (one was awarded for the forfeit win over the UP Arctic Blast). Tackle Jeff McGaster continued terrorizing opposing offenses, with eight total tackles and a sack. Josh Hollie had six tackles and an interception and Terry Jones had another pick. In all, the Pioneers sacked the Giants' quarterback three times -- Kym Trueblood and Ukee Dozier had the other two -- and held Rochester to just 18 yards passing and only 19 net yards rushing.
Heiser hopes the shutout win will help the Pioneers secure a home playoff game next week. But with a tornado forcing the stoppage of the Dragons-Predators game in Minnetonka Saturday night -- with the Dragons trailing 21-7 in the first half -- there is some question over whether St. Paul will finish the year as the fourth or fifth seed. If the Dragons score goes into the books, the Pioneers would be the fourth seed and host a first-round playoff game next week. If the Dragons game doesn't count, St. Paul may wind up on the road -- perhaps to Minnetonka to play the Dragons.
Come back for the latest update on the Pioneers playoff picture.l
Spicer, City Pages sports columnist, writes about what it was like to
be a Pioneer for a game. Read his most recent online column here: http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2010/07/paper_pioneer_a.php?page=1
Read his original blog post here: http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2010/06/st_paul_pioneer.php
And be sure to pick up the print edition of City Pages on Wednesday, July 14, for the complete story of Judd's time as a Pioneers defensive back.
Images from a Win
Thanks to Rebecca Allen for taking these photos from the Pioneers' 30-12 victory over the Phoenix.
Pioneers defeat Phoenix 30-12
A much-improved Minnesota Phoenix squad came into Humboldt High School on Saturday to take on the Pioneers in a rematch of the team's season-opening game. While the first game was a blowout in favor of the Pioneers, the Phoenix proved a tougher opponent this time around.
Nevertheless, the Pioneers rode quarterback Alex Neist's best game of the season -- three touchdown passes and no interceptions -- to a 30-12 victory in St. Paul.
Neist, the former University of Minnesota and Concordia University-St. Paul signal-caller, finished 16 of 24 passing for an efficient 167 yards and three scores and no picks. He continually made the right read and got the ball to the open man.
But Neist was not the only Pioneer to shine. Defensive tackle Jeff McGaster had a huge game, with two sacks and nine tackles. Wideout Rasheem Sharpe dominated the Phoenix defensive backfield, with seven often acrobatic catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Reggie Houston had six receptions for 58 yards and a score and backup quarterback/receiver Ken Celestine had a touchdown grab. Running back Brian Holmes led the team in rushing, with 34 yards on seven carries.
Free safety and kick returner Montae Bailey turned in an impressive performance with punt returns of 47, 57 and 48 yards, setting up several Pioneers scores. He also had a 45-yard kick return. Cornerback Ukee Dozier had one of the more impressive interceptions of the season, snaring a Phoenix pass while running stride-for-stride with the receiver in man-to-man coverage. Safety Nate Beulah also had an interception.
Defensive ends Val Ndikum, Guillaume Paek and Patrick Mitambo harassed the Phoenix quarterbacks all day. Paek and Ndikum each registered a sack. Linebackers Deventri Jordan, Josh Hollie -- with 10 tackles and a sack -- Brian Doyle -- with six tackles and a sack -- and Brian Warden helped contain a potent Phoenix rushing attack. The Pioneers' Antoine Williams also notched a safety. In all, the Pioneers defense sacked Phoenix quarterbacks seven times.
This was also the game in which City Pages columnist Judd Spicer joined the team and got in some playing time on defense and special teams. Check out photos of Judd in action at left. Check out Judd's online column here: http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2010/06/st_paul_pioneer.php
St. Paul led 21-0 at the half. A late Phoenix touchdown closed the margin at the end of the game.
The Pioneers are scheduled to close out the regular season against the Rochester Giants at Humboldt High School next week. Game time is 4 p.m. at St. Paul Humboldt High School. The game could have significant playoff implications for St. Paul, which is currently seeded fifth. A Pioneers win, combined with a South Metro Dragons or Fox Valley Force loss, could help the Pioneers secure a home playoff game on July 24.
|St. Paul overruns Giants 36-14
The St. Paul Pioneers got back into the win column Saturday in convincing fashion, using a smothering defense, an opportunistic offense and solid special teams play to dominate the Rochester Giants on Saturday in Rochester, Minn.
On offense, it was the Alex Neist to Joseph Mapson show, with the Pioneers quarterback hooking up with the team's leading receiver seven times for 149 yards and three touchdowns. Neist passed for 250 yards, but tossed three interceptions to go with the three scores. Wideout Reggie Houston also had a big game, coming back from a sore knee at Superior the week before to snare six catches for 99 yards. The Pioneers tallied almost 300 yards of total offense on the day.
"We had a really nice game on the offensive side of the ball," said Rob Neumann, the team's offensive coordinator. "The line did a great job protecting Alex and giving us time to find some things downfield."
On defense, Pioneers tackle Jeff McGaster had a dominating game, tallying three tackles and two sacks. But he also got into the game on offense, plunging in for a one yard TD run as fullback. Middle linebacker Josh Hollie also was back to his old ways, leading the team in tackles with 11 total stops and grabbing an interception. Defensive end Patrick Mitambo and cornerback Terry Jones also had sacks for the Pioneers. Safety Nate Beulah had a big game, with two interceptions and four tackles.
"The whole defensive effort was good," said defensive coordinator Jim Walsh. "It was nice to have most of our regular guys back in the lineup. It certainly showed."
In all, St. Paul gave up just 51 yards rushing and garnered four sacks, three interceptions and three fumbles recovered. The Pioneers also notched a safety.
St. Paul kicker Jay Harding had a big day, as well, hitting two field goals and booming the ball deep on kickoffs. He also handled the punting duties well. The 36-14 victory was a solid step back into the team's winning ways, Head Coach Mark Heiser said.
"We have to keep up this kind of effort to get ready for the playoffs," Heiser said of the team's two remaining regular season games, both of which will be at home. "We can really set ourselves up for a good run... if we keep doing the things we know how to do."
Jon Robinson was the Pioneers' leading rusher Saturday, with 25 yards on eight carries.
The Pioneers defense notched 16 tackles for loss on the day.
With the win, the Pioneers improve to 5-2 overall and 4-2 in the Northern Elite Football League.
|Stampede runs over Pioneers 27-24
A shorthanded team from St. Paul found it nearly impossible to stop the Twin Ports Stampede running game Saturday in
Superior, Wis., as the Stampede ran over, through and around the Pioneers 27-24. Missing several key players -- primarily on defense -- the Pioneers were unable to slow the Stampede ground game, which amassed two touchdowns and 280 yards on the ground.
"Our tackling was really, really bad," said defensive coordinator Jim Walsh. "We have not tackled this badly in a long, long time"
Playing several players out of position to make up for the loss of several starters, St. Paul's troubles against the run were exposed early and often, as the Stampede backs broke tackle after tackle on their way to long gains.
"It's too bad," Walsh said. "Because our offense was really clicking. This was their best game yet this year, and we couldn't give them the support they needed."
Pioneers quarterback Alex Neist passed for nearly 260 yards, tossing two touchdown passes and one interception. He hit tight end Joe Ubani with the games's first score and would throw a late touchdown pass to Joseph Mapson on a two-minute drill to pull the Pioneers within 3 at the end. Running back Brian Holmes had a touchdown and Adam Bergdahl, pressed into the kicking duties, hit a 31-yard field goal.
But two touchdown passes and two long touchdown runs by the Stampede negated the good the Pioneers offense could do. St. Paul led 17-14 at halftime, only to watch the Stampede score on a long run up the middle to start the second half and take the lead for good.
"We have some guys who are going to have to decide whether this team and their teammates are important enough to them to commit to being here," Head Coach Mark Heiser said of the 20-plus players who did not make the trip north. "We have three more games to make a run to get ready for the playoffs."
|Pioneers fall short in a tough battle in Eau Claire
Just one more play.
The Pioneers needed to make just one more play.
In a terrific, hard-hitting, back and forth game that featured tons of big plays from both teams, the St. Paul Pioneers dropped their first contest of the 2010 season at the Chippewa Valley Predators by a score of 30-27. But, despite the Pioneers doing lots of good things -- intercepting passes, blocking a field goal, blocking a punt, executing a terrific goal line stand and coming up with huge plays on offense -- the game got away from St. Paul in the second half simply because the Pioneers could not make one more big play.
Whether it was coming up with a key stop after the offense scored, or completing just one more pass into the end zone at the end, the Pioneers (3-1) fell short to the undefeated Predators (4-0) at Carson Park in Eau Claire, Wis.
The Predators opened the scoring, hitting a field goal at the end of their first drive of the day. The Pioneers would later take the lead after a long interception return by Darrell Young and the first of two rushing touchdowns by Curtis Herzberg. However, St. Paul would gain only 20 yards on the ground all game.
Still, the Pioneers led 21-13 at the half. The second half would be a different story, with St. Paul being outscored by Chippewa Valley 17-6 in the second half -- and 11-0 in the fourth quarter.
Time and again, the Predators made a play they had to make to keep a drive alive or to keep St. Paul from capitalizing on a mistake. Time and again, in the second half especially, St. Paul did not. The Predators gained 131 yards rushing and had two touchdowns on the ground. The Pioneers defense picked off two passes, but gave up a touchdown pass. The Predators hit three field goals.
St. Paul was in position to win the game at the end, with the ball at the Predators' 17 yard line. Quarterback Alex Neist and the Pioneers offense had coolly driven deep into Predators territory after taking over at their own 20 with just 2 minutes left to play in the game. But an interception into the corner of the end zone killed the threat and sent the Pioneers home with their first loss of the season. For the game, Neist finished with 202 yards passing, with two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Playing like a warrior for the Pioneers all game was wideout Joseph Mapson. Despite injuring his ribs before halftime, Mapson finished with five receptions for 124 yards on the night.
Next up for St. Paul is a trip to Superior, Wis., for a return engagement with the Twin Ports Stampede. St. Paul won the first contest -- at Humboldt -- 21-7 on May 22 and the Stampede is sure to be looking for revenge on its home turf. The game is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday, June 19.
Wide receiver Reggie Houston had a strong game, with two touchdown receptions.
Linebackers Deventri Jordan and Josh Hollie each finished with 12 total tackles for the game. Defensive tackle Jeff McGaster was a disruptive force, totaling nine tackles and two sacks. But the rest of the Pioneers defense had a tough game. The Predators rushing total was the most given up by St. Paul in more than a year.
St. Paul did a decent job keeping Chippewa Valley quarterback Keldric Stokes in check. He finished 9 of 28 passing, for 151 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Besides Young, cornerback Terry Jones had the other Pioneers interception. Safety Montae Bailey had an interception negated by a questionable interference call.
Check out City Pages for feature on the St. Paul Pioneers
Mark Heiser takes the football reins at St. Paul Academy
Jones Named Week's Top Defender
St. Paul Pioneers cornerback Terry Jones was named NEFL Defensive Player of the Week for his performance May 22 against the Twin Ports Stampede. Jones put the Pioneers on the scoreboard with an exciting interception return for a touchdown. The play turned the tide for the Pioneers, who were trailing 7-0 at the half. Jones had a second pick to set up a score later in the second half.
Pioneers top Stampede for hard-fought win
By Jim Walsh
Down 7-0 at halftime, the St. Paul Pioneers were looking for someone – anyone – to lift them out of their doldrums and provide a spark in the home opener.
Meet Terry Jones, cornerback.
Jones snatched a Twin Ports Stampede pass early in the second half Saturday at St. Paul Humboldt High School and weaved through traffic for an exhilarating score that pumped new life into the Pioneers. St. Paul would use two more interceptions – one by linebacker Deventri Jordan and another by Jones – to set up its offense for two more scores in a 21-7 victory over the team from the Northland.
Saturday was not the first time that Jones, and others in the Pioneers’ ultra-talented defensive backfield, has taken games literally into their own hands. In Jones, Adrian Mitchell, Ukee Dozier, Montae Bailey, Darrell Young, Nate Beulah and Andre Spencer, the Pioneers boast a deep secondary with seven starters. Good thing, too, because the Stampede came into the game with a wide-open spread offense that had scored 34 points the week before in an overtime win over Rochester.
Not this time.
While Twin Ports was first to hit the scoreboard, the Pioneers defense held the team from Superior, Wis., to just 52 yards passing and 33 yards rushing. Not quite as impressive as last week’s 61-0 blanking of the Minnesota Phoenix, but not far behind.
“At halftime, we asked our players which one of them was going to step up and make the play,” said Kahn Powell, the Pioneers defensive backs coach and guru to a unit that has played lights out for two seasons. “Every game, we know that somebody is going to do it.”
The secondary was helped by a defensive line and linebacking corps that pressured and harassed Stampede quarterback David White into tossing those three picks. Pioneers Val Ndikum, Guillaume Paek and Patrick Mitambo recorded sacks, with the entire defensive line, including Kym Trueblood, Jeff McGaster, Cliff Gordy and Michael Bellamy, proving stout all day. The Pioneers notched 10 tackles for loss – with Paek racking up three -- and also recovered two fumbles.
Linebackers Jordan, Brian Warden, Brian Doyle and Josh Hollie helped take away the short passing game, with Jordan’s snare of a White pass adding to St. Paul’s second half momentum.
The Pioneers offense played well at times but struggled with execution in the passing game, as quarterback Alex Neist admitted he was rusty. Still, the Pioneers outgained the Stampede 228 yards to 85. Neist finished 10 of 23 passing for 132 yards and two interceptions. St. Paul had two touchdowns called back due to penalties – one on a punt return by Joseph Mapson and the other a touchdown catch by Damien Rochon-Washington.
Leading rusher for the Pioneers was Brian Holmes, who gained 55 punishing yards on 15 carries and scored twice. In all, the Pioneers pounded out 96 yards on 26 carries. Mapson was the leading receiver, with 58 yards on four catches.
“It was a rough start,” Pioneers Head Coach Mark Heiser said after the game. “We have had a tendency to start slow. But, so far, our guys have shown a real ability to ramp up their intensity when they have had to.”
The Pioneers are now 3-0 in 2010, 2-0 in the Northern Elite Football League. In two league games, the Pioneers defense has surrendered 7 points and less than 100 yards per game. In two games, the Pioneers offense has gained 638 yards, or 319 yards per game.
Safety Darrell Young was the Pioneers leading tackler Saturday, with a total of seven stops. Next up, with six tackles and a sack each, were Paek and Ndikum.
The article on the right is from the Woodbury paper after the Pioneers 61-0 win over the MN Phoenix played at East Ridge HS.
Woodbury Paper Pioneers V. Phoenix
|St. Paul drubs the Phoenix 61-0
By Jim Walsh
Four hundred and 10 yards of total offense.
Six offensive touchdowns.
Three defensive touchdowns.
Zero points allowed.
Any way you do the math, the St. Paul Pioneers 61-0 victory over the Minnesota Phoenix on Saturday equates to a thorough butt-kicking.
St. Paul dominated every statistical category in its league-opener Saturday – on offense, defense and special teams. Nine different players scored touchdowns – with running back Will Winters sprinting 97 yards for one score and racking up 141 of the Pioneers 255 yards rushing.
But, would you believe that the game started out looking iffy for St. Paul? After the Pioneers defense forced a three-and-out on the Phoenix opening drive, the Pioneers muffed the punt return, giving Minnesota the ball deep in Pioneers territory.
It didn’t look good, and Pioneers Head Coach Mark Heiser was livid.
“We came out here thinking we can just show up and win,” he barked at his players. “Get yourselves into the ballgame!”
St. Paul’s defense kept the Phoenix from reaching the end zone. And, after the Phoenix missed the field goal try, they never got close to scoring again.
Patrick Mitambo, playing at defensive end, was the first to hit pay dirt. He scooped up a fumble forced by linebacker Brian Doyle’s sack of the Phoenix quarterback deep in their own territory. It was Mitambo’s first touchdown – ever. And the giddy linebacker-defensive end from Cameroon used it as a springboard to a fantastic game, notching five total tackles and a sack to go with his score.
The quarter ended just 7-0 Pioneers. The flood gates opened soon afterwards.
St. Paul scored by air, on the ground and by defense. Fullbacks Jon Robinson and Joe Sellwood scored on short plunges. Demario Walton had a 22-yard touchdown scamper. In all, the Pioneers gained 255 yards on the ground, with four rushing touchdowns.
Backup quarterback Bryan Trulen, pressed into the starting job by the baptism of Alex Neist’s baby boy, completed six of 10 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. Wideout Joseph Mapson, filling in at quarterback in the Wildcat formation threw a 32-yard scoring toss to Reggie Houston.
Leading receivers were Mapson, with three catches for 63 yards and a touchdown reception; Rasheem Sharpe with a single grab for 44 yards; Houston with a touchdown and 32 yards receiving; Jason Bailey with one catch for 12 yards and Damien Rochon-Washington with a catch for four yards.
For the second game in a row, the Pioneers defense was dominant, with Mitambo, safety Nate Beulah and safety Darrell Young scoring touchdowns. Beulah scored his on a fumble return, although he also had a weaving interception return for a score called back. Young scored his pick six on the game’s final play.
The Pioneers defense completely smothered the Phoenix all day, giving up just 57 yards rushing on 26 carries (a 2.2 yard average) and allowing the Phoenix to finish just three of 11 passing for 18 yards. In all, St. Paul gave up just 75 yards of total offense. Phoenix running back and former Pioneer Tommy Green got most of the rushing total with a couple good runs, but the Phoenix didn’t have much else.
The Pioneers recovered five fumbles for two touchdowns and intercepted Phoenix passes. Four Pioneers earned sacks – Mitambo, Doyle and defensive tackles Guillaume Paek and Cliff Gordy.
Leading tacklers were Doyle, with seven total stops, and middle linebacker Josh Hollie, with seven total tackles. Linebacker Deventri Jordan, Paek and Mitambo all were next with five tackles each.
After the game, Heiser told his players that, with the exception of the first three minutes, he was happy with their effort. Just doing the math, it is hard to argue.
Note: Next up for the Pioneers is the home-opener against the Twin Ports Stampede at 4 p.m. Saturday, May 22, at St. Paul Humboldt High School. Go to www.pioneersfootball.org for information and to buy tickets.
St. Paul Pioneers named one of the Greatest Teams of the Decade!
National Football Events, one of the most prominent organizations tracking semi-pro football in the U.S. recently named the best teams of the decade. It should come as no surprise that the St. Paul Pioneers made the list.
Founded in 2002, the Pioneers have won five league championships, three regional crowns, were national runners up in 2003 and won the North American Football League National Championship in 2009. Not a bad list of accomplishments. For that record of success, NFE judged the Pioneers as the 20th best team of the decade.
Topping the list were the Central Penn Piranha, a traditional national powerhouse.
For 2010, the Pioneers hope to compete for a sixth league championship – this time in the Northern Elite Football League. St. Paul opens play Saturday, May 15, against the Minnesota Phoenix at Woodbury’s East Ridge High School. The Pioneers’ home opener is Saturday, May 22, at 4 p.m. at St. Paul Humboldt High School.
Come out and cheer for the Pioneers to achieve even greater heights in the decade to come.
2010 Pioneers Football…. Leave No Doubt.
By Jim Walsh
The St. Paul Pioneers continued their winning ways Saturday in Brainerd, Minn., with a sometimes sloppy, but workmanlike 20-7 victory over the Lumberjacks in their first contest of 2010.St. Paul doubled up the Jacks in total offense, but four Pioneers fumbles and an interception stalled what could have been a blowout victory. Of course, that might have had something to do with Brainerd’s inspired play, as the defending champions of the Semi-Pro Football League played a strong game defensively.
Pioneers quarterback Alex Neist, playing his first game in the cardinal and black, threw two touchdown passes to go with a pick, hitting wideouts Rasheem Sharpe and Damien Rochon-Washington for scores. Running back Deshay Hudson also scored on a one-yard scamper. In all, Neist finished the day 21 of 36 passing for 220 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.St. Paul started the day with an impressive drive, following a 37-yard kick return by Joseph Mapson. But the drive ended with a Hudson fumble at the Brainerd 5 yard line and the teams would not score in the opening quarter.St. Paul would hit pay dirt first, however, after defensive tackle Jeff McGaster intercepted a Brainerd screen pass and rumbled 14 yards to the Lumberjacks 13 yard line.
Neist wasted no time, hitting Sharpe with a 13-yard scoring toss. The kick was good and the Pioneers led 7-0 at the half. Sharpe finished the game as St. Paul’s leading receiver, by yardage, with seven catches for 108 yards and a score.
The Pioneers increased their lead to 13-0 in the second half after nickel back Darrell Young, forced into duty at linebacker because St. Paul was missing some starters, stripped the Brainerd running back of the football and returned the steal to the Lumberjacks 7 yard line. Hudson would score four plays later, but Jay Harding’s extra point attempt was blocked. Harding would miss two field goal attempts on the day, but handled the kickoff duties extremely well, keeping the Jacks from getting good field position.
Brainerd would pull back into the contest a few minutes later, after a Pioneers interference penalty and personal foul put the ball at St. Paul’s 1 yard line. The Lumberjacks’ Leo Ashley punched it in to cut St. Paul’s lead to 13-7.
Neist and the offense immediately grabbed back the momentum, however, with an eight-play drive that ended with Washington grabbing a 10-yard scoring pass. The point after was good and St. Paul led 20-7, which would be the final score. Washington enjoyed a stellar day receiving, with eight receptions for 62 yards and a score.
Then it was up to the Pioneers defense to hold on. St. Paul was more than up to the challenge, even missing several starters who could not make the trip to Brainerd.
The defensive line of McGaster, Cliff Gordy, Dan White and Guillaume Paek were solid throughout the day, with Gordy and Paek recording sacks. CJ Sanderson, a leader on the offensive line, filled in well in spots on defense, recording 1.5 sacks. McGaster had eight total tackles, an interception and forced a fumble.Linebackers Deventri Jordan, Young and Brian Warden also played well. Jordan finished with 1.5 sacks and seven tackles and Warden had six stops. Young had three tackles, but forced and recovered a fumble.
In all, the Pioneers D finished the day with five sacks, three interceptions – by Adrian Mitchell, McGaster and Terry Jones – and two fumbles recovered. St. Paul limited Brainerd to 54 net yards rushing on 30 carries. Brainerd quarterback Tony Martin, filling in for the injured Karson Pike, finished 10 of 23 passing for 64 net yards.
Hudson finished the day for St. Paul with 70 yards rushing and a touchdown on 12 carries. Will Winters had 42 yards on nine carries.
The Pioneers have a weekend off before starting Northern Elite Football League play on May 15 against the Minnesota Phoenix in Woodbury. It will be St. Paul’s first game in their new league. The Pioneers in 2009 played in the North American Football League, winning the NAFL national title with a 15-1 record.
St. Paul Pioneers Hit the Airwaves at WCCO!
St. Paul Pioneers Head Coach Mark Heiser, defensive coordinator Jim Walsh and a couple Pioneers players have been invited to be guests on Mike Max’s Friday night sports radio show on WCCO AM 830. The Pioneers will be in the studio during the 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. time slot and will discuss the team’s 2009 National Championship and its upcoming 2010 season.
The Pioneers begin play Saturday, May 1, at the Brainerd Lumberjacks.
The last time the Pioneers made an appearance on Max’s show was in 2003, right before St. Paul played the Brooklyn Mariners at the Metrodome in the AFA National Championship game. So scoring a prime time slot with one of the Twin Cities most listened-to radio stations is a nice deal.
The Pioneers begin Northern Elite Football League play on May 15, against the Minnesota Phoenix at East Ridge High School in Woodbury. St. Paul’s home opener will be played at Sea Foam Stadium on the Concordia University-St. Paul campus on Saturday, May 22, at 4 p.m. This will be the Pioneers first-ever game at the year-old Sea Foam Stadium and a good crowd is expected.
2010 Season Offers Pioneers New Challenges, New Opportunities
what fans may believe, every football season is its own entity; every
team’s roster has its own identity. So is goes for the St. Paul
Pioneers, who won a national championship in 2009 as members of the
coast-to-coast North American Football League.
Not only have the Pioneers joined a new league – the Northern Elite Football League, with teams in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan – but they have added a handful of new players, new coaches and new front office personnel. The result leaves the Pioneers in an exciting place for 2010. Fans and friends of the team don’t have to ask “How do you top a national championship?” Instead, they are asking, “Will this Pioneers team continue its winning traditions?”Folks should begin finding out May 1, when St. Paul hits the road to take on the Brainerd Lumberjacks in Brainerd, Minn.
Gazing at the Pioneers 2010 roster, an observer would at least be forgiven for keeping their expectations high. The Pioneers return many of the same players who won that national title in Miami last November. But they have added enough new blood to make the coaches wonder how this team will mesh and how they will perform when the 2010 going gets tough.Here is a look at the St. Paul Pioneers’ early 2010 roster, by position group. Note: Semi-pro football rosters are notoriously subject to change. Guys still could be added, or change their minds about playing, by the time the Pioneers NEFL season begins May 15 against the Minnesota Phoenix.
St. Paul boasts an intriguing blend of old and new on their offense, which was one of the top units in the nation in 2009.At quarterback, the Pioneers boast three new players: Semi-pro and Arena League gun-slinger Alex Neist is expected to lead the offensive attack, with Bryan Trulen and Kenneth Celestine backing up. Celestine is expected to see time at receiver as well.
At wide receiver, the Pioneers might boast one of the deepest units in the Upper Midwest. Perennial all-stars Joseph Mapson, Rasheem Sharpe and Damien Rochon-Washington will be joined in 2010 by Brandon Johnson, Dion Wilson, Jay Harding, and Reggie Houston. Mapson was the offensive MVP of the 2009 national championship game and Sharpe and Washington are experienced game-breakers who can take over a contest in the blink of an eye.
Neist will have even more passing game options in tight ends Joe Ubani and Jason Bailey, who are big targets with the speed to stretch the field. Both played key roles for the 2009 P-Unit.
At running back, the Pioneers return a deep and talented stable of top performers, led by the punishing Brian Holmes, speedsters Will Winters and Nick Graham, Ondreaus McCray and DeShay Hudson. Hudson is making the jump from defensive back to running back in 2010 and has looked very good in pre-season practices. Fullbacks John Robinson Jr. and Joe Sellwood are expected to not only help open holes, but fight for yardage of their own. Robinson has been a consistent and valued performer for the past several seasons.
At offensive line, the Pioneers return gigantic and punishing all-stars and all-America players in Lonal Van and C.J. Sanderson. Talented veterans Thomas Broussard, Shannon Johnson, Jacob Husnik and Anthony Minus return as well. New to the O-line will be Junior Moi Moi and Michael Bellamy, a defensive tackle who is challenging for a starting spot. Antoine Williams is expected to get playing time on the offensive and defensive lines.Pioneers Defense
This unit finished the 2009 season as one of the nation’s best. In 2010, it is hard to see where the St. Paul defense could drop off – if at all. Last season, the Pioneers surrendered an average of less than six points a game in 16 contests.
First, the defensive line is once again expected to be stout, with returning all-America and co-defensive MVP Jeff McGaster once again wreaking havoc at defensive tackle. Cagey veteran Kym Trueblood and the talented Guillaume Paek return from the 2009 champions as well. Bellamy, who is working with the offensive line, still is expected to make an impact on defense as well. Impressive newcomers Dan White and Cliff Gordy are pushing for starting spots. Antone Williams, 6-4 and more than 300 pounds, is a talented newcomer as well.
At linebacker, the Pioneers boast a unit with speed, size and experience. Middle linebacker and 2009 co-defensive MVP Josh Hollie is a returning all-America from Western Illinois. But Deventri Jordan, a punishing and smart Pioneers veteran who seems to get better every season, also returns. Jordan was one of the heroes in the Pioneers’ championship game victory. New to the team in 2010 is Brian Doyle, a longtime semi-pro stalwart who was a leading tackler for Concordia University-St. Paul. Brian Warden, who played offense in 2009, comes over to the linebacking corps in 2010 and is joined by Jay Barrow, the speedy Patrick Mitambo, veteran Jesse Luft and newcomer Tierre Thompson.
Perhaps the defensive unit’s deepest collection of athletes patrols the secondary, where four starters from a unit that scored more than a dozen defensive touchdowns return in 2010. Corners Terry Jones and Adrian Mitchell, strong safety Nate Beulah Jr. and all-America free safety Montae Bailey are expected to repeat their ball-hawking ways in 2010. They are joined by newcomer Ukee Dozier, a former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher, as well as veterans Darrell Young, Andre Spencer and Ben Campbell. Tim Cornish, a rookie corner and kick returner from Bethel University, will push for playing time in a crowded defensive backfield. All are expected to play significant minutes in defensive backs coach Kahn Powell’s multiple coverages and packages. Skilled defensive back Donte Pettis, another Arena football veteran and one of the heroes of the 2009 championship game, will start the season on injured reserve.Pioneers Special Teams
Kicker Jay Harding, punter Adam Bergdahl and long-snapper Kyle Stelter are all new to the Pioneers in 2010 but have impressed in pre-season practices. The Pioneers have a wealth of talent available to run back punts and kicks this season, with Mapson, Sharpe, Montae Bailey, Terry Jones and Hudson all having proved themselves big-play returners in the past.
|Pioneers Add Game With Lumberjacks On May 1st
The St. Paul Pioneers have added a pre-season game to their 2010 schedule. The Pioneers will be traveling north on May 1 to take on the SPFL Champion Brainerd Lumberjacks. The game is scheduled to be played at Harvey Shew Field at the Franklin Art Center in Brainerd. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. The Pioneers’ first Northern Elite Football League game is scheduled for May 15 against the Minnesota Phoenix in Burnsville.
Stability, experience, innovation.
Change is a constant in semi-pro football. But when you win a national championship, good people simply want to be part of a good thing. So it is for the 2010 St. Paul Pioneers coaching staff, which combines the stability and experience of past years with the innovation of a handful of new coaches who should step into their roles without the team missing a beat.
No conversation about the coaching staff can begin without noting the most important returnee. Head Coach Mark Heiser, 2009 NAFL National Coach of the Year, returns to lead the P-Unit once again in 2010 as the Pioneers seek to continue their winning ways in the Northern Elite Football League. Heiser, an experienced offensive and defensive coach, brings a steadying influence and strong in-game tactical skills to the sideline once again. Offensive coordinator at St. Paul Academy in the fall, Mark enters his third year as head coach and fifth year with the team. In his previous two years as head coach, Mark has led the Pioneers to a 26-3 record, with two division crowns, two regional titles, a conference championship and a 2009 national championship. As importantly, the Pioneers players love playing for him.
Also returning is Jim Walsh, the Pioneers defensive coordinator and assistant head coach. Jim’s defense featured top-notch athletes playing at a high level in 2009, as the team pounded out a 15-1 overall record and boasted several all-America players on defense. Jim, who players (sometimes jokingly) call the loudest coach of the field is a bit of a contrast to the more measured Heiser.
Peter Globa returns in 2010, but this season takes on added responsibility as the teams Special Teams Coordinator. Pete is an experienced coach and player who will also work with running backs and tight ends. He joined the Pioneers staff in 2009, just in time for the first national championship ever won by a Minnesota adult amateur football team. He’s already concocting new ways for the Pioneers special teams to help win ballgames.
Adam Gard is another returnee. The former assistant at St. Cloud State University is back to assist on the defensive side of the ball, working with linebackers and helping serve as Walsh’s eyes in the press box during games. Adam has proven to be a quick study of the team’s defensive sets and strategies and his input during games has continued to grow.
New to the coaching staff, but not to the Pioneers, are Jermaine Riley, the offensive line coach, and Scott Ubongen, defensive line coach. Both are longtime players in semi-pro football who have been key members of previous Pioneers championship teams. Riley was a captain for the 2009 National Championship squad, his last year as a player on the offensive line. He now brings his knowledge and enthusiasm for the team and his teammates to the sidelines as coach. Ubongen, as defensive line coach, has some innovative ideas and will work closely with Coach Walsh to continue helping the Pioneers defensive line perform as one of the nation’s best.
Moving into the role of top offensive assistant to Coach Heiser is Pioneers newcomer Rob Neumann . Rob has long experience as a player and coach with the former Central Minnesota Thunderbirds, the Alexandria Mustangs and the Minnesota Fighting Scots. In 2006, Rob was the Thunderbirds offensive coordinator and helped lead one of the highest performing units in the Mid-America Football League. A former player at University of Minnesota-Crookston, Rob will also work with the Pioneers receivers.
Stay tuned. Pioneers owner George “Juice” Hall and Heiser say there may be more coaching additions to come. But both the owner and the head coach expressed satisfaction with the 2010 staff and are confident that a team that has consistently won on the field will again have one of the best sets of sideline leaders in semi-pro football.
St. Paul Pioneers Football – Leave No Doubt.
Two Former St. Paul Pioneers Make Inaugural Roster of LaCrosse Spartans
Quality is easily recognized. So it was with the brand-new LaCrosse Spartans of the Indoor Football League. The Spartans have signed two former St. Paul Pioneers -- one an original member of the P-Unit -- and have named them to their official 2010 roster.
Longtime placekicker and original Pioneer John Dierkhising, a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College and a Pioneers mainstay since the team's founding in 2002, will be the Spartans placekicker. Dierkhising is the holder of all Pioneers' kicking records, including a 58-yard field goal. But no kick is bigger than the one John hit on Nov. 14, 2009, in the NAFL National Championship game in Miami, Fl.
There, with just 3.5 seconds left, John nailed an 18-yard field goal to give the 2009 National Championship to the Pioneers. It was a great way to end his amateur football career. Now John is a professional football player with the Spartans. The Pioneers owners and coaching staff wish "Dirk" nothing but the best.
Another former Pioneer, lineman Ya’Tarrie Brown, a 6ft 5in., 365 pound center, has made the Spartans opening day roster. In fact, Brown, a former Concordia-St. Paul star lineman, is considered a key signing by the Spartans.
He played part of a season with the Pioneers and was on the team’s playoff roster in 2009.Brown last season played for the 2009 IFL Champion Billings Outlaws.
According to a story on the Spartans Web site, he is expected to make an immediate impact for the Spartans, and anchor the middle of the offensive line.While playing at Concordia, Brown was a teammate of several current Pioneers players and earned several awards, including All-NSIC First Team Offense, Don Hansen Football Gazette All-Region Second Team, and the Daktronics All-Region Second Team, the Spartans said.
Brown is one of several Pioneers with previous and ongoing experience playing professional football. The St. Paul Pioneers coaches and owners wish him continued success in whatever football endeavor he pursues