ARDEN HILLS — Working overtime has not paid off for the Stillwater football team.
Mounds View rallied from a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter and overtook the Ponies for a 41-34 Suburban East Conference triumph in double overtime on Friday at Mustang Stadium.
It was the second straight overtime loss for the Ponies (3-2 SEC, 3-2), who were unable to hold a 28-point lead in the second half while falling to Hastings 35-34 in overtime a week earlier.
A victory would have returned the Ponies to first place in the conference following East Ridge’s 10-7 loss to Cretin-Derham Hall, but it was Mounds View (4-1, 4-1) which joins the Raptors (4-1, 4-1) and Stillwater’s homecoming opponent this week Roseville (4-1, 4-1) atop the league standings.
“We’re disappointed we didn’t find a way to finish that out,” Ponies coach Beau LaBore said. “We played well to the end and the most important thing for us is that we have to take the lessons we can learn from that game and keep plugging along. Adversity like this can be one of the best things that happens to us going forward, but not if we feel sorry for ourselves or go into the fourth quarter going here we go again. That would be problematic.”
The Ponies are just a few plays — on offense or defense — away from being undefeated, but have instead dropped consecutive games for the first time since 2007 when they started the season 1-3.
Friday’s outcome was another nail-biter in the recent history of this rivalry.
“It was gut-wrenching, but we played real well against a good opponent and did a lot of really nice things,” LaBore said. “It wasn’t nearly as dreadful as the week before.”
“Great football game,” Mounds View coach Jim Galvin added. “It’s been like this for years. The Ponies have a very good football team and we have a good football team. Both teams played very hard and we got a break at the end.”
Known more for its grind-it-out rushing attack, Mounds View also created its own good fortune through an effective passing game and added a few big plays to rally in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 27-14 with less than six minutes remaining, the Mustangs used a 68-yard run by Sola Olateju to set up a 3-yard scoring plunge by Spencer Stueve to pull within 27-20 with 5:53 remaining.
“We had big plays in the running and passing game,” Galvin said. “Big plays swing the game more than anything, whether it be turnovers or a big play offensively. They swing the game more than anything else and we made our share of them tonight.”
After pulling within six points midway through the fourth, Mounds View allowed just one first down before stopping the Ponies on the ensuing drive to take over at its own 20 with 2:51 remaining. Quarterback Joe Fredrickson completed five of seven passes on the drive, including a 32-yard scoring pass that 6-foot-3 Tucker Gran plucked over the top of a Ponies defensive back in the front-right corner of the end zone to tie the game at 27-all after the extra-point kick.
“Give Mounds View credit, too,” LaBore said. “They are a ball-control, run-oriented team, but we’ve seen twice in the last three years that when they’ve needed two-minute offense they’ve made big plays to give them a chance to win. You have to give them credit, but this comes back to us. We’re a good enough team to win these last two games, but we haven’t finished. As much as they made some plays, we had more than enough opportunities to finish this out.”
Ponies running back Zach Knox, who delivered another epic performance while racking up 265 yards on 45 attempts, scored from 1 yard out on second down to provide a 34-27 lead in the first overtime.
Mounds View answered to tie the game after Ryan Kaczynski’s 7-yard touchdown pass from Fredrickson on third down.
The Mustangs scored quickly in the second overtime as fullback Matt Hunt powered in from 4 yards out. Knox carried three times down to the 3-yard line on Stillwater’s opportunity with the ball, but a Trevor Tillett pass on fourth down fell incomplete — setting off a wild celebration for Mounds View’s overflow homecoming crowd and leaving stunned silence on Stillwater’s side of the field.
“I think there’s a lot of things to come away from this game realizing that we are a good team and we did a lot of things well, but we have to play four quarters and we have to finish,” LaBore said. “When we have opportunities to finish the games we have to find a way to finish, whether it’s on offense, defense or special teams.”
After missing a 30-yard field goal on its first drive of the game, Stillwater took advantage of strong starting field position to take a 7-0 lead on Knox’s 3-yard touchdown run with 2:32 remaining in the first quarter.
The Ponies regained possession and chewed up more than seven minutes while driving 65 yards to set up a 4-yard scoring pass from Tillett to tight end Matt Anderson with five minutes remaining in the first half to build a 14-0 advantage.
Mounds View answered with an 80-yard scoring drive capped by Chance Camahan’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Jeremiah Bonde with less than a minute remaining before halftime.
Mounds View, which outgained the Ponies 402-365 in the game, pulled even at 14-all on its first possession of the second half when Hunt scored from 4 yards out.
Stillwater answered to take a 20-14 lead when Knox scampered for a 16-yard touchdown three minutes remaining in the third.
The Ponies appeared to seize momentum after Brian Branch recovered a Mounds View fumble near midfield and the offense turned that into points seven plays later when Tillett scored on a quarterback sneak from 1 yard out for a 27-14 lead.
That set the stage for Mounds View’s comeback as the Ponies were unable to gain enough first downs or kill enough time off the clock.
Following his performance on Friday, Knox continues to make an impact on the Stillwater record book. He now owns three of the five highest single-game rushing totals in school history after gaining 265 yards against the Mustangs. Pat Juhl still holds the record with 290 rushing yards on just 17 carries — a whopping 17.1 avg. — but Knox has the second- (280 vs. Hastings in 2012), fourth- (265 on Friday) and fifth-highest (250 vs. Hastings on Sept. 20) totals.
The workhorse leads the conference with 932 rushing yards on 163 attempts, which is 55 more carries than anyone else in the league.
“The second half we saw a couple of key points to finish it out where you can’t take him off the field,” said LaBore, who said he is trying to cut down on some of that workload. “He’s kind of his own worst enemy in that he can handle it because he’s just tough. This is an offense you can showcase a guy like that and he doesn’t take that many solid hits. He’s slippery and he knows how to avoid hits and get out of situations where he’s going to take a big hit.”
Defensively, linebacker Andrew Lammers led the Ponies with nine solo tackles and three assists while Mark Houle and Caleb Fick added six solo tackles apiece.
Stillwater 7 7 6 7 7 0 — 34
Mounds View 0 7 7 13 7 7 — 41
St — Zach Knox 3 run (Charlie Styrbicki kick) 2:32.
St — Matt Anderson 4 pass from Trevor Tillett (Styrbicki kick) 5:08.
MV — Jeremiah Bonde 21 pass from Chance Camahan (Donovan Blatz kick) :48.
MV — Matt Hunt 4 run (Blatz kick) 5:39.
St — Knox 16 run (kick failed) 3:00.
St — Tillett 1 run (Styrbicki kick) 10:25.
MV — Spencer Stueve 3 run (kick failed) 5:53.
MV — Tucker Gran 32 pass from Joe Fredrickson (Blatz kick) :31.
St — Knox 1 run (Styrbicki kick).
MV — Ryan Kaczynski 7 pass from Fredrickson (Blatz kick).
MV — Hunt 4 run (Blatz kick).
First downs 21 20
Rushes-yards 52-276 43-243
Passing yards 89 159
Total yards 365 402
Comp-Att-Int. 9-16-0 11-17-0
Fumbles/lost 0/0 2/1
Penalties/yards 4/35 3/30
Punts/avg. 3/34.7 2/41.5
Rushing — St: Zach Knox 45-265, Alec Hill 2-12, Nick Wanovich 2-4, team 1-0 and Trevor Tillett 2-(-5); MV: Sola Olateju 12-99, Joe Janey 9-68, Matt Hunt 12-49, Spencer Stueve 6-31, Connor Stamper 2-9 and Chance Camahan 2-(-13).
Passing (com-att-yds-td-int) — St: Trevor Tillett 9-16-89-1-0; MV: Joe Fredrickson 6-9-81-2-0 and Chance Camahan 5-8-78-1-0.
Receiving — St: Alec Hill 3-36, DJ Skie 2-27, Matt Anderson 3-25 and Charlie Haumerson 1-1; MV: Tucker Gran 4-80, Jeremiah Bonde 3-42, Ryan Kaczynski 2-23, Joe Janey 1-11 and Spencer Stueve 1-3.
Kickoff returns — St: DJ Skie 1-16 and Zach Knox 1-14; MV: Connor Stamper 3-52.
Punt returns — St: Zach Knox 1-26 and DJ Skie 1-11; MV: none.
Interceptions — St: none; MV: none.
Fumble recoveries — St: Brian Branch 1-0; MV: none.