Pioneers Outplay Spartans
By Cassie Kickert

2012 Week 5: Stats | Recap

Excitement, anticipation and passion ran as high as the temperature Saturday afternoon at Seafoam Stadium as the Pioneers battled the rival Minnesota Spartans.

This game started the same way the last one ended—with an interception by the Pioneers defense. This one was negated by an offside penalty, though.

There would be more mistakes by both teams but the Pioneers, like all championship-caliber teams do, overcame theirs to take home the victory.

The next mistake came when the Spartans intercepted quarterback Michael Spriggs, his first in five games this season. Spriggs was undeterred, coming back and throwing a touchdown pass to tight end Joe Ubani on the next Pioneers possession.

Then, the Pioneers defense went to work. The Spartans’ Riza Mahmoud was unable to evade Pioneers defenders, though he tried. On one play, defensive lineman Garrett Johnson tackled Mahmoud for a loss of 18 yards. On the next play, fellow defensive lineman Jeff McGaster found him three yards behind the line of scrimmage.

A personal foul on the Pioneers ended the team’s next drive.

Johnson ensured the Spartans didn’t score on their next possession either when he tackled running back Michael Woods in the backfield.

In fact, after Ubani’s touchdown, neither team would score until the 2- minute warning, when the Spartans kicked a field goal after intercepting Spriggs for the second time.

That field goal marked the first points scored against the Pioneers this season.

According to defensive back Lionel Lamarre, Spartans’ quarterback Elijah Wood’s running ability was the key factor that made it tough for the Pioneers’ defense Saturday.

“We had to key off the running back but still respect the quarterback’s running ability. I think that put some pressure on our ends to play the run as well as keep him [Wood] contained,” he said.

Then, right before halftime, Lamarre intercepted Wood and returned it for a touchdown – but that tally was called back because of a penalty on the Pioneers. That made the score at halftime a surprisingly low 7-3.

The third quarter started with another Pioneers mistake: a fumble by running back Brian Holmes recovered by the Spartans. However, a Spartans mistake, a bad snap on an attempted field goal, prevented them from scoring again as well.

Though Spriggs’ passes continued to be tipped by the Spartans, the Pioneers continued passing.

According to Ubani, the wind was another source of trouble for the Pioneers passing game. That persistence paid off when Spriggs threw a pass to Marcus Foster for another Pioneers touchdown.

Then, the Spartans tried to trick the Pioneers when they faked a punt. The Pioneers weren’t fooled, though. After an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Spartans’ bench, it didn’t take long for the Pioneers to score again.

Two plays later, Holmes ran it in for a touchdown. Holmes’ touchdown made the score 21-3 Pioneers about halfway through the third quarter.

An interception by linebacker Billy Quistorff ended the Spartans next drive and the Pioneers quickly scored again, this one coming on a four yard run by Spriggs.

Players and coaches admitted to feeling a little comfortable. But the Spartans were not done. About four minutes into the fourth quarter, the Spartans blocked a Pioneers punt. When the ball bounced into the end zone, the Spartans fell on it for a touchdown.

But the Pioneers showed they could block a kick too, as Guillaume Paek – the defensive player of the game with two sacks of the Spartans quarterback – blocked the extra point attempt, making the score 28-9.

The Spartans were successful on an onside kick and two Pioneers penalties gave the Spartans good field position. But a goal line stand by the Pioneers defense – when defensive back Terry Jones fell on a Spartans fumble after a furious blitz, denied the Spartans the end zone and gave the Pioneers the ball at the 19 yard line.

According to Lamarre, excitement was the reason for the Pioneers’ offside penalties.

“When our defensive line knows they’re [the Spartans] passing, they’re ready to go. We can’t fault them. We win as a team. They were just flying off the ball today,” he said.

Another game-ending interception by Everett Wilburn sealed the win for the Pioneers.

At times Saturday it wasn’t pretty but it truly was a team effort, just as Lamarre said.

The defense had four sacks Saturday –two by Paek, one by McGaster and one by linebacker John Robinson.

The Pioneers used their talented crew of running backs to chew up the clock. In all, the Pioneers gained 169 rushing yards—126 by running backs Isaac Odim and Brian Holmes.

Next, the Pioneers travel to Rochester to face the Giants, whom they shutout 37-0 at Seafoam Stadium on May 19.

The Pioneers’ next home game is July 14 against the River City Rough Riders at 5 pm.