There is only one Suburban East Conference team with a winning record against the Stillwater football team and the Ponies will need to knock off Mounds View on Friday if they want a realistic shot at a third conference title in four years. The Mustangs (4-0 SEC, 4-0) are the only remaining unbeaten conference team, but have been challenged while collecting a one-point victory over Cretin-Derham Hall in Week 2 and a three-point victory over East Ridge in Week 3. Mounds View held off Roseville 28-14 a week ago and has won five straight against the Ponies, including a last-second 19-18 victory in the section semifinals a year ago — which marked the fourth straight season the Mustangs have ended Stillwater’s season. Mounds View owns a 23-12 record against the Ponies dating back to 1956.
The Ponies, who suffered their only loss of the season against Cretin-Derham Hall in Week 3, rebounded with a comfortable 48-0 homecoming victory over Forest Lake last week, although versatile quarterback Nate Ricci suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter and his status for Friday — along with two injured offensive linemen — is uncertain, according to Ponies coach Beau LaBore.
“It’s still causing him some problems, but we’ll see how he feels on Friday,” LaBore said.
Mounds View leads the conference in total defense, allowing just 227.8 yards and less than 10 points per game. The Mustangs feature a balanced rushing attack led by Jeremy Redmond (35 carries for 239 yards), Austin Smestad (37-166) and TJ Horn (40-150). Quarterback Mitch Frederickson has completed 28 of 53 passes for 570 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions. Max Knutson has been his favorite target with 17 catches for 344 yards (20.2 avg.) and four touchdowns. Mounds View has a plus-7 turnover margin.
“This is a little more veteran group for Mounds View and they have a number of key returning starters,” Ponies coach Beau LaBore said. “They have a lot of returning starters on the offensive line and they’re not big, but they are physical and move well.”
If Ricci is unable to play, the Ponies will rely on junior Trevor Tillett, who got his feet wet last week while completing three of eight passes for 34 yards. He doesn’t feature Ricci’s breakaway speed — few do — but is is a capable passer. Nick Anderson leads the Ponies with 396 rushing yards (5.2 avg.) and seven touchdowns while Joey Quinn (10 catches for 178 yards) and Chris Rick (8 for 131) are the top receiving threats.
“The key for us will be to make sure we don’t give up any big plays,” LaBore said. “Tillett has a strong arm and understands what we want to do. As long as he takes what the defense gives him, we’ll have a good night.”