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Preds fall in Elite Bowl 4

Posted 8/14/2011

By Nick Gourdoux

Leader-Telegram staff

Throughout the Chippewa Valley Predators' three-game playoff run to Elite
Bowl IV, coach  Martin Adams stressed mistake reduction and  turnover
reduction.

Despite their coach's words, a handful of mistakes and one costly turnover
proved to be the difference in Saturday's 15-0 loss to the St. Paul Pioneers
in the championship game of the Northern Elite Football League at Carson
Park.

"If you make mistakes against a team like this, they're going to capitalize
on them," Adams said. "A couple of plays can change a game, and that's what
happened today."

Perhaps the biggest of the Predators' mistakes occurred midway through the
fourth quarter when punt returner Arron Solie attempted to catch a punt off
of a bounce instead of letting it roll into the end zone. Solie was never
able to gain possession of the ball, and Ben Campbell recovered the muffed
punt in the end zone to give the Pioneers a two-score advantage.

Statistically, the Predators should have won. They gained more total yards,
more rushing yards, and committed fewer penalties. The one area the
Predators didn't hold an advantage in was turnovers.

Trailing by eight after Paul Ciochetto's 40-yard touchdown pass, the
Predators marched down to the Pioneers 5-yard line late in the third
quarter, but the promising possession was killed by an L.A. Anderson fumble.

The drive was a microcosm of the entire game for the Predators.

Late in the second quarter, with the game still scoreless, the Predators
once again were able to drive into Pioneers territory, only to have Jimmie
Mattson's 42-yard field goal attempt blocked.

On the opening drive, the Predators held the ball for more than 10 minutes,
driving deep into Pioneers territory in the process. The Predators came away
scoreless, however, after another Mattson field-goal attempt was blocked.

On the drive, the Predators lost all-star guard Stoney West for the game to
injury.

"It's a fracture in my tibia," West said, visibly distraught from the fact
he wasn't able to play. "It's a very hurtful game because it was the first
championship of my life, and I wasn't able to play."

The offensive line played admirably without West, however.

"It's tough when you lose a lineman like that," all-star tackle Chris Garner
said. "Every individual has to step up. We had the best o-line, and there's
no doubt we should have won."

The offensive line certainly stepped up to fill West's shoes. The team
averaged nearly 6 yards per carry as Anderson and running backs Vince Furby
and C.J. Okegeri routinely broke free for long runs.

Despite the success the team had running the ball, it was unable to punch
the ball into the end zone. Through the air, the Predators were plagued by
drops and sporadic inaccuracy by Anderson.

The loss marked the second straight season the Pioneers eliminated the
Predators in the playoffs. Last season, the Pioneers defeated the Predators
in the NEFL semifinals en route to winning Elite Bowl III.

"It is what it is and we can't change anything now," Garner said. "We beat
ourselves."

The NEFL all-star game will be held next weekend in Wausau.
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