ST. PAUL, Minn. | Eric Ellestad’s 54-yard field goal with two seconds left in the fourth quarter gave the St. Paul Pioneers a 15-14 win over the previously-undefeated Sioux City Stampede Saturday night during Northern Elite Football League action at Concordia University.
A former University of Minnesota kicker, Ellestad’s game-winning field goal came with a hint of controversy, according to Stampede coach Jason Garnand, whose team saw their 17-game winning streak come to an end.
Sioux City was ahead 14-12 with eight seconds left when a St. Paul running back caught a swing pass at the 25-yard line. Stampede outside linebacker Tyrae Kemp knocked the player out of bounds and was hurt, calling a time out. Garnand said Kemp went to a doctor on Monday to take care of a possible concussion.
“The clock had expired at that point when Tyrae made the tackle,” said Garnand, who expects Kemp to play this Saturday in the Stampede’s 7 p.m. home game against the Northland Bulls at Memorial Field.
“He knocked himself out, stood up and called a time out. He called the time out not knowing the game was over. The referee upheld the time out request. It was the most bizarre thing I have ever seen. It’s still shocking for me.”
Two seconds were put on the clock, allowing Ellestad to set up for the game-winning kick. St. Paul (6-3, 5-2 NEFL) was paced in its second consecutive win by quarterback Dennis Gudim, who passed for 188 yards and two touchdowns, a 42-yarder to David Akins in the first quarter and an 85-yarder to Travis Griffin in the third.
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Sioux City (7-1, 6-1 NEFL) took a 7-6 lead in the first quarter when cornerback Warren Joyner recorded his team-high sixth interception of the season, returning it 36 yards for a touchdown. It was Joyner’s second interception touchdown of the season.
The Stampede increased their lead to 14-6 as quarterback Dorian Ballentine fired his 11th touchdown pass of the season, a 30-yarder to Jake McDonald. It was McDonald’s team-best sixth scoring catch.
Sioux City lost a scoring chance in the third quarter to extend its lead. The NEFL leaders had a sustained nine-play, 60-yard drive that went as far as St. Paul’s 2-yard line, where two attempts to cross the end zone fell short. Following a quarterback sack, kicker Wes Orr missed a 34-yard field goal.
St. Paul had won consecutive NEFL titles from 2010-16. The Pioneers join a wild NEFL race where they are tied with defending NEFL champion Minneapolis with a 5-2 record along with Fargo, Fox Valley and Northland.
“It was a weird way to end a football game,” said Garnand. “St. Paul is historically, one of the best semi-pro teams in the country. They had to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. It was a great game. Both teams played well, other than us giving up two big touchdowns. It was our fault how the game ended.”
Sioux City statistics from the loss were not available.