Thole: Ponies, Raiders take different paths to rematch

Much has changed since the Stillwater football team celebrated its 21-7 victory over Cretin-Derham Hall in Week 3. The Ponies have lost five in a row while Cretin-Derham Hall has reeled off five straight victories entering Friday’s Section 4AAAAAA game at the University of St. Thomas. (Gazette staff photos by Stuart Groskreutz)

Much has changed since the Stillwater football team celebrated its 21-7 victory over Cretin-Derham Hall in Week 3. The Ponies have lost five in a row while Cretin-Derham Hall has reeled off five straight victories entering Friday’s Section 4AAAAAA game at the University of St. Thomas. (Gazette staff photos by Stuart Groskreutz)

Earlier this fall when the Stillwater Ponies tangled with the Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders the good guys prevailed 21-7 before the ESPN2 cameras at the University of St. Thomas.

Stillwater (3-5) looked magnificent on that nationally televised Friday night game, which brought out the very best from coach Beau LaBore’s troops. The locals played with energy that was felt by every Big Red Ponies fan in the stands — or living room.

Since that historical night, the two teams have traveled different roads to tomorrow night’s rematch at the same venue. The Ponies are trying to right the ship after five straight losses while the Raiders (6-2) have enjoyed five consecutive wins since Sept. 13.

Looking back to the first meeting, which was a signature win for the 2013 Ponies, I thought we were on our way to a conference title. The Ponies defense that is currently giving up more than 360 yards per game bent but didn’t break while holding Cretin’s offense to just seven points. History can repeat itself — it happens all the time.

Iron man Zach Knox broke Pat Juhl’s single-game rushing mark of 290 yards set in 1979 with 294 yards in last week’s loss to White Bear Lake. Knox is tougher than a mule skinner with his conference-leading 1,450 yards on a remarkable 270 carries. That’s an average of 33.7 carries per game so Iron Man applies to this young man.

10-24 spo-fb fansWhen you have a running back with these kinds of numbers, you must have a big, sound o-line in front of him. I also think that quarterback Trevor Tillett is having a fine year, in spite of last week’s five picks vs. the Bears. Tillett operates efficiently and is a very capable passer while Matt Anderson is a top-notch receiver. We are good to go on offense.

Defense might be another story if you put your money on statistics, but the Big Red D was awesome against the Raiders last time with the likes of Mitch Schertz, Keith Parendo and Ian Weisbrod, to name a few.

I think the Ponies can prevail if they put their woes behind them and never lose sight of the victory. Just think, this is the start of a new season and I bet Cretin has some doubts.

There are 35 seniors on this Ponies team who have given us lots of thrills — so give it your very best and don’t sweat the rest. Go Big Red!!

 

Gophers get first big win

The Golden Gophers (5-2) out-gutted Northwestern (4-3) 20-17 last weekend for their first Big Ten victory. For the life of me I can’t understand why the Gophers staff seems to be convinced that redshirt freshman Mitch Leidner is a better quarterback than sophomore Phil Nelson.

Give me a break, Leidner and the Gophers were three-and-out on their first three possessions. When Nelson was inserted, he responded by completing 9 of 13 passes for 112 yards and a TD.

Leidner had 48 yards of total offense, so I rest my case.

Nelson gives the locals the best chance to upset Nebraska (5-1) this week. The Gophers defense is formidable as they blocked more passes than Wilt Chamberlain.

I was confused by the Gophers clock management towards the end of the first half, but apparently they only had their hearts set on a field goal. It didn’t work.

You have to take your hats off to coach Jerry Kill and his wife Rebecca for making a Saturday morning jaunt to Evansville. That had to be exhausting.

In Shooter’s column on Sunday, he referred to Kill’s halftime talk to his Gophers, telling them they were better than they think they are and to go out in the second half and win the game and have fun. They certainly did.

That was sage advice for the Maroon and Gold — ditto for the Stillwater Ponies.

 

Today’s sports trivia

Name the two former Ponies all-state football players who went on to become starters and vested players on NFL teams? Here is a hint, both played at the same university, played in Super Bowls and were early inductees into the St. Croix Valley Sports Hall of Fame. This should be easy if you are any kind of Ponies grid fan.

 

In the huddle

Four-sport athlete Trevor Eder-Zdechlik, currently a freshman football player at Oak-Land Junior High School, was diagnosed with Leukemia (CML) on Oct. 5. CML is a

Trevor Eder-Zdechlik

Trevor Eder-Zdechlik

rare form of Leukemia in children. E-Z, as he is called by his friends, also competes in basketball, baseball and hockey. A  fund has been set up for Trevor at Lake Elmo State Bank: Team EZ, Lake Elmo Bank, P.O. Box 857, Lake Elmo, MN 55042. His Caring Bridge site is www.caringbridge.org/visit/trevorez…. Answer to Today’s Sports Trivia: Bob Nelson ’71 played for the Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders and earned a pair of Super Bowl rings with the Raiders as a starting linebacker. Bill Barnett ’74 played six years with the Miami Dolphins, where he was an original member of the “Killer Bees” Dolphins defense. Both Nelson and Barnett were all-state players for Stillwater and played college ball at the University of Nebraska…. Where there is a will, I want to be in it…. finis

 

Today’s rumination #639

Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important.

• • • •

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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