After leading the Suburban East Conference in rushing and firmly establishing himself in the Stillwater record book, junior tailback Zach Knox was chosen the Most Valuable Player for the Ponies football team during Monday’s postseason awards banquet at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Stillwater.
Knox was one of four Ponies who received All-Suburban East Conference honors, a list that also includes tight end Matt Anderson, offensive lineman Peter Palecek and defensive back Brian Branch. Nick Brevitz, DJ Skie and Andrew Lammers were honorable mention all-conference selections.
The Ponies finished with a 3-6 record, including 3-5 to tie Hastings and Park for sixth place in the Suburban East Conference standings. Stillwater lost to Cretin-Derham Hall 41-0 in the Section 4AAAAAA quarterfinals. The Ponies lost sixth consecutive games to close out the season after starting with three straight victories out of the gates, including a 21-7 victory over Cretin-Derham Hall that was broadcast nationally on ESPN2.
“Our senior class set a good example for this program,” Ponies coach Beau LaBore said. “Our team suffered some tough breaks down the stretch, yet they didn’t waiver. They battled through adversity with hard work and a positive attitude. Nevertheless, those breaks have put some fire in the bellies of our underclassmen and it has been palpable in the winter workouts.”
Knox racked up 1,547 rushing yards this season on a school record 294 carries and his per game average of 171.9 yards is also a new school standard — bettering the 153.0 yards per game set by Ray Wilhelm in 1993. Knox also set the team’s single-game rushing record with 294 yards — which is also the record for total offense — against White Bear Lake, breaking the previous record of 290 rushing yards set by Pat Juhl in 1979. After rushing for 265 yards against Mounds View and 250 yards against Hastings, Knox owns four of the top six single-game rushing totals in school history.
With 411 carries for 2,161 yards (5.3 avg.), Knox could set both of those career records with another productive season a year from now.
Not surprisingly, Knox was also voted the MVP-Offense while linebacker David Peterson received the MVP-Defense Award.
Palecek, who helped pave the way for Knox and the rushing game, was named to the All-Metro Team by the Star Tribune and the All-East Metro Team by the Pioneer Press. He was also named the Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman.
Quarterback Trevor Tillett garnered the Kearney Memorial Award for his success on and off the football field.
Taylor Howe (Defense) and Jack Hamel (Offense) were named the Scout Players of the Year for the Ponies while Branch (Defense) and Cal Rorabeck (Offense) were chosen the team’s Most Improved Players. Jake McLean was the recipient of the Coaches Award and Oliver O’Keefe was chosen Mr. Weight Room.
Junior DJ Skie was selected Mr. Football for his versatility in performing well in several different roles on the team.
The Ponies coaches also presented a special Player-Coach Whistle Award to seniors Jake Olson and Ryan Peltier, whose hard work and offseason efforts were not rewarded this fall after suffering season-ending injuries before the start of the season. For Olson, who was voted a captain after a serious injuries on the first series of the year ended his season. Both players remained positive influences on the field and in the locker room.
“They were unable to play a down of football for us, but were integral to the success of our team,” LaBore said.
Also announced at the banquet is that Matt Anderson, Ryan Floen, Zach Knox, Andrew Lammers and Ian Weisbrod will serve as captains for the 2014 team.
The Stillwater players in grades 10-12 combined to serve more than 1,500 hours to the community and beyond through a variety of public service projects. The Ponies also received the Silver Academic Award from the Minnesota Football Coaches Association for the second year in a row, which means a combined grade point average of between 2.75-2.99 for their official home roster in grades 10-12.
All-Conference: Matt Anderson, Brian Branch, Zach Knox and Peter Palecek; All-Conference Honorable Mention: Nick Brevitz, DJ Skie and Andrew Lammers; Star Tribune All-Metro: Peter Palecek; Pioneer Press All-East Metro: Peter Palecek; Scout Player of the Year: Taylor Howe (Defense) and Jack Hamel (Offense); Most Improved Player: Brian Branch (Defense) and Cal Rorabeck (Offense); Coaches Award: Jake McLean; Mr. Weight Room: Oliver O’Keefe; Mr. Football: DJ Skie; Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman: Peter Palecek; Kearney Memorial Award: Trevor Tillett; Player-Coach Whistle Award: Jake Olson and Ryan Peltier; MVP Defense: David Peterson; MVP Offense: Zach Knox; Most Valuable Player: Zach Knox; Captains elect: Matt Anderson, Ryan Floen, Zach Knox, Andrew Lammers and Ian Weisbrod.