Thole: Stillwater has the horses in victory over Mustangs

Gazette photo by Stuart Groskreutz
Twin sisters Robbie and Jackie Ellingson lead the Ponies football team out onto the field for Friday’s Suburban East Conference showdown with Mounds View at Stillwater Area High School. The sisters have also helped lead the Stillwater girls’ tennis team to a conference title this fall.

Pony Stadium was not a place for the faint of heart or timid on Friday night as Stillwater won the battle of the titans 17-14 in a well-played gridiron duel.

I knew that the Mustangs would be the coup of coups, especially after coach Beau LaBore announced that star quarterback Nate Ricci would be out of the lineup at an M.V.P. meeting earlier in the week.

I figured that the Ponies might have a shot if quarterback Trevor Tillett managed the game well and avoided turnovers; if all-conference running back Nick Anderson could jump start the offense; if linebackers Sam Hodnefield, Cody Floen and Matt Ogren could check the Mustangs ground game; and if the o-line could adhere to my 10 commandments, we might prevail 20-14.

Well, all of the above happened for the good guys 17-14 (I was close, so give me a break). Due to a previous engagement, we were late getting to the game and could hear loud cheering that I thought was a good sign — but it came from the wrong side and Mounds View led 14-nada, zero, nuts, donut, kaput.

I thought, what a revolting development this is, until Anderson took off on one of his patented 50-plus yard jaunts to set the upset wheels in motion. In fact, he was a force and a workhorse with 208 yards on 37 carries for a 5.6 average.


Proud Stillwater alumni Matt McGuire, Dr. Andrea Saterbak, Lee Valsvik and her brother Jon “Jocko” Valsvik partake in some tail-gating prior to the Ponies football homecoming game on Sept. 21. The most impressive thing is that the letter jackets still fit after 30 years.

The game turned into a defensive struggle the rest of the way and Danny Laudet did his part by booming punts with good hang time. In fact, his end zone kickoffs and punts have been a plus all year.

A timely fumble recovery by Ogren on the Mustangs’ 22 with less than 90 ticks to play set the stage for Laudet’s eventual 36-yard winning field goal — his first and sweetest to date.

The Mustangs were not done yet, however, as back-up quarterback Alec Tolson led a drive to the good guys’ 26 where his last-gasp field goal attempt was blocked by Hodnefield, who had a whale of a game.

It was a great victory for the Big Red, which is now in position to run the table starting with a 28-13 win tomorrow night at East Ridge.

If the locals continue to improve, the sky is the limit. Last week was a TEAM effort and very entertaining — repeat it. It was Stillwater’s best gridiron performance since that 31-28 victory over Cretin in 2010.

The prep football Thole Poll: 1. Eden Prairie (5-0); 2. Wayzata (4-0); 3. Osseo (3-2); 4. Totino-Grace (5-0); 5. Edina (5-1); 6. Stillwater (4-1); 7. Mounds View (4-1); 8. Moorhead (5-0; 9. Cretin (3-2); 10. Lakeville North (4-1).

Note: Osseo has won all five its games on the field, but has been docked two victories for using an ineligible player.

It was an up-and-down week for me as a fan as the Ponies outran the Mustangs 17-14, the Hawkeyes clawed our Gophers 31-13, my Bison caged the UNI Panthers 33-21 and the Vikings tamed the Lions 20-13.


Ponies tennis squad ties for SEC crown

The Ponies girls’ tennis team earned a tie with Mounds View for the Suburban East Conference championship — the program’s first title since 2007 and second since 2000. The Ponies (8-1 SEC, 12-2) of coach Dave Kahl did so with a 6-1 victory over Derham Hall-Cretin on Sept. 25 before dropping a 5-2 contest to the Mustangs on Sept. 27.

I will feature the former at the sake of the latter, because I can. The locals did not lose a set to the Raiders in the singles matches and were also supreme at second and third doubles.

Natalie Phippen opened with a straight sets victory at No. 1 singles and freshman Savannah Johnson, junior Aliza Deming and junior Jenna Sherrick did the same at the second, third and fourth spots. Sarah Haley and Sara Pollei scored the point for DH-C while defeating Robbie Ellingson and Shelby Anderson in three sets.

Junior Hannah Quinn and Shelby Ahrendt at No. 2 doubles and Maggie Corman and Jackie Ellingson at No. 3 were victorious in straight sets.

Phippen, Corman, Deming and the Ellingson twins captain the SEC co-champs. Kudos to Kahl and assistants Suzanna Gorodisher and Peter Johnson for steering the ship and to the girls for getting the job done.

We can look forward to a stiff challenge from Mahtomedi, East Ridge, Roseville and others of that ilk in Section 4AA. Hey, speaking of the Ellingson sisters, it was they who rode the authentic ponies in the pre-game portion of Stillwater’s 17-14 victory over fourth-ranked Mounds View. Both Jackie and Robbie play basketball and Jackie reigned as homecoming queen.


In the huddle

Ponies cross country ace Wayde Hall recently took top honors at the 24-team Mega Meet in Milaca with a winning time of 15:25.3. Eric Colvin placed third in 15:48.6, Eli Krahn was seventh, Sean Bjork 12th and Bailey Hesse-Withroe finished in 14th place. The defending state champions are ranked No. 1 in the state…. The Stillwater girls’ soccer team has posted a 10-3-2 records so far under coach Mike Huber. Captain Maddie Schaak has been a prime scorer and recently had an unassisted goal during a 1-zip victory over Derham Hall-Cretin. On Saturday, the Big Red handed a 2-1 defeat to Mahtomedi with goals by Shelby Litchy and Ali Schilling. Schaak, along with Allie Boucher, Natalie Johnson and Hannah Okerstrom captain the squad…. Minnetonka is ranked numero uno in the state swimming and diving poll, but the Skippers won’t stay there if the No. 4 Ponies have anything to say about it. Second-ranked Eden Prairie, who in front of Stillwater at the Maroon and Gold Invite on Saturday, and Wayzata are also chasing Minnetonka. The Ponies (7-0) — a bona fide state power —recently defeated Mounds View 56-43, led by double winners Claire Rutscher, Sophia Bisch, Mary Knaak and Kristin Erf. Aiding the double winners in the winning relay events were Sammi Potts, Kate Gallagher and Kylie Burgess…. Former Pony Jake Schmiesing had two touchdown receptions in St. Olaf’s 38-35 win over St. John’s on Saturday…. My NDSU football buddy Dale Hinkle and his wife Patty have seen several Ponies football games through the years — all wins. They were thrilled and impressed with the Big Red Ponies performance last week…. Don’t tread on me, because I have migraines…. finis


Today’s rumination #586

Wisdom is what keeps you from getting into situations where you need it.

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George Thole retired as head football coach at Stillwater after the 1999 season. He ranks among Minnesota’s top coaches in history with a 285-69-2 record (.805 winning percentage), including four state titles and two state runner-up finishes among 22 championship seasons. He co-authored (with Jerry Foley) “Coaching the Veer Offense,” second edition. His column appears Thursdays in the Gazette. To contact the hall of fame coach e-mail: [email protected]