Pioneers Success Not An Accident
By Cassie Kickert

Many people make the St. Paul Pioneers’ success possible – on and off the field. This article will highlight three people who will be valued contributors this season.

Lionel Lamarre is one new face Pioneers fans will see on the field this season. Last season, he played in the All-American Bowl with the Minnesota Spartans. Then, his friend, receiver Marcus Foster, told him about the Pioneers.

Lamarre’s playing resume is exemplary. He has been an extraordinary player everywhere he’s been.

He was a star defensive back for the Southwest Minnesota State Mustangs, earning Honorable Mention All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) his junior and senior seasons. He had a team high three interceptions and eight pass breakups in 2008, SMSU’s first winning season since 1999.

Originally from Chicago, Lamarre attended Harper College, a junior college in Palatine, Ill., for two years.  As a sophomore, he had three interceptions and was named Honorable Mention All-Conference.

One Pioneer that fans will recognize is tight end Joseph Ubani. He has played for the Pioneers for the past five years, helping the team win three championships in a row. He is also a member of the team’s board of directors.

His favorite game is the comeback victory against the Iowa Lightning back in the 2009 playoffs. It was the second consecutive year in which the Pioneers eliminated the Lightning from the NAFL playoffs.

“It was a very hard-fought game,” Ubani said.

Indeed it was.

The Pioneers scored early as former Pioneers safety Montae Bailey took the opening kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown. However, the Lightning came right back and tied it. Not until the third quarter did anyone score again.

It was then that Pioneers quarterback Nate Harrington threw a touchdown pass to speedy receiver Rashem Sharpe. Three interceptions by the Pioneers defense kept St. Paul in the lead.

Bailey would score again on an Iowa fumble to make the score 20-7 and that’s how the game would end.  The Pioneers went on to win the North American Football League National Championship.

When he’s not helping the Pioneers win championships, Ubani keeps busy as a Master Data Collector at Target.

In addition to players, volunteers also help things run smoothly behind the scenes. Volunteers such as Erin Smilanich. She is the team’s Event Coordinator this season. She was introduced to the Pioneers by former volunteer coordinator Angela McGovern.

Originally from Anoka, Minnesota, she attended Minnesota State University-Mankato where she studied zoology. Her dream is to be a dolphin trainer. Currently, she works for the state as a health inspector.

In her free time, Smilanich can be found shopping and watching sports (especially the Minnesota Wild and Twins). She also loves to run and someday wants to go to Fiji.

The Pioneers’ first game is May 5 against the Minnesota Sting at Concordia University-St. Paul’s Seafoam Stadium.