Thole: Locals enjoy great opening week for football

Behind the protection of offensive lineman Oliver O’Keefe, Ponies quarterback Trevor Tillett delivers a pass during last week’s season-opening 26-7 victory at Park-Cottage Grove. (Gazette staff photo by Stuart Groskreutz)

Behind the protection of offensive lineman Oliver O’Keefe, Ponies quarterback Trevor Tillett delivers a pass during last week’s season-opening 26-7 victory at Park-Cottage Grove. (Gazette staff photo by Stuart Groskreutz)

Ahhhh, it was a great week for the opening of prep and college football. The Big Red Ponies got off to a slow start, but finished strong for a 26-7 victory at Park-Cottage Grove.

The Wolfpack indicated from the get-go that they weren’t going to roll over and play dead for the defending SEC co-champions. Park was able to move the ball early and took a 7-donut lead when Brandyn Tulloch caught a 10-yard scoring toss from Sam Domeier.

Domeier completed 26 of 40 passes for a whopping 268 yards. In fact, Park and the Ponies each had 339 yards of total offense — which, statistically speaking, would indicate a fine offensive effort for both teams.

Park led 7-0, but the good guys ignited with three touchdowns by junior tailback Zach Knox in the second quarter to take a 19-7 lead into the locker room. Knox looks like a real warhorse as he rushed 36 times for 171 yards while scoring all four touchdowns for the good guys.

The Ponies totaled 233 yards rushing on the night for a nifty 6.4 yards per attempt. Somebody else will need to step up to reduce the demands on Knox to help balance the attack. He set an SAHS record with 48 carries last year vs. Hastings.

Quarterback Trevor Tillett completed 8 of 18 for 106 yards passing with DJ Skie and junior Matt Anderson grabbing three and five catches, respectively.

My spies tell me the Ponies were tough to run against as they yielded only 71 yards for a meager 3.0-yard average. For an opener, it was a victory that leaves the team knowing it needs to improve and that’s an ideal teaching situation for coach Beau LaBore and his staff.

I’m sure they will be more than ready for their home opener with Forest Lake (0-1) tomorrow night.

The reason that I had to rely on my spies last week is that I was at the Minnesota Gophers home opener the same night. While SAHS followed the script, the Gophers’ 51-23 win over UNLV bordered on the bizarre.

An announced crowd of 44,217 saw coach Jerry Kill’s third season get off to a winning start. Like the Ponies, Minnesota trailed heading into the second quarter. The Rebels made a game of it thanks to the passing of Nick Sherry, who was 35 of 50 for 226 yards and a pair of TDs.

In contrast, Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson was 10 for 22 for 99 yards and a touchdown, but he also led the team in rushing with 83 yards in a dozen attempts. The Rebels racked up a 419-320 edge in total offense, but the football gods were with the Gophers on this night.

The Gophers took the lead for good when Nelson hit Maxx Williams with a 10-yard scoring strike for a 16-13 lead at the half. Marcus Jones hit the seam on a 98-yard kick-off return to start the second half, leaving UNLV in shambles.

Things kept getting stranger when Ra’Shede Hageman blocked a UNLV field goal attempt with Gopher Martez Shabazz scooping it up while stepping off a 51-yard jaunt across the alumni stripes. If that’s not enough, Billy Calhoun picked off a Sherry pass for six points on an 87-yard touchdown return. I rest my case.

Next up, the Gophers travel to Las Cruces for a contest with New Mexico State, a 42-7 loser to Texas last week. Don’t forget, Kill and company are 0-1 versus the Aggies so they won’t look past this one!

Karen and I hosted a group of former North Dakota State University football players and fans to watch the national telecast (Fox Sports One) of the Kansas State-Bison football game on Friday night. The Wildcats were 13-point favorites at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan. ESPN analyst Lou Holtz picked the Bison to upset K-State based on NDSU’s two consecutive national FCS titles, even though the Wildcats were the defending Big 12 champs.

There were plenty of reasons to smile for this group of NDSU fans after the Bison knocked off defending Big 12 champion Kansas State to open the season last Friday night. Revelers included, from left, Todd Fultz, George Thole, Stu Helgason, Dale Hinkle and Rev. Don Fultz.

There were plenty of reasons to smile for this group of NDSU fans after the Bison knocked off defending Big 12 champion Kansas State to open the season last Friday night. Revelers included, from left, Todd Fultz, George Thole, Stu Helgason, Dale Hinkle and Rev. Don Fultz.

This game was so close and exciting that our group felt ill when the Bison fell behind 21-7 in the third quarter. We knew NDSU would make a gallant effort down the stretch with tailback Sam Ojuri (127 yards), John Crockett of Totino-Grace, linebacker Grant Olson of Wayzata, DB Marcus Williams of Hopkins and OT Billy Turner of Mounds View. Most of the NDSU players are from Minnesota!

They did take over big time in the final quarter as quarterback Brock Jensen led his team on a 12-play, 75-yard TD drive and the Thundering Herd was taking over. Next, they kicked a 41-yard field goal to pull within 21-17 and then went on an eight-minute, 18-play drive covering 80 yards capped by Jensen scoring from the three with 28 seconds remaining.

The game drew 53,351 fans, which was the second largest in K-State history.

I almost forgot, but the Vikings beat the Tennessee Titans 24-23 in a preseason game. The Ponies, Gophers, Bison and Vikings outrushed their opponents so I’m not surprised at the outcomes.

 

In the huddle

Former Vikings great Jeff Siemon will headline the M.V.P. (Men. Value. Purpose) even at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater on Sept. 24. Siemon was an All-American linebacker at Stanford University and played in two Rose Bowl games before graduating in 1972. He earned the Dick Butkus Award his senior year as the nation’s top linebacker. Siemon was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006. The Vikings drafted him in the first round where he played until his retirement in 1982. During that time, he played in three Super Bowls and four Pro Bowls. Also on tap for the festivities is Ponies head football coach Beau LaBore with an update on his team. The evening kicks off in the Garden Room at 6 p.m., and includes a stadium fare meal for the sports fans. Tickets sell for $20 per copy with on-line registration available at https://trinitylc.sportngin.com/register/form/307639129…. Former Ponies and Macalester soccer ace Mollie Windmiller ’99 was married to former Scot’s football player Brandon Dixon last May. The couple resides in South Minneapolis. Molly is the CEO of Windmiller Design Group. I should also mention that Windmiller was the homecoming queen during her prep days at SAHS…. The last time I looked the SAHS girls’ tennis team was off to a 5-1 start with Savannah Johnson, Aliza Deming, Shelby Anderson and Lexie Sherrick holding the singles spots with Jenna Sherrick, Hannah Quinn, Remi Larson, Emma Germundson and Amanda Williams doing likewise in the doubles. The Ponies placed second in the Len McGuire Invitational a few weeks back. Jenna Sherrick and Quinn placed first at No. 1 doubles in the eight-team field. Deming was runner-up at No. 2 singles with three different teams accomplishing the same at third doubles…. You can’t ask more of a man than give all that there is within his span…. Ex-Ponies playing football this fall in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference include: Dan Buege and Austin Conery at Augsburg, Tony Nettleton at Bethel, Andrew Rose and Sam Brynestad at St. John’s and Sebastian Borges and Alex Burback at St. Thomas. The MIAC has been the most popular destination for Ponies, but other conferences have also emerged. Evan and Garrett Ostrom play at Northwestern (St. Paul), Charlie Register at UW-River Falls, Seth Tompkins and Brad Voeller at UW-Stout, Zach Jelinek at St. Scholastica, Derrick Thingvold at Winona State, kicker Danny Laudet at Virginia Union in Richmond and Nate Ricci at UM-Duluth. That brings the grand total to 16…. Together we build character, courage and integrity…. finis

 

Today’s rumination #632

Real integrity is doing the right thing even though nobody will know.

• • • •

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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