The Chippewa Valley Predators’ season-long undefeated streak came to an end Saturday as the St. Paul Pioneers defeated them 28-10 in the Elite Bowl IX at Carson Park. It was the seventh consecutive NEFL championship for the Pioneers and the Predators’ second consecutive loss in the championship game.
After coming off a close-call victory against the Fox Valley Force the weekend before, the Predators were not able to get much offensive production Saturday night, especially in the first half.
Quarterback Keldric Stokes was hunted down by the Pioneers’ defensive line and struggled to connect with receivers downfield early in the game. The constant pressure pushed Stokes to throw an interception returned 25 yards for a touchdown.
Down 14-0, Stokes went down with an undisclosed injury with 7:47 left in the second quarter. Stokes finished the game 3-for-11 for 28 yards and an interception.
Predators coach Martin Adams said he wasn’t sure of the severity of Stokes’ injury.
Wide receiver Jauhem Byrd took over at quarterback.
Adams said Byrd’s versatility had been an asset to the team all season and earned him the nickname “Mr. Fix It.”
“The guy plays with a big heart,” Adams said. “He’s a hell of an athlete and my hats off to him.”
Byrd completed 6 of 20 passes for 61 yards and an interception.
The Predators faced a 28-point deficit going into the second half. During the second half, the defense tightened up and didn’t allow another point.
While the Pioneers didn’t show an explosive passing game, their running game made up for it, gashing the Predators defense for 222 rushing yards.
With nine minutes left in the third quarter, the Predators lined up for a punt on fourth-and-6. Running back Vince Furby took the direct snap and ran the ball 42 yards for the Predators’ only touchdown of the game.
Furby, who was announced as NEFL’s offensive MVP during half time, said he put a lot of work into this season. He knew this game would be his last as a player, and he said he wanted to leave everything on the field.
“My goal was to get MVP this year,” Furby said. “I wanted to go undefeated and win a championship, but you can’t win them all.”
Furby praised his offensive linemen and described them as his big brothers.
“Running behind them was awesome,” Furby said. “When they’d make a hole for me, I’d try to score for them. They showed me love and all I wanted to do was show it right back.”
Furby finished the game with nine rushes for 49 yards and a touchdown.
The Predators finished with a season-low 235 yards of total offense.
The NEFL All-Stars and league awards were announced during half time. The Predators earned five individual awards, eight All-Star nods and three honorable mentions.
Adams was named head coach of the year, while his front office counterpart Matt Risen earned executive of the year.
Kicker/punter Josh Albrecht was named an All-Star and the special teams MVP.
Cornerback Andy Allison was one of two defensive MVPs.
Right tackle Chris Garner, Stokes, defensive lineman Tyler Bortle and wide receivers Byrd and Hodari Peterson were all-stars.