Thole: Ponies successfully navigate road filled with potholes

The Stillwater football team has persevered through numerous injuries and a rugged Suburban East Conference schedule to finish the regular season with a sterling 7-1 record. Below, former Ponies player Pauline Gilbert is a member of the Univesity of Minnesota women’s tennis team.

If somebody told me that our beloved Ponies would be 7-1 with Nick Anderson out and Nate Ricci with a bad wheel I would have been skeptical.

After watching the running exploits of Zach Knox in three sophomore games, I wasn’t surprised with his two-touchdown performance in a 28-19 victory over Roseville last week. The fact that his No. 95 jersey hasn’t been seen on running backs since the days of Red Grange, Bronko Nagurski and Tom Harmon was a blast from the past.

Junior Nick Blonski deserves a round of applause for exchanging his No. 2 jersey with Knox for last night’s contest against Hastings.

Another thing that surprises me is why opponents would punt the ball anywhere near Ricci. The elusive senior brought one back 59 yards across the alumni stripes with excellent blocking from his teammates on Friday night.

Before risking a punt against this guy, I would go for it on fourth down or fumble forward. Hastings knew better. The locals have done a good job of mending fences with top linemen Derrick Thingvold and center Austin Conery being out for a time, but are good to go now. I still haven’t seen guard Danny Buege back in the fold. Like Anderson, defensive lineman Zach Jelinek is out for the season.

That brings us to last night’s game at Todd Field in Hastings, where a 21-14 victory over the Raiders gave us a conference title tie with Mounds View. I had finger nails like Howard Hughes until last night’s game where I gnawed mine down to the cuticles.

Knox had a banner night with 281 yards and a record 48 carries (5.9 avg.). This kid runs hard and wore down the Raider defenders, following his jumbo linemen.

Knox broke the previous SAHS record for carries set by Jesse George at 38 in a victory over Park in 2008. His 281-yard rushing effort is second only to all-state Pat Juhl, who rushed 17 times for 290 yards (17.1 avg.) in 1979.

Hastings did a good job of keeping the ball out of Ricci’s hands on kicking plays and the Ponies’ defense continued to bend but not break during the team’s six wins that were white-knucklers.

Congrats to this year’s version of the Cardiac Kids.

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

The rest of my football week was rotten as the Gophers were eaten 21-13 by the Wildcats at homecoming, the Vikings were plundered 38-26 by RG3 and the Redskins and the Bison were upset 17-14 by Indy State. What a revolting development this is.


In the huddle

Thanks to a pair of goals from Sam Rasmussen, a goal and four assists from Pat Roth, a goal each from Jared Allen, Roman Devine and Steig Peterson — and assists provided by Charlie Farrington and James Menzies — the Pony soccer aces (14-1-4) crushed East Ridge 6-donut for the Section 4AA title on Tuesday…. Four new colleges have added football this year in an attempt to make campus life more appealing to prospective students. Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa., will join NCAA Division III for competition while the others will settle for NAIA status, including Bluefield College in Virginia, Lindenwood University in Belleville, Ill., and Point University in East Point, Ga. Seventeen more colleges will add the sport between 2013-15. More than 50 institutions will have added football teams from 2008-15. Alumni are more willing to fill the coffers with donations for colleges that field football teams. The rationale for adding football varies at each college, but the primary reasons include: increasing enrollment, addressing gender imbalances, raising the institution’s profile and its ability to attract research grants. Let’s face it, it probably creates a more vibrant campus life or they wouldn’t add it…. Former Stillwater and Kansas

Axel Dwyer

University football star Nate Dwyer and his lovely wife Martha (Vandenberg) have added Axel Daniel Dwyer, who was born on Aug. 28. The little guy dressed out at 8 pounds, 12 ounces and measured 20.5 inches. He joins siblings Bella, Jack and Daisy. Dwyer was a two-time all-state defensive tackle for the Ponies, who won 34 of 38 games with Dwyer in the lineup. He was a two-time All-Big 12 selection for the Jayhawks and played a season with the Arizona Cardinals, who drafted him in the third round of the NFL Draft. Martha graduated  from NDSU and drove from Fargo to Lawrence each week to see Nate play football…. Superior mental toughness and physical preparedness wins games…. Ponies cross country aces competing at the college level this fall include Brian Brochman with the Jackrabbits at South Dakota State, Nate Hanson for Gustavus, Tom Linner at UW-La Crosse, Isaac and Duncan Secor at St. John’s and Ethan Anderson at Calvin College…. Former Pony Kristen Mueller is running at St. Olaf, Cassie Pratt at UW-La Crosse and Annie Olson is running at UW-Stevens Point…. Checking out the co-eds playing tennis we find ace Pauline Gilbert for our Minnesota Gophers, Natalie Cardenas at UW-Stevens Point and Kelsey Pedersen at UW-Stout…. Swimmers and divers from coach Brian Luke’s powerhouse girls’ teams have stocked several colleges in recent years. Last year’s squad is a prime example with Ragan Sovell at Hamline, Mady Gockowski and Summer Olson at the U of South Dakota, Anna Percival at UW-Milwaukee and Jordan Duncan at Carthage College. While attending the Gophers-Wildcats grid clash on Saturday, I happened to look at the smiling face of All-Big Ten Maggie Keefer flashing on the giant stadium screen. Monica Radecke and Kaela Anderson are also doing good things for the Gophers. Other Big Red co-eds making waves include Hannah Bowen at Notre Dame and sister Jordan Bowen at UConn. Torie Buberl is another ex-Pony who swims for the Coyotes at South Dakota, which is coached by Luke’s son-in-law Jason Mahowald. Betsy Galenti swims for the Vanderbilt Commodores and Jordan Skaar competes for Luther College. I think that’s everybody…. Former Ponies head football coach Scott Hoffman was in town this past week to watch his former team in both Raiders games and the Gophers loss to Northwestern on Saturday. Northwestern captain Brian Arnfelt was a standout SAHS lineman during Hoffman’s tenure. Hoffman lives in Arizona and has season tickets for ASU Sun Devils games…. The Ponies are having a banner year in fall sports…. It’s an honor to play for the Stillwater Ponies…. finis


Today’s rumination #588

A championship is obtained by uncommon people who are willing to do the things that a common person won’t do because a common person is basically lazy.

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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]