Football: Ponies hoping to avoid letdown against Hastings

The Stillwater football team hosts Hastings in a Suburban East Conference match-up on Friday at Pony Stadium.
The Stillwater football team hosts Hastings in a Suburban East Conference match-up on Friday at Pony Stadium.

Stillwater will say goodbye to one of its oldest and most frequent rivals on the gridiron when Hastings visits Pony Stadium in Friday’s Suburban East Conference game. In a series that dates 115 years — back to 1898 — the Ponies have fashioned a 46-31-2 record in the series. Only White Bear Lake (53-38-3) has squared off against the Ponies more frequently. Hastings is scheduled to compete in the recently formed Metro East Conference starting next fall and, with the Raiders also competing in Class AAAAA, it’s unlikely they will meet again in the foreseeable future.

“Selfishly, I’m disappointed, and for the program I’m disappointed because this is one of our longest running opponents and a tradition that’s basically coming to an in the near future,” said Ponies coach Beau LaBore, who also taught and coached at Hastings for two years. “It’s disappointing because there have been some very competitive and spirited games and a number of years where things were back and forth, but that’s coming to an end. Hastings has a near and dear place in my heart and it’s nice to be able to go and compete against them, so it is bittersweet. You don’t want to see this long-standing tradition coming to an end and saying goodbye to one of the greatest places to play a football game (McNamara Stadium). It’s going to be hard to not go back there.”

9-16 spo-fb fans 2The most recent chapter in that long history was a memorable one for the Ponies as Zach Knox rushed a school record 48 times for 280 yards in last year’s 21-14 victory to clinch the conference championship. Trailing 14-13 at the time, Knox and the Ponies drove 70 yards in less than three minutes to score the winning touchdown with just 12 seconds remaining. It marked Stillwater’s eighth straight victory over the Raiders dating back to another memorable come-from-behind win in 2005. Prior to that, however, Hastings won 10 in a row against the Ponies from 1997 to 2004.

Coming off a hectic week which including their nationally televised 21-7 victory over Cretin-Derham Hall last week, the Ponies (3-0 SEC, 3-0) are hoping to remain atop the SEC standings. Hastings (1-2, 1-2) opened the season with a 20-9 victory over Forest Lake, but was beaten soundly by Cretin-Derham Hall (56-6) and Roseville (27-0) the past two weeks. The Raiders rank fifth in the conference defensively while allowing 279.0 yards per game, but are averaging just 194.3 yards on offense and are a league-worst minus-7 in turnover margin. Quarterback Brandon McCarthy has completed 15 of 46 passes (32.6 percent) for 118 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions. He also leads the team with 50 rushes for 182 yards (3.2 avg.).

“They have thrown the ball more recently than they did to start the season, but they are intent on running the football,” said LaBore, who added his primary concern remains his only team. “I think our guys are beginning to understand that this isn’t about Cretin or Hastings and it won’t be about other teams, this is really about us and if we continue to find ways to raise the bar on ourselves. We have a chance to be very successful, but if we get complacent or if we judge ourselves against our opponent then we’re not going to get to places we think we can get. It’s about us upping ourselves every day in practice.”

The Ponies have allowed a league-low 14 points combined in three games this season and rank second while allowing 258.3 yards per game. Stillwater is plus-2 on turnovers and has also been assessed just eight penalties for 65 yards. On offense, Stillwater is averaging 345.3 yards and 27 points per game. Zach Knox ranks second in the conference with 417 rushing yards on 82 attempts (5.1 avg.) with five touchdowns. Nick Wanovich is also expected to return this week and that should help lighten Knox’s load somewhat. Quarterback Trevor Tillett has completed 27 of 48 passes (56.3 percent) for 365 yards and three touchdowns while Matt Anderson has been his most frequent target with 13 catches for 142 yards (10.9 avg.) and three touchdowns.

Following last week’s big victory, the Ponies are focused on avoiding a letdown on Friday.

“On Monday we recognized how cool that experience was and how big it was to be successful against Cretin, but we put it to bed.”

Adapted flag football game on tap

The Stillwater football is sponsoring its Eighth Annual Adapted Flag Football Game on Saturday, Sept. 28 at Stillwater Junior High School’s Miller Field. Stillwater football players will join individuals currently enrolled in special education programs in Stillwater Area Public Schools, Early Childhood Family Education and Alumni are invited to participate. Spectators are also welcome. The event will be held from 1:30-3 p.m., with refreshments served following the conclusion of play.


By the numbers




  Hastings Offense Stillwater

463 Rushing 643

120 Passing 393

583 Total offense 1,036

194.3 Average 345.3


332 Rushing 202

505 Passing 573

837 Total defense 775

279.0 Average 258.3


32 First Downs 54

16-157 Penalties 8-65

-7 Turnover rating +2


SEC standings




  W L Scored Allowed

East Ridge 3 0 139 46

Mounds View 3 0 124 37

Stillwater 3 0 82 14

Roseville 2 1 61 54

Cretin-Derham Hall 1 2 75 42

Park-Cottage Grove 1 2 57 101

Woodbury 1 2 50 107

Hastings 1 2 26 92

White Bear Lake 0 3 71 112

Forest Lake 0 3 22 104


Friday’s games

Hastings at Stillwater

Park at East Ridge

Forest Lake at White Bear Lake

Woodbury at Roseville

Cretin-Derham Hall at Mounds View