Two of the state’s most tradition-rich programs will square off Friday when Stillwater travels to the University of St. Thomas to face Cretin-Derham Hall in a Suburban East Conference football game. Game time is 7:30 p.m. With its 23rd trip to the state tournament last fall, Cretin-Derham Hall is the only large-school program in the state that made more state appearances than the Ponies with 19, although Stillwater has four state titles compared to just two for the Raiders. The Ponies are riding a two-game winning streak after holding off rival White Bear Lake 28-19 on Friday and Cretin-Derham Hall was upended by Mounds View 17-16 — marking just the Raiders’s fourth loss in SEC play since joining the league in 2005. Cretin-Derham Hall used a big third quarter to pull away from the Ponies for a 34-7 victory a year ago. Stillwater has won two of the last three meetings and leads the all-time series 6-5. Cretin-Derham Hall has never lost more than SEC game in a season so Ponies coach Beau LaBore expects to face a focused squad this week.
“They don’t lose often, so I’m sure there is a very nasty taste in their mouth and one that they want to get rid of,” LaBore said. “Our guys have a lot to play for and it’s the same thing for us all the time, if we take care of us we’ll be just fine. If we take care of us and we play four quarters, everything else will take care of itself.”
The Raiders (1-1 SEC, 1-1) uncharacteristically rank in the bottom half of the league in offense and defense after two weeks, averaging 298 yards per game on offense and allowing an average 367 yards on defense. Cretin-Derham Hall opened the season with a 34-24 victory over East Ridge. The Raiders are led by Notre Dame recruit James Onwualu, who has gained 115 yards on 17 carries (6.8 avg.) with rushing two touchdowns and has five receptions for 92 yards and another touchdown. The versatile performer also returned an interception 94 yards for a touchdown this season. Blake Banham has also been effective while rushing for 108 yards on 19 attempts (5.7 avg.). Quarterback Connor Rhoda put up better numbers a year ago, but has completed just 15 of 45 passes (33 percent) for 267 yards and three touchdowns with one interception through two games this season.
“It’s a typical Cretin team, big, fast and talented. They always look that way and that’s why they’ve been so successful over the last 20 years,” LaBore said. “Definitely Onwualu is pretty good when he’s got the ball in his hands and they use him in a lot of different settings. He’s big, he’s fast and he’s durable and he’s going to make guys miss.”
Stillwater is led by quarterback Nate Ricci and running back Nick Anderson, who ranks third in the conference with 256 rushing yards on 47 attempts (5.4 avg.) and four touchdowns. Ricci has completed 19 of 30 passes (61 percent) for 274 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. Ricci has also rushed 25 times for 153 yards (6.1 avg.) and one touchdown. Joey Quinn (6 catches for 134 yards) and Chris Rick (5 for 96) have been reliable targets for Ricci, who leads the conference with 514 all-purpose yards.
“Unfortunately we’ve started slow two games,” LaBore said. “We know we can’t start slow against Cretin and I don’t think that we will.”
Ponies tackle cancer
The Stillwater football team raised $947 for the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund last week as one of more than 110 “Tackle Cancer” games to be held this month.
The team raised $400 from students and staff during school and another $547 was collected from those attending Friday’s victory over White Bear Lake at Pony Stadium.
Tackle Cancer is promoted by the Minnesota Football Coaches Association and LaBore serves on the committee that is helping to promote this initiative.
Adaptive flag football game scheduled for Sept. 29
The Stillwater football program is sponsoring its Seventh Annual Adaptive Flag Football Game on Saturday, Sept. 29 at Stillwater Junior High School’s Miller Field. Stillwater football players will join individuals with physical and developmental challenges of all levels for the game, which is scheduled for 1-1 p.m.
Pre-registration is not required and, in case of rain, refer to the Ponies’ website: poniesfootball.com.