Football: Ponies hoping to bounce back with homecoming victory

Mark Elmer delivers instructions to the defense during Friday’s 27-13 loss to Cretin-Derham Hall.

It has been a tough season for Stillwater’s homecoming opponent Forest Lake, which is now under the direction of Ray Kircher — the program’s third head coach in as many years. The Rangers (0-3 SEC, 0-3) have lost three straight games against opponents with a combined 1-5 record against teams that are not Forest Lake. Stillwater is also stinging after getting outgained by a wide margin in last week’s 27-13 loss at seventh-ranked Cretin-Derham Hall. The Ponies (2-1, 2-1), who were unranked in the Associated Press Class AAAAAA state poll a week ago but now appear at No. 9 following their loss to the Raiders, defeated Forest Lake 27-7 a year ago and have won three in a row in the series — outscoring the Rangers by a combined 96-13 during that span. Stillwater leads the all-time series 18-7 dating back to 1938. Both teams have had trouble stopping opponents, ranking ninth (Stillwater) and 10th (Forest Lake) in the conference in total defense.

Glen Miron leads Forest Lake’s option running attack with 225 yards and one touchdown on 30 carries (7.5 avg.) and quarterback Trent Rabel has completed 29 of 59 passes (49.2 percent) for 346 yards and two touchdowns with three interceptions. Rabel’s most productive target has been Russ Wedger with six catches for 81 yards (13.5 avg.). Only Woodbury and East Ridge have racked up more penalties this season than Forest Lake, which has been flagged 28 times for 216 yards.

“They have shown improvement from Week 1 to Week 2 to Week 3, but they’ve continued to struggle with turnovers and field position,” Ponies coach Beau LaBore said. “When you run option football and a team that is not accustomed to throwing the ball, you have new guys running the ball and throwing the football and that can open it up for turnovers, but they’ve adjusted their play calling a bit and that has reduced the turnovers. They’re a young and inexperienced team and they will continue to improve. We need to be ready for option football and that’s a key for us because if you make mistakes against option football we can be in some trouble.”

Stillwater has spent this week worrying about its own business after mustering just 164 yards in the loss to Cretin-Derham Hall. With the exception of special teams, the Raiders limited the effectiveness of quarterback Nate Ricci and running back Nick Anderson, holding them to a combined 33 rushes for 100 yards. Anderson still ranks fourth in the conference with 63 rushes for 281 yards (4.5 avg.) and Ricci has carried 43 times for 216 yards (5.0 avg.). Joey Quinn (8 for 168) and Chris Rick (7-115) have been the Ponies top receiving threats.

“At the end of the day, we’re most concerned with us,” LaBore said. “We really need to get on the same page, especially offensively, and that’s what we’ve really been focused on this week.”