ST. PAUL — Playing like a team with something to prove following a rare loss the previous week, Cretin-Derham Hall celebrated its homecoming on Friday with a 27-13 Suburban East Conference football victory over Stillwater at the University of St. Thomas.
The Raiders (2-1 SEC, 2-1) have never lost two conference games in the same season since joining the SEC in 2005 and knocked Stillwater (2-1, 2-1) from the ranks of the unbeaten to leave Mounds View — a 17-16 winner over the Raiders (3-0, 3-0) in Week 2 — alone atop the league standings.
As deflating as Friday’s loss was for the Ponies, they still control their own destiny with a Sept. 28 game against Mounds View remaining on the schedule. No team other than Cretin-Derham Hall, Mounds View or Stillwater has won the SEC since the Raiders joined the conference in 2005 and assuming no additional hiccups — which is no easy task — the Ponies can create no worse than a three-way tie for the top spot if they win out.
“It’s all about how our players respond,” Stillwater coach Beau LaBore said.
“We’re hoping,” Raiders coach Mike Scanlon added. “It would be nice to have a three-way log jam at the top.”
Cretin-Derham Hall was the superior team on Friday, taking advantage of two turnovers and missed opportunities by the Ponies and racking up a 426-164 advantage in total yards.
Notre Dame recruit James Onwualu gained 171 yards on just 14 carries to lead a ground attack that finished with 297 yards on 42 attempts (7.1 avg.). Blake Banham added 19 rushes for 85 yards and turned a short pass in the second quarter into a 44-yard touchdown to give the Raiders a 14-0 lead.
Cretin-Derham Hall’s first touchdown came on an 83-yard touchdown run by Onwualu with 3:37 remaining in the opening quarter.
The Ponies have trailed in all three games this season, but didn’t have enough to overcome Cretin-Derham Hall and a defense determined to slow down quarterback Nate Ricci, who entered the game leading the conference in all-purpose yards. The Raiders limited the senior to just 62 yards on 18 carries and 63 yards on 5-of-10 passing with two interceptions.
“Defense played exceptionally well,” Scanlon said. “No. 5 is the best player we’ve seen all year, by far, and if we take him away we’ve got a fighting chance so it worked tonight. We wanted to just keep him in the pocket and make sure he doesn’t have too many big plays. He can really hurt you.”
Stillwater’s primary success came on special teams, including Nick Anderson’s 90-yard kick-off return for a touchdown in the second quarter to help the Ponies salvage an otherwise unproductive first half on the scoreboard.
“We feel like we’ve got a couple of guys back there where you’ve just got to give them a small crease and they can make something happen,” LaBore said. “We needed somebody to step up and make a big play and several guys on that squad got to the right spot and made a good block. I think we won the special teams, we just didn’t execute the other opportunities that we had.”
The Ponies spent plenty of time on Cretin-Derham Hall’s end of the field in the first half, but had a 54-yard field goal attempt blocked and a 42-yarder that narrowly missed, in addition to turning the ball over on downs at the Raiders’ 20.
“We felt disappointed in the fact that we had several opportunities to get points and we didn’t,” LaBore said. “In the first, second and third quarter we had several opportunities where we could have put points on the board. We were deep in their territory and we had opportunities, but we just did not finish in some situations and did not execute in a few others.”
Thanks to one of several nice returns by Ricci, the Ponies were driving early in the second half until Timothee Gordon intercepted a pass and six plays later Onwualu scored his second touchdown from 7 yards to give the Raiders a 20-6 lead after Sam Hodnefield blocked the extra-point kick.
“It was a pretty big moment,” LaBore said. “You get a great kick-off return and get a couple of nice plays going forward and it stops right there and they turn around and go right down the field. It was a huge change of events.”
Cretin-Derham Hall added to its lead early in the fourth quarter when Connor Keane pulled down a 43-yard touchdown pass in traffic down the right sideline for a 27-6 lead.
The Ponies responded with a 70-yard scoring drive that culminated with Ricci finding sophomore Matt Anderson for a 9-yard completion with 5:16 remaining in the game to pull within 27-13.
The Raiders recovered the on-side kick and ran out the clock with 10 straight running plays.
“We’re going to have to run the ball this year,” Scanlon said. “We can throw, but when you’ve got James Onwualu and Blake Banham you’ve got to get the ball to them. We just played well. It was a nice week with a lot of excitement. It’s homecoming and you’d always like to think that this is the focus, but there’s a lot of distractions so I was really proud of them.”
Stillwater has handed the Raiders two of their four SEC losses over the past seven years, but was outplayed everywhere except special teams on Friday. The Ponies averaged 36 yards on five kick-off returns and Ricci averaged 18.5 yards on two punt returns.
“We were in the game at halftime and expected to come out and make a game of it, but we made too many mistakes,” LaBore said. “Their defense was more physical than we were offensively. We’ve got plenty of offense and we tried just about everything, but we didn’t sustain a lot of drives. We still had several opportunities to cash in and get some points so we left some plays on the field. We were our own worst enemy a couple of plays and you can’t make mistakes against Cretin. You have to hand it to them, they really brought the shoulder pads.”
Stillwater 0 6 0 7 — 13
C-D Hall 7 7 6 7 — 27
C-DH — James Onwualu 83 run (Jeffrey McGurran kick) 3:37.
C-DH — Blake Banham 44 pass from Conor Rhoda (McGurran kick) 5:39.
St — Nick Anderson 90 kickoff return (kick failed) 5:25.
C-DH — Onwualu 7 run (kick failed) 8:15.
C-DH — Connor Keane 43 pass from Rhoda (McGurran kick) 11:01.
St — Matt Anderson 9 pass from Nate Ricci (Danny Laudet kick) 5:16.
First downs 11 17
Rushes-yards 37-101 42-297
Passing yards 63 129
Total yards 164 426
Comp-Att-Int. 6-15-2 5-10-0
Fumbles/lost 1/0 2/0
Penalties/yards 2/20 5/47
Punts/avg. 2/48.5 4/31.8
Rushing — St: Nate Ricci 18-62, Nick Anderson 15-38, Clay Roth 1-4, David Peterson 1-3 and Nick Brevitz 1-0; C-DH: James Onwualu 14-171, Blake Banham 19-85 and Conor Rhoda 9-41.
Passing (com-att-yds-td-int) — St: Nate Ricci 5-10-63-1-2; C-DH: Conor Rhoda 5-10-129-2-0.
Receiving — St: Joey Quinn 2-34, Chris Rick 2-19, Matt Anderson 1-9 and Nick Anderson 1-1; C-DH: Connor Keane 2-68, Blake Banham 1-44 and James Onwualu 2-17.
Kickoff returns — St: Nate Ricci 4-90 and Nick Anderson 1-90; C-DH: James Onwualu 1-22.
Punt returns — St: Nate Ricci 2-37; C-DH: Blake Banham 1-0.
Interceptions — St: none; C-DH: Timothee Gordon 1-14 and Derek Olmschenk 1-0.
Fumble recoveries — St: none; C-DH: none.
Manning’s last-second field goal lifts Ponies
The Stillwater sophomores posted a last-second 9-8 football victory over Cretin-Derham Hall on Thursday at Stillwater Junior High School to remain undefeated this season. It also marked the first time the Ponies (3-0) have defeated the Raiders since they joined the Suburban East Conference in 2005.
Quarterback Jack Manning led the Ponies on a 40-yard drive in the final minutes — converting twice on fourth down — and also kicked the winning field goal with just 23 seconds remaining to provide the difference.
The Ponies, who join Mounds View and Roseville with matching 3-0 records, have outscored their opponents 87-14 this season. Stillwater opened the season with a 41-0 victory over Woodbury and defeated White Bear Lake 37-6 in Week 2.
The Stillwater JV team also defeated the Raiders 6-0 on Saturday to improve to 3-0 on the season — meaning Stillwater’s varsity, JV and sophomore teams are a combined 8-1.