The St. Paul Pioneers have a title to defend... Better make that 7 titles to defend.
We made it to the 2017 playoffs and now everyone's wondering if the Pioneers will win their 8th Elite Bowl in a row, while the other 5 teams think they'll be the ones to end their run.
In this 7-year Championship run the Pioneers have had seasons with loses, but this season has been one for the ages. This year they enter with an 8-3 record, 6-2 in the NEFL West; tied with the Fargo Invaders who are in their 1st year in the NEFL, but have won 2 Championships of their own in the past 3 years & 2nd year Minneapolis Warriors. By way of tie-breakers, the Warriors will be the #1 seed, Pioneers #2, and Invaders #3. That means St Paul will host Fargo on Saturday and, with a win, travel to Minneapolis August 5th, before potentially having to travel again for the Elite Bowl. It will be an interesting playoffs as all 3 team in the West won at home and lost on the road to each other... Saturday cannot come soon enough!
WEST - #3 Fargo Invaders (6-2; 6-3) @ #2 St Paul Pioneers (6-2; 8-3)
7:00pm at Sea Foam Stadium, University of Concordia - St Paul, MN
The first meeting of the two teams in St Paul found the Pioneers jumping out to a 34-7 halftime lead as the Pioneers scored two defensive touchdowns. Fargo came back in the 2nd half, as close as 28-40, but with 8:38 remaining in the game the Pioneers went on a 12 play, 75 yard drive that ate 7:50 off the clock to ice the game.
The second game in Fargo was led by the Defensive Units. Fargo got some offense going late in the first half, scoring with just 25 seconds left via a 9 play, 66 yard drive over 2:35 minutes. Defense prevailed again in the 2nd half; when the Pioneers got down to the Invaders 29, the defense was there with an interception. Mid-way through the 4th quarter the Pioneers were again driving to tie the game, making it all the way down to the 4 yard line; that's when Jeremy Gordon stripped Isiah Sims and returned it 96 yards for the touchdown and 14-0 lead. The Pioneers followed that with a 3 & out, which was the last time they had the ball.
Prediction: This should be a good game. They say defenses win Championships, so this one will end up 14-13; first team to two touchdowns wins.
EAST - #3 Chippewa Valley Predators (4-4; 6-4) @ #2 River City Rough Riders (6-2; 8-4)
5pm at Logan High School - La Crosse, WI
The teams split the season series, each winning on the road.
When the teams met in June the Rough Riders were 5-2 overall coming off a loss to the Minneapolis Warriors, while the Predators were 3-2 and coming off a loss to the Northland Bulls. Both teams played to win. River City racked up some yards, only to have Chippewa Valley pull off 4 Interceptions on the night. In the end RCRR came out on top.
In River City, the Rough Riders had their eyes on the #1 seed while the Predators were grasping to a playoff spot; things would change. Again the Preds defense came away with the turnovers, while the offense was able to get the ball moving as well. River City jumped up early in the 1st, but Chippewa Valley added a TD & 2 FG's in the second. After another FG by the Preds in the 3rd, the Rough Riders added a touchdown in the 4th to cut within two. Chippewa Valley added a 4th FG for good measure in the end.
Prediction: After a 4-point game & a 5-point games, things could get even closer 17-14.