Week 9: Stats | Recap 
Tie 13-13 Vs Minnesota Dragons

Pioneers Miss Winning Division by a Kick
By Jon Gray

For the second time this season, the St. Paul Pioneers walked off the field feeling like they let another game against the Minnesota Dragons slip away.  In fact, they did.

A game that was full of momentum-changing moments ended in a disappointing draw for the Pioneers. The 13-13 outcome ensured that the Dragons, not the Pioneers, would win the NEFL North Division and have home field advantage in the playoffs.

But it was quite the battle – and quite the game.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Pioneers outgained the Dragons 350 to 263 total yards but fell victim to four turnovers -- ultimately costing the Pioneers the victory. A balanced Pioneers attack did everything but consistently get into the end zone.

Wide out Reggie Houston continued his impressive play this year by adding another 7 grabs for 105 yards and a touchdown. Houston’s leaping, spinning vault into the end zone late in the game tied the score 13-all.

Joseph Ubani also had a pair of clutch catches for the Pioneers; including their first score on a 26-yard seam route from Paul Ciochetto. Ciochetto finished the day 17 of 27 passing for 239 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  His stat sheet did not go without a few blemishes, though, as the tenacious Dragon defense forced two interceptions, a couple of fumbles and relentlessly pressured Ciochetto – sacking him three times.

Jeff McGaster fueled the Pioneers’ defense playing like a man possessed from the first snap, posting an impressive 10 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks throughout the course of the game. Nate Beulah and Josh Hollie also were busy on the defensive side of the ball, often times tracking down running backs and laying the wood to receivers crossing the middle of the field as they each went on to record 12 tackles.

The Pioneers blocked a close-in field goal attempt by the Dragons’ Jon Ostertag, who had earlier nailed a 50-yarder, in overtime to avoid the loss. But the Pioneers couldn’t capture the win.

Jay Harding had one of his better games in terms of his punting and kickoffs, often pinning the Dragons deep in their own side of the field. He was harassed and pressured when it came to field goals and extra points, however. He went 0 of 2 in the field goal department having one blocked. And his blocked extra point after Houston’s late touchdown prevented the Pioneers from taking the lead in regulation.

A missed field goal came late in overtime from 27 yards out, which the Dragons forced wide left by throwing all 11 players at the line to disrupt Harding’s rhythm.

The Pioneers concluded the NEFL regular season with a 6-1-1 record, the same as the Dragons. But the Dragons win the division based on their 1-0-1 head to head record against the Pioneers. Once again, St. Paul will have to win on the road if it wishes to repeat as NEFL champions. That path, however, will begin at home at St. Paul Humboldt High School this Saturday, as the Pioneers were awarded a home playoff game against the Rochester Giants. Game time is 4 p.m.

Houston finished the regular season as the NEFL’s leading receiver, with 48 catches for 773 yards and 6 touchdowns. Joseph Mapson had another great day, with six receptions for 79 yards. He finishes as the league’s third-leading receiver by yardage. Both receivers were named league all-stars.

Ciochetto finishes the regular season with more than 1,000 yards passing.  Combined with quarterback Bryan Trulen’s yardage, with whom Ciochetto often traded series in several games, the Pioneers had about 1,800 passing yards on the season – tops in the league.

Defensive end Cliff Gordy finished at the NEFL sack leader with 9. Defensive tackle Jeff McGaster, with eight sacks, finished second. Gordy and McGaster are among the Pioneers’ 11 NEFL all-stars.