Karen and I were on vacation in February so my columns were called in last month. We did our annual trek down the west coast with stops in Seattle, Waldport and Klamath Falls, Ore., and finally my hometown of Petaluma, Calif.
The weather was overcast in Washington, as usual, slightly better in Oregon and warm in Petaluma, but each stop was maybe a pinch better than Stillwater in the weather department.
When we arrived back in town, the driveway was clean as a whistle thanks to former Ponies all-conference football and track standout Brian Albertson of Albertson Construction in Stillwater.
Albee was one of my favorite athletes in the late 1970s. He was a hard-nosed defensive end for the 1978 Ponies (10-1, SPSC and TCS champs, state semifinalists). He led the team with nine quarterback sacks and I also coached him as a first-year pole vaulter that spring when he cleared 13-3 and placed second at conference and regions.
He and his wife, Tracy, reside in Stillwater with sons Darek, a sophomore baseball player at the U of St. Thomas, Stephen, a junior rawhider for the Ponies, and Cory, a football, basketball and baseball freshman at Stillwater Junior High.
I missed some exciting SAHS basketball games when we were on the west coast, so good pal Gary Kriesel and I took in the Cretin game on Friday night and it was a dandy.
The surging Ponies prevailed 64-59 to extend their season record to 20-6, SAHS finished third in the conference behind co-champs Woodbury (22-4) and Roseville (21-5).
The game got off to an unusual start when the locals were charged with a technical foul and the Raiders were off to a 2-zip lead before the clock started. I asked several basketball icons among the crowd what the infraction was and I got multiple choice answers, but it turns out a dunk in warm-ups was the culprit.
The way the game was going throughout the evening, I was hoping it wouldn’t become a factor and it didn’t. Cretin, after losing to the good guys earlier in the season, was determined, but so were the Ponies and their Posse.
Tony Lennox scored three first-half baskets from downtown for nine of his 11 points as SAHS led 34-26 at the break.
The second half saw both teams up and down the floor like racehorses, but this night would belong to the Ponies of coach Randy Jordan.
Led by 6-foot-5 Joe Quinn, who had 19 points to go with his spirited play, the locals ended the regular season in fine fashion. Andrew Duxbury, the newest member of the school’s 1,000-point club, added 14 points to his impressive career total which now stands at 1,052. A little birdie tells me that Duxbury will play at UW-Eau Claire next year and Quinn will play football at St. Thomas after leading the 8-2 conference football co-champs in receiving.
The Raider defense couldn’t stop Aaron Romportl from scoring 11 points, but they managed to hold sophomore scoring ace Matt Anderson to a single point. Rounding out the scoring were Sam Lagus with four and Joel Malwitz and Chad Schlosser with two each.
Somerset is well managed
Somerset, Wis., must be on the right track it has two former SAHS football players serving the citizens at city hall.
Jeff Johnson, a defensive lineman on Stillwater’s 1975 state champion (12-0) grid team, is the four-term Village President — and that translates to Mayor as I see it.
Also helping run that fine city is former Ponies offensive tackle Greg Sayers of the 1990 Ponies (10-3, section champ, state semifinalist), who is serving his second term on the Somerset City Council. Sayers is married to Johnson’s sister Jennifer ’92, who was a Big Red diver for coach Brian Luke.
Today’s Sports Trivia
Who was the culprit behind figure skater Nancy Kerrigan getting whacked in the knee 2 1/2 months before the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway? Where did Kerrigan place? What year? And for the big prize, who took home the gold medal?
Get all four correct and you’ll get a high five.
The most interesting names among the recent college football recruiting class must include: Nebraska LB Courtney Love and OL Chango Kondolo; Clemson DE Ebenezer Ogundeko; Maryland DB Will Likely; Alabama DE Dee Liner and RB Altee Tenpenny; and West Ginny RB Dreamius Smith.
In the huddle
As a follow up to last week’s column on college athletic scholarships and National Letters of Intent, I thought I should get back up to speed. I had previously reported that Pony gridders Nate Ricci and Derrick Thingvold had signed with UM-Duluth and Winona State, respectively. Maddie Schaak, the Ponies’ “Schaak Attack” soccer player signed with Indiana State, Claire Rutscher will swim at Vermont and Sara Bustad will play hockey at Minnesota State-Mankato. Getting up to date, we find two distance running stars in the persons of Wayde Hall and Eric Colvin heading to Gopher-land and the Big Ten (er, 12) competition. Dana Almquist will play women’s hockey at St. Norbert’s College in DePere, Wis. Soccer player Alexandra Boucher will be heading to Fargo and the land of the Bison, also known as the “Princeton of the Prairie” North Dakota State University. Softball pitcher Rachel Rhode will play at Lake Land College in Illinois. Junior lacrosse player Sydney Evensen has made a verbal commitment to Colorado (Boulder)…. Former Ponies defensive back John deLeon was a recipient of the President’s Award from Lakeview Hospital recently for his laboratory work. John started a few games for our 1990 grid outfit (10-3 section champs, state semifinalists). Another Stillwater good guy Dr. Kevin Bjork was named the Wilber Thomas Community Service Award winner for 2012…. Answer to Today’s Sports Trivia Question: The culprit was skater Tonya Harding, later convicted of hindering the prosecution in the Kerrigan attack. Kerrigan placed second to receive a silver medal and Harding finished eighth in the 1994 Winter Olympics. The gold medal winner was Oksana Baiul of Ukraine. I followed this closely at the time because it had more drama than any other sporting event that year…. Together we build character, courage and loyalty…. finis
Today’s rumination #608
When things go wrong, don’t go with them.
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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: firstname.lastname@example.org