SIOUX CITY | Jason Garnand really has no concerns about the long layoff his Sioux City Stampede have experienced.
Last weekend, the 10-team Northern Elite Football League was idle, but the league leaders haven’t played since June 23rd when they pounded the Med City Freeze 34-12. Larry Taylor rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown while wide receiver Jake McDonald had four catches for 102 yards and a touchdown.
Could that long layoff be a factor in tonight’s game at Concordia-St. Paul University, where the Stampede (6-0 NEFL, 7-0 overall) face the St. Paul Pioneers (4-2, 5-3)? Garnand, the squad’s head coach, shakes his head.
Usually, the Stampede practice once a week, but last week was an exception, perhaps because of the long layoff. Practices were held this week on Sunday and Wednesday in preparation for the Pioneers, which won the NEFL’s Elite Bowl from 2010 to 2016.
“You’re concerned a lot of times, but these guys are adult athletes,” said Garnand. “They have to be able to keep working and keep their legs under them. If we’re sluggish to start that the game, it would be a concern, but last year were similar dates when we were off and we enjoyed our time off and we didn’t miss a beat.
“I’ve instructed them to get in the gym, keep their shoulders strong and get their running in. But they also need to get away from the game. We’ve gone really hard since February because of the game against the Bandits. They haven’t had a lot of time. It’s a good time to spend time with their families and miss football. When the time comes for us to get back together, we’ll be on, 100 percent.”
Third among NEFL quarterbacks with 1,191 yards passing and 14 touchdown passes, Stampede quarterback Dorian Ballentine threw for 179 yards in the game at Mayo High School. McDonald (21 catches, 349 yards, 6 TDs) became the team’s third 100-yard receiver of the season, following Bryce Harshman (27, 384, 4) and Bret Van Muyden (24, 321, 4).
Taylor (569 yards rushing) topped the 100-yard rushing mark for the third time this season. The defense, paced by linebacker Trenton Jones (38 tackles, 5 tackles for loss), who had nine tackles, one more than lineman Derek Geddings (37 tackles, 15 TFL, 6 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries), limited Med City to just 95 yards total offense.
Sioux City did suffer two turnovers, interceptions that were thrown by Ballentine, who has five in his last two starts. Plus, the Freeze’s Lakeem Goode returned a kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown to pull within 7-6 in the third quarter. It was the first kickoff return touchdown scored against the Stampede, which have allowed 34 points against NEFL competition in its first season in the league.
“All that (Goode’s touchdown) did was wake us up,” said Garnand. “Then we put it away. The rest of the game was handled by our offense and our defense. Both sides of the ball played great.”
St. Paul is coming off a 46-14 pounding of Med City on June 30 at Rochester, Minn. Quarterback Dennis Gudim (157 yards passing, 3 TDs), playing just his third game of the season, threw for 145 yards and three touchdowns while four different Warriors recorded an interception.
St. Paul has one non-NEFL in common, the Midwest Football Alliance’s Kansas City Bulldogs. While the Stampede were 29-28 winners over their former MFA rival, the Warriors fell 29-27.
And, the week before blowing out Med City, St. Paul fell 9-6 to the reigning NEFL champions, the Minneapolis Warriors.
St. Paul has two quality running backs, Isiah Sims (580 yards rushing, 4 TDs) and Herschel Brazell (313, 6). Defensive linemen Jake Muellner and Jeff McGaster have seven and four quarterback sacks, respectively.
“It will be one of the biggest front lines we have seen this season,” said Garnand. “The front line has a lot of experience and knows how to win football games. The Pioneers come in with four really good receivers, all of them who could start on any team in this league.
“Before last year, this league was owned by St. Paul. History is big time for them. Those guys are used to winning football games. We have to be ready to play physical football with the talent they have. They have a ton of talent.”