Football: Top-seeded Ponies draw North St. Paul for opener

The Ponies are scheduled to host North St. Paul in the Class AAAAAA quarterfinals on Friday at Stillwater Area High School.

After wrapping up a share of the Suburban East Conference championship with last week’s thrilling 21-14 victory at Hastings, the Stillwater football team turns its attention to the postseason and Friday’s Section 4AAAAAA opener against eighth-seeded North St. Paul. The Ponies (7-1 SEC, 7-1), third in the Associated Press state rankings, carry a five-game winning streak into Friday’s encounter against the Polars (1-7), who ended a seven-game losing streak by knocking off Tartan 32-27 in their regular season finale. Stillwater owns a 39-15-2 record against the Polars dating back to 1927 and recorded a 21-0 victory in their most recent meeting back in 2010. Despite last week’s victory and the fact that winless Forest Lake was outscored by an average of 49-9 this season, the Polars were voted the No. 8 seed by the section coaches.

North St. Paul is led by speedy running back Marshall Dawson, who averaged more than 130 yards in five Classic Suburban Conference games this season. Quarterback Tyler Egan leads the veer attack and has completed 14 of 37 passes for 225 yards for an offense that has scored 27 points in each of its last two games.

“They had a very difficult September, but you have to give them credit because they have shown improvement and there’s no doubt they’re playing their best football right now,” Ponies coach Beau LaBore said. “Throughout the season they’ve given up a lot of points, but have also been scoring a lot of points. They’ve got a fast, athletic backfield and they have struck on big plays in every game they’ve played.”

The new playoff format in place for Class AAAAAA this season has helped the injury-prone Ponies heal up somewhat, but defensive lineman Marvin Lerol is still expected to the game. Versatile quarterback Nate Ricci’s ankle is doing better, but the Ponies are also anticipating a wet field on Friday.

“Anytime you play a team with no common opponents and you’ve only watched them on film, there’s a lot of unknowns,” LaBore said. “There’s some anticipation and excitement about that, but it’s the same for us every week — we know what we want to do and it comes down to our players getting after it and taking care of Stillwater.”


Friday’s schedule

Section 3AAAAAA

#8 Park (1-7) at #1 Prior Lake (7-1)

#5 Lakeville South (4-4) at #4 Rosemount (4-4)

#7 Eagan (1-7) at #2 Lakeville North (7-1)

#6 Burnsville (3-5) at #3 Eastview (5-3)


Section 4AAAAAA

#8 North St. Paul (1-7) at #1 Stillwater (7-1)

#5 Roseville (3-5) at #4 White Bear Lake (6-2)

#7 Forest Lake (0-8) at #2 Mounds View (7-1)

#6 Woodbury (3-5) at #3 Cretin-Derham Hall (6-2)


Section 5AAAAAA

#8 Coon Rapids (1-7) at #1 Maple Grove (7-1)

#5 Blaine (4-4) at #4 Brainerd (4-4)

#7 Anoka (1-7) at #2 Osseo (7-1)

#6 Centennial (3-5) at #3 Champlin Park (5-3)


Section 6AAAAAA

#8 Robbinsdale Armstrong (1-7) at #1 Edina (7-1)

#5 Minnetonka (3-5) at #4 Hopkins (5-3)

#7 Minneapolis South (4-4) at #2 Wayzata (6-1)

#6 Shakopee (4-4) at #3 Eden Prairie (6-2)


Second round cross-over schedule

(Higher seed host lower corresponding seed)

Section 3AAAAAA vs. Section 4AAAAAA

Section 5AAAAAA vs. Section 6AAAAAA


State quarterfinals at the Metrodome

Thursday and Friday, Nov. 8-9, 5/8 p.m.