ST. PAUL — Two trends continued on Friday night after the Stillwater football team was unable to halt either one.
Cretin-Derham Hall blanked the Ponies 41-0 in the Section 4AAAAAA playoffs at O’Shaugnessy Stadium, marking the sixth loss in a row to close out a once-promising season for Stillwater (3-5 SEC, 3-6). The Raiders, meanwhile, have won six in a row since falling to the Ponies in a memorable Week 3 match-up in front of a national audience courtesy of ESPN2.
The third-seeded Raiders (7-2) will travel to Lakeville North from Section 5AAAAAA for a cross-over game on Friday, with the winner advancing to the eight-team state tournament.
Stillwater managed just 141 yards in the return engagement with the Raiders, who jumped out to a 27-0 halftime lead and remained in firm control throughout.
“This is a huge disappointment, but far more important than this reality is that we love them and care for them. We know they’re hurting, and it hurts, but I’m proud of them,” Ponies coach Beau LaBore said. “Despite the fact that we have experienced so many adverse situations — a couple of overtime losses in the middle of the season and three games down the stretch where a few plays here or there the outcome could have been different — despite all that stuff, these guys came back and gave us a pretty good effort at practice and I think that says something about who they are. They stayed committed.”
These were most certainly not the same teams that met on Sept. 13 and the outcome reflected it.
“We are getting healthy again. It sounds goofy this time of year, but we are,” Raiders coach Mike Scanlon said.
Running back Blake Banham was dinged up in that previous meeting and finished with just 54 yards on 16 carries, but two of his three touchdowns went that far on Friday as he totaled 192 yards on 17 rushing attempts. Receiver Eli Wright was not even suited up for that earlier meeting — or any of the eight regular season games — but he also made a huge impact while hauling in six catches for 123 yards and one touchdown.
Banham and Wright gained all of their yards in the first half as the Raiders piled up 335 yards before the intermission, compared to just 83 first-half yards for Stillwater.
“It comes down to they moved a little faster than we did and they hit a little harder than we did,” LaBore said. “We didn’t execute as well as we’re capable of and, against a good team that’s playing well, the game can get away from you pretty quick. We usually play more physical and we usually execute better. We didn’t block as well as we usually do and we didn’t tackle like we usually do and Cretin came out and played pretty well.
“They ran and threw what they’ve done all year on film, but they did it a little faster and a little better than they had in Week 3. They looked crisper tonight than they have on film over the last month.”
Stillwater held the Raiders on their first possession and Joey Freichels intercepted Ricardo Johnson in the end zone to stop another early series, but Cretin-Derham Hall scored on its next four drives in the first half to build a 27-0 lead. The Ponies were unable to keep pace while notching just three first downs in the first half.
The interceptions was one of the few mistakes for Johnson, who completed 13 of 20 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns.
“Offensively, they didn’t do anything we hadn’t prepared for, and defensively, they were lined up where we thought they’d be lined up,” LaBore said. “The fact of the matter is they moved quicker and they moved with more shoulder pads. We kind of got out-padded, and on top of it, we had some problems executing.”
The offensive output came from a team that ranked seventh in the Suburban East Conference in scoring and eighth at about 300 yards per game during the regular season.
“This is as well as we have played on offense,” Scanlon said. “When Blake Banham is playing we’re a different offense. He’s good. And the defense is playing more stunts and with quickness as opposed to power, which is what I think got us into trouble last time when they were able to just power us and hang onto the ball for extended periods of time.”
The Ponies committed just three turnovers through their first seven games this season, but after coughing up five interceptions and a fumble in a Week 8 loss to White Bear Lake they also fumbled the ball away four times against Cretin-Derham Hall, including three times in the second half.
“They’re still a good team,” Scanlon said. “I really like their running back, their tight end is good and these guys are tough. We beat a good team. We played well on both side of the ball for a change, it wasn’t just the defense carrying us.”
Zach Knox finished with 97 yards on 24 attempts for Stillwater, his second lowest rushing total during a season in which he set a school record while averaging 171.9 yards per game — bettering the 153 yards per game by Ray Wilhelm during the 1993 season. Only Wilhelm (1,843) and Brian Kochendorfer (1,688) have rushed for more yards for the Ponies in a season than Knox, who finished with 1,547 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Alec Hill added six carries for 21 yards and quarterback Trevor Tillett completed three of eight passes for 46 yards.
Appearances might suggest the previous loss to Stillwater in front of a national audience helped spur Cretin-Derham Hall’s turnaround this season, but Scanlon isn’t buying it.
“I don’t know, I’m not a big fan on life lessons coming out of disappointing losses,” the coach said. “You feel like the guy who had his face painted for the big game and then you had to walk across the parking lot after you lost, that’s how it felt.”
Regardless, the Raiders played inspired football on Friday with their season on the line.
Linebacker Ian Weisbrod and defensive lineman Ryan Floen each finished with five solo tackles to lead the Ponies on Friday.
Stillwater will hold its postseason awards banquet at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church on Monday, Dec. 2.
Stillwater 0 0 0 0 — 0
C-D Hall 14 13 7 7 — 41
C-DH — Eli Wright 29 pass from Ricardo Johnson (Sam Clark kick) 4:35.
C-DH — Blake Banham 53 run (Clark kick) 1:12.
C-DH — Banham 3 run (Clark kick) 9:38.
C-DH — Banham 62 run (kick failed) 5:04.
C-DH — Tony Adamle 6 pass from Johnson (Clark kick) 5:36.
C-DH — Brian Lankford-Johnson 7 run (Clark kick) 10:17.
First downs 6 19
Rushes-yards 34-95 36-268
Passing yards 46 213
Total yards 141 481
Comp-Att-Int. 3-8-0 13-20-1
Fumbles/lost 5/4 0/0
Penalties/yards 5/39 9/80
Punts/avg. 5/33.6 2/39.5
Rushing — St: Zach Knox 24-97, Alec Hill 6-21, Joey Costa 1-(-2) and Trevor Tillett 3-(-21); C-DH: Blake Banham 17-192, Brian Lankford-Johnson 9-68, Brison White 4-17, Dmitri Walker 4-13, Ryan Moynagh 1-4 and Sam Clark 1-(-26).
Passing (com-att-yds-td-int) — St: Trevor Tillett 3-8-46-0-0; C-DH: Ricardo Johnson 13-20-213-2-1.
Receiving — St: Matt Anderson 1-28, DJ Skie 1-18 and Brooks Carroll 1-0; C-DH: Eli Wright 6-123, Aitor Flood 3-45, Brison White 1-28, Matt Miller 2-11 and Tony Adamle 1-6.
Kickoff returns — St: Brooks Carroll 5-110 and DJ Skie 1-13; C-DH: none.
Punt returns — St: none; C-DH: Max Jackson 1-5.
Interceptions — St: Joey Freichels 1-0; C-DH: none.
Fumble recoveries — St: none; C-DH: Ryan Bohland 2-0, Chris Fichtel 1-3 and George Hottinger 1-0.
Contact Stuart Groskreutz at firstname.lastname@example.org
Class 6A playoffs
Rosemount 49, Farmington 0
Eastview 42, Park 14
Lakeville North 31, Burnsville 0
Lakeville South 10, Eagan 0
East Ridge 54, Forest Lake 14
M. View 14, WB Lake 13 (OT)
C-D Hall 41, Stillwater 0
Roseville 49, Woodbury 6
Maple Grove 27, Anoka 7
Totino-Grace 51, C. Rapids 23
Centennial 17, Blaine 11
Osseo 42, Champlin Park 0
E. Prairie 39, R. Armstrong 12
Minnetonka 21, Edina 16
Wayzata 35, Hopkins 7
Prior Lake 47, Shakopee 7
Friday, Nov. 1
Section 3 vs. Section 4
C-D Hall at Lakeville North
Mounds View at Rosemount
Lakeville South at Roseville
Eastview at East East Ridge
Section 5 vs. Section 6
Prior Lake at Osseo
Minnetonka at Maple Grove
Totino-Grace at Wayzata
Centennial at Eden Prairie
At TCF Bank Stadium, Nov. 7
At Metrodome, Nov. 8
At Metrodome on Nov. 14-15
At Metrodome on Nov. 29