Week 1: Stats | Recap

Pioneers Fell Lumberjacks 21-6 to start 2011 Season

For fans of the St. Paul Pioneers, Saturday’s victory in Brainerd, Minn., had all the recognizable elements of Pioneers wins from seasons gone by – a smothering and opportunistic defense, a solid and balanced offense and sound special teams.

Altogether, the Pioneers scored first, then used field position and turnovers to throttle Brainerd 21-6 on an overcast and windy day. Pioneers cornerback Terry Jones got the scoring started, getting a quick jump on a Lumberjacks pass. His 14-yard return put St. Paul on the scoreboard 7-0.

The half would end with the Pioneers up 7-6 after Brainerd scored, following a long catch and run on which two Pioneers defensive backs slipped, a pass interference penalty that put the ball at the 1 and a short touchdown run. The Pioneers defense stuffed the Lumberjacks attempt for a 2-point conversion and that, essentially, ended Brainerd’s scoring threats for the day.

In the second half, Pioneers wideout Joseph Mapson snared a short pass from quarterback Bryan Trulen and worked his magic through the Brainerd secondary to put St. Paul up 13-6.  Trulen, who split quarterback duties with Paul Ciochetto, finished the day 2 for 9 passing, with 33 yards and a score. Ciochetto’s numbers on this windy day were better – 7 of 18 for 81 yards.  But he threw two picks.

Then, in the fourth quarter, running back Nick Graham put the game out of reach with an impressive 60-plus yard run to paydirt and a 20-6 Pioneers lead. Graham finished the day as the Pioneers leading rusher, with 94 yards and a touchdown on just nine carries. In all, St. Paul rushed for 140 yards and passed for 114 on a day when passing was erratic at best.

The Pioneers defense dominated most of the day, sacking the Lumberjacks quarterback three times – Patrick Mitambo led the way with two sacks, Cliff Gordy had one – and grabbing a whopping five interceptions. Safety Nate Beulah, last season’s Pioneers defensive MVP, grabbed two picks. Jones had one, safety Darryl Young had one and safety Andre Spencer had a pick.

Middle linebacker Josh Hollie, the Pioneers leading tackler in 2009 and 2010, picked up right where he left off, recording nine total tackles on the day. Gordy and defensive end Jason Bailey each garnered five tackles.

The Men in Black defense kept Brainerd from amassing more than 100 total yards of offense on the day.

Head Coach Mark Heiser told the team afterwards that it was a solid first game. As always, he reminded, “there are things we have to work on. But just about everybody contributed and played well in this one. So enjoy.”

St. Paul will open its regular season at home on May 14 against the River City Rough Riders.  Game time is scheduled for 4 p.m. at St. Paul Humboldt High School.