Thole: Remember and honor the original Red and Black

Former Ponies track ace Roger “Odie” Roettger and wife Kathy keep busy with children Roger, 13, and Karoline, 9 in Moon Township, Pa.

Karen and I braved the rain on Sunday to celebrate Veterans Day at our beloved Memorial Park in downtown Stillwater. The main speaker was reserve Air Force Col. Tom Simonet ’72, a former Ponies cross country and track ace during my early days in town.

Simonet was one of those kids who was enthusiastic and a true Red and Black Pony. That was partially at the core of his five-star talk on Veterans Day, which included a story that he heard from his father growing up. His dad played on the 1926 football team — the same year the moniker “Ponies” first was used.

On one of the silver footballs is inscribed his named J (James) Simonet. Tom used the story many times as an umpire for old-time baseball with local historian Brent Peterson.

Back in the 1850s, ordinary citizens stepped forward to protect our newly formed city with the name Pioneer Guard. Then in 1861, these men answered the initial call of President Abe Lincoln to aide the Union and they formed Company B of the 1st Minnesota Regiment. They marched from Stillwater to Fort Snelling and became a unit that served with distinction during the war between the states.

When they left Stillwater, they wore red wool shirts and black wool pants.

When Stillwater High School was formed in the 1870s, the students picked the colors and the team name of “Red and Black” to honor those veterans who fought so bravely for our nation. On these grounds — once the site of SHS — are personalized tributes to other veterans from the Stillwater area.

We have many veterans who were Stillwater Ponies, both athletes and students that raised their hands to defend this country in places like Europe, the Pacific, Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

So students and alumni of Stillwater High School, be proud of your Red and Black colors, they mean so much to those that defend our country — yesterday, today and well into the future. The next time you see the Red and Black colors of the Stillwater Ponies, you should be filled with pride for the other colors of Red, White and Blue.

If I were still teaching, I would give Col. Simonet an “A-plus” for so much more than I could paraphrase here.

Leo’s Grill & Malt Shop offered free meals for veterans and those currently serving our country on Sunday and Monday.

Before I move on, I want to thank Leo’s Grill & Malt Shop in downtown Stillwater for again feeding every veteran who passed through the door on Veterans Day — a tradition that owner Cory Buettner said will continue.


Mail bag


Just a quick note to tell you how much you mean to me! Friday, I was teaching algebra and I had no idea what was going on… but figured it out and taught the class. This weekend, I officiated some games… Saturday I was with the Eden Prairie Cards and now I’m fixin’ to head to Arizona for the amateur world series. After my tour, I will be back in class. I am having so much fun and it is thanks to you!

Betty says hi…


Mike Smith ’82


GT: Smith played football and basketball for the Ponies and currently teaches in Hudson. The Eden Prairie Cardinals are an amateur baseball team that didn’t make it to Arizona this year, but won the national title two years back. I must have told Mike to “take my advice, because I’m not using it”.



I’m sure you have been waiting on these. Remember last year when I only missed on one first-round game? I will try to improve on that this year. I think this year that your Hutchinson boys will win in 4A. In 5A, Bemidji has overachieved to get this far — great coaching helped.

Moorhead has an outstanding RB and I’ll pick the Spuds to stop Bemidji, although it wouldn’t shock me to see the Lumberjacks win.

Picks: Eden Prairie (6A), Totino (5A), Hutch (4A), St. Croix Lutheran (3A), Caledonia (2A) and Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City (1A).


Dennis Weimann ’85



GT: Weimann was a two-way performer at center and linebacker  for our 1984 state championship football team and is currently a TV media exec in Bemidji.

Sorry Denny, but you lost Edina 14-10 to Rosemount and SCL after you put those teams in the finals. Ouch!

But the Jacks did mash the Spuds.


Coach Thole:

I just wanted to give you an update on our Moon Tigers football team. We are entering the playoffs this week with another shot at our Super Bowl. Young Roger is playing tight end and middle linebacker.

Roger had a great year in baseball this past summer and so did my 9-year-old daughter Karoline. She is currently a cheerleader for our mighty mite football team that I’m coaching.

Say hi to the sage Jerry Foley for me. Congrats to the Big Red cross country, girls tennis, soccer, swimming and football teams for bringing home more titles to the valley.


Best regards,

Roger “Odie” Roettger ’82


GT: Odie coached his son’s grid team to a 7-1 record (13-14 year olds). Roger ran a 1:54.70 in the 800 meters to place third at state for the Ponies as a senior. As I recall, Roger was also a crack sports writer for the Pony Express. He and his family reside in Moon Township, Pa. By the way, the Moon Tigers went down to defeat in the playoffs.


Prep football

The prep football Thole Poll: 1. Eden Prairie (9-2); 2. Wayzata (9-1); 3. Totino-Grace (11-0); 4. Lakeville North (10-1); 5. Edina (9-2); 6. Owatonna (11-0); 7. St. Thomas Academy (10-1); 8. Prior Lake (9-2); 9. Stillwater (8-2); 10, tie, Osseo (6-4) and Hutch (11-0).


In the huddle

Stillwater’s Bri Horwath has been selected to the All-Pioneer Press volleyball team. The Ponies senior outside hitter had 25 blocks this season and 254 kills. Horwath notched 81 career blocks…. Ponies all-state tennis player Natalie Phippen and Shelby Ahrendt were selected as co-Most Valuable Players by their teammates. Phippen has ben a six-time all-conference recipient who won a total of 129 career matches, including a fourth-place singles finish at state this fall. This is the third year that Phippen has been named MVP for the Ponies. She joins Savannah Johnson, Aliza Deming and Jenna Sherrick on the all-conference squad. Maggie Corman received the Chuck Anderson Scholarship Award named for my good pal. Stillwater tied Mounds View for the conference title and won Section 4AA honors during their 17-3 season. Deming, Sherrick, Hannah Quinn and Amanda Williams will captain next fall’s defending champions…. Former Ponies ace Jake Schmiesing hauled in another TD pass for St. Olaf (7-2) on Saturday in a 35-21 loss to MIAC champion St. Thomas (10-0). The Oles ended their season at 7-3…. The sage Jerry Foley and this writer enjoyed a beautiful Minnesota college football afternoon at Hamline. The stands were filled and we were practically in short sleeves. Foley was a record-setting quarterback for Hamline in the late 50s, but his Pipers (1-9) lost to Macalester (6-4) 45-21 on this sublime Saturday…. Former Pony Sara (McPherson) Carlson ’72 was elected Mayor of Alexandria by a 2-to-1 margin last week!…. Don’t tread on me, because I’ve suffered enough…. finis


Today’s rumination #592

The best destination is not a place, but a new way of looking at things.

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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]