Thole: Luck of the Irish sinks Ponies

Gazette photo by Scott Ertle
Quarterback Nate Ricci and the Stillwater football team dropped a nail-biter to Rosemount on Friday to end the season with an 8-2 record.

Rosemount combined a slow-down offense with a stubborn defense to end Stillwater’s football season 7-6 on the local turf last Friday night.

I started to get nervous when Danny Laudet kicked his second field goal to give the Ponies (8-2) a 6-zip lead midway through the second quarter. The Irish (6-4) scored before the half when they fumbled into the end zone, but Gabe Ehlers pounced on it and Sam Bromback’s PAT put the visitors up 7-6 at the break — and a second-half nail-biter ensued.

Through the years, I’ve developed a phobia about successive field goals because the lack of a touchdown seems to come back and bite you in a painful spot. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with the field goals, but it was just a bad omen when you don’t cross the alumni stripes.

Laudet made his field goals from 32 and 24 yards out, bringing his total to 6 for 13 on the year. Rosemount’s strategy was to control the clock from the first play on by using 25 seconds to put the ball in play — this made for a shorter game.

The second half became a struggle between two rugged defenses which shared the bend-but-never-break philosophy. Stillwater’s offense had its moments with quarterback Nate Ricci passing for 102 yards and running for 42 more.

The Irish also gave special attention to sophomore tailback Zach Knox, who managed 66 yards on 18 attempts.

When the smoke cleared, the Ponies had 242 total yards and the Irish 192, but the only stat that counts is points and the Big Red didn’t have enough of those.

It was an exciting and entertaining season that produced a conference title tie with Mounds View, but the Big Red prevailed in a face-to-face matchup with the Mustangs 17-14. Friday night also was grim for other members of the Suburban East Conference. Consider, Eastview ripped Mounds View 36-21, Lakeville North 42-nada over Roseville, Prior Lake crushed Woodbury 34-7 and St. Thomas Academy pasting East Ridge 41-14 in Class 5A.

The prep football Thole Poll: 1. Wayzata (8-1); 2. Eden Prairie (8-2); 3. Totino-Grace (10-0); 4. Edina (9-1); 5. Lakeville North (9-1); 6. Prior Lake (9-1); 7. Moorhead (10-0); 8. Eastview (7-3); 9. Stillwater (8-2); 10. St. Thomas Academy (9-1).

In my preseason column, I had the Ponies finishing 8-2, Gophers 6-6 and the Vikings 8-8. I had a poor week as a fan with SAHS losing to Lucky Irish 7-6, Gophers losing the Little Brown Jug for the umpteenth time 34-13, and the Seahawks annoying the Vikings 30-20, but the Bison beat Mizzou State 21-17 for my sanity.

 

Hall, Ponies take home state championships

It was fitting that the team everyone thought would repeat as state cross country champion did — but we thought it and the Ponies actually did it.

Leading the Ponies across the finish line again was that scrappy wrestler Wayde Hall. The man who took gold medal honors throughout the fall repeated the feat in the biggest venue so far, running a time of 15:21.

The Ponies of coach Scott Christensen scored 46 points, followed by Edina (80), Wayzata (90), Owatonna (125), Rosemount (152), Bemidji (206), Centennial (227), Eastview (233), Moorhead (274), Chaska (275), White Bear Lake (276), Orono (298), Chisago Lakes (327), Elk River (331), Mounds View (333) and Rochester Century (338).

Eric Colvin placed ninth in 15:40.6, freshman Eli Krahn (16:04.5), sophomore Bailey Hesse-Withroe (16:12.6) and Sean Bjork (16:12.7) capped the scoring. This marks the fifth state title in cross country for the locals, with the others coming in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 2011.

Christensen has announced his retirement from teaching, but I believe he will coach until the grim reaper runs for him. The coach and his runners keep hitting them out of the park so keep it going!

 

In the huddle

Congrats to coach Phil Johnson and the boys’ soccer team for its fine 16-2-4 season and third-place finish at the state tourney. Johnson, a stand-up guy if ever there was one, finished his fine 33-year career with a 451-156-64 record…. While I’m passing out kudos,

Contributed photo
Friends, family and supporters helped celebrate former coach Ricky Michel’s induction into the Minnesota Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame on Oct. 27. Included in this photo are, front row, from left, Brett Michel, Rocky Rooney, Ricky Michel, Mike Weiss and Mike Moore. Second row, George Hoeppner, Scott Johnson, Mike Parker, Don Campbell and Butch Rydeen.

here’s one for Ponies Activities Director Ricky Michel, who recently was inducted into the Minnesota State Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Michel was a three-sport athlete for the Ponies who played for and coached baseball with Don Campbell and also played for and coached soccer with Phil Johnson. Michel took over the baseball reins from Campbell in 1992…. Congrats also to Ponies sophomore Abby Lange for advancing to and placing 27th at the girls’ cross country state meet…. Former Ponies standout football and baseball player Todd Wilson ’87 sold his Velocity Sports Performance last year and is working in field marketing for Charles Schwab’s Institutional Services with his office in downtown Minneapolis. Wilson and his lovely wife Jaimi of 15 years, reside in Maple Grove with children Caden, 10, Jace, 8 and Teaghyn, 7. The children are involved in sports year round. The elder Wilson had a successful baseball playing career at Minnesota State-Mankato. Although they support the Maple Grove Crimson, Wilson was and still is a Big Red Pony at heart…. SAHS will not be fortunate enough to have better raw athletic material than some of our opponents. To win, therefore, it is essential that we build better athletes and do a job coaching that is superior to that done by our opponents. We should know what we feel to be important and never compromise our beliefs and efforts. Do it right is the Ponies way…. I checked out former Cretin all-everything offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson, a junior for the U of Miami. He will play at the next level in my opinion. The 6-foot-8, 350-pounder was dominant in the Hurricanes’ 30-12 pounding of the Virginia Tech Hokies last week…. Don’t tread on me, because I’m shy…. finis

 

Today’s rumination #591

Winning is fun, sure, but it is not the point. Wanting to win is the point, not giving up is the point and never losing sight of victory is the point.

• • • •

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: georgethole@gmail.com

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