OAK PARK HEIGHTS — Despite wrapping up the Suburban East Conference title earlier this week, the Stillwater boys’ soccer team played like a team eager to prove itself all over again while dispatching Park 3-0 on Thursday at Pony Stadium.
The eighth-ranked Ponies (8-0-1 SEC, 11-2-3), who finished five points in front of runner-up East Ridge (6-1-2, 11-1-2) and six points ahead of third-place Roseville (6-2-1, 9-4-3), outscored their nine conference opponents by a combined 24-1.
This marks Stillwater’s ninth championship in the 13-year history of the SEC and is the program’s 18th conference title since 1985 (two in the St. Paul Suburban and seven in the Twin Cities Suburban).
“We spoke about treating this game like an elimination game. That’s how I wanted the boys to approach this game and it was a statement game for us,” said first-year Ponies coach Jake Smothers. “I’m very proud of the effort that we gave today.”
A letdown seemed plausible with the conference championship in hand and the Wolfpack (3-4-2, 5-9-2) coming off a victory over Roseville on Tuesday, but the Ponies were focused in their final tune-up before the Section 4AA, which will be seeded on Sunday.
“I thought we played one of our better games of the season,” Smothers said.
Senior defender Charlie Farrington scored his first-ever varsity goal on a penalty kick in the first half to give the Ponies a 1-0 lead.
Sam Keran increased the lead with a goal in the 62nd minute while freshman Colman Farrington pushed the lead to 3-0 with eight minutes remaining in the game on an assist by Max Stevenson.
“We were tactical in the attack, aggressive and creative,” Smothers said. “It was one of those games where we wanted to assert ourselves and regain some of the confidence as far as attacking and scoring goals and we were able to do that tonight.”
Making his first start of the season in place of Erik Meitz, who was resting a nagging shoulder injury, John Talbot made five saves to record the shutout in goal for the Ponies, who have allowed just nine goals in 16 games this season, including 10 shutouts.
“John made some very nice saves,” Smothers said. “We did a nice job of keeping everything in front of us, but when they created some chances they created some good ones and it did require John to do his part.”
The Ponies, who have not lost to anyone since Sept. 7 and are unbeaten in their last 32 conference games, outshot Park 19-10.
“It was a very good game and a nice cap to our conference schedule,” Smothers said. “We’re excited for sections.”
Park 0 0 — 0
Stillwater 1 2 — 3
St — NA — Charlie Farrington (penalty kick)
St — 62:00 — Sam Keran (unassisted)
St — 72:00 — Colman Farrington (Max Stevens)
Shots — Par: 10; St: 19.
Corner kicks — Par: 2; St: 7.
Goalie saves — Par: NA; St: John Talbot 5.