OAK PARK HEIGHTS — Stymied on offense for much of the night, Cretin-Derham Hall used a variety of big plays to undermine Stillwater in a 33-7 East Metro sub-district football victory on Friday, Oct. 6 at Stillwater Area High School.
It was the fifth straight victory in the series for the Raiders (4-0 EM, 4-2), whose most recent loss to Stillwater came in a nationally televised game in 2013. The victory helps Cretin-Derham Hall maintain a one-game lead over Roseville in the sub-district standings.
The loss also halted a two-game winning streak for the Ponies (2-3, 2-4), who are unbeaten on the road, but have lost all four of home games this season.
Stillwater limited the Raiders to just 29 yards from scrimmage in the first half, but committed two turnovers in Cretin-Derham Hall territory.
The Raiders’ first score was set up by 60-yard fumble return by Matthew Cunningham down to the Stillwater 3-yard line. Troy Underwood, who led the Raiders with 12 rushes for 94 yards, punched it in from two yards out for a 7-0 lead three minutes into the game.
Stillwater evened the score with five minutes remaining in the first half as quarterback Mark Roettger capped a 16-play, 75-yard drive by plowing into the end zone from seven yards out. Tyler Cullen booted the extra-point kick.
The Ponies were also moving the ball late in the first half, but an incomplete pass, fumbled snap and a sack stymied those efforts.
“We controlled the ball by and large, despite the fact that we were our own worst enemy to start the game with penalties and a big turnover,” Stillwater coach Beau LaBore said.
It was a dramatically different first half for the Raiders, who jumped on East Ridge for a 29-0 halftime lead in their biggest win of the season the previous week.
“Last week it was the exact opposite for us,” Raiders coach Brooks Bollinger said. “We made a ton of plays early and had the momentum and we were rolling. This week they did a great job and shut us down. We just kept getting behind the sticks and couldn’t overcome it and it was due to them playing great defense.”
The Raiders seized control in the third quarter while shutting down Stillwater’s offense and taking advantage of some big plays to turn the tide. The Ponies managed just 47 yards and three first downs in the second half, which was played under a light drizzle.
Cretin-Derham Hall swarmed Ponies punter Mason Schwerzler for a block that Anthony Czech scooped up and ran 13 yards for a touchdown with 9:20 remaining in the third.
“We have had a couple of problems on punt early in the season and tonight we didn’t do a very good job on punt,” LaBore said. “Our guys fell asleep on punt again and it hurt us really bad. I’m more concerned about the fact that we didn’t take care of the football and we shot ourselves in the foot with penalties and we didn’t pick up our defense. The defense played great and we needed to pick ourselves up a little bit more on offense and special teams.”
Then on Stillwater’s next possession, Matthew Cunningham forced a Roettger fumble that Charlie Dennis returned 59 yards for a touchdown to provide a 19-7 lead.
“It just took us a while to crack that code and thankfully our special teams and defense stepped up and played huge,” Bollinger said. “The defense and special teams bailed us out tonight.”
The Raiders finished with 144 return yards on fumbles, an interception and a blocked punt, which wasn’t far off their 184 yards from scrimmage.
“This is plain and simple high school football,” LaBore said. “Almost always a high school football game probably traces itself back to turnovers, special teams touchdowns or defensive touchdowns. We have a razor thin margin of error in every game, but it gets way thinner against a team like Cretin which is easily the biggest, fastest and most athletic team that we’ve played this year. It’s how that score gets lopsided like that — and we’re incredibly disappointed that we couldn’t make some simple plays.
“At least two or three turnovers tonight were caused by our inability to make an easy play. We didn’t take care of the football, and that’s very disappointing.”
A short punt by Stillwater set the Raiders up at midfield and Underwood struck quickly on the next play while racing 51 yards for a touchdown to increase the lead to 26-7 — yet another big play for Cretin-Derham Hall.
“We don’t have a whole lot of room for error and we made some catastrophic mistakes,” LaBore said. “It’s especially disappointing on a night when our defense — outside of a 50-yard run that shouldn’t have been a 50 yard run because we had guys there to make a tackle, and probably an 80-yard drive in the fourth quarter — our defense absolutely did outstanding against a team that has moved the ball a lot and has put up a lot of points.
“Two or three plays are going to show that they ran the ball well and, in reality, we hung in there and did a good job.”
Returning to the field after missing the past few games, senior Mason Green led the Ponies with 22 rushes for 49 yards. Roettger completed 8 of 22 passes for 68 yards. Four of those completions went to Matthew McGinley for 23 yards while Adam Knapp caught two passes for 19 yards.
“The game plan was to have a good mix with the pass,” LaBore said. “This is the best defense in the conference. They are the biggest, fastest, most aggressive defense in the conference and not a lot of teams have threatened them over the top, either. We sustained a couple of drives and it would have been nice if we could have found a way to finish a couple of our drives to keep us in the game.”
Cretin-Derham Hall ran 36 plays in the entire game and finished with just seven first downs. By comparison, the Ponies ran 67 plays and gained 13 first downs.
“They stacked the box and they challenged us to make plays in the passing game,” Bollinger said. “We couldn’t make the timely play we needed to extend drives. Sometimes when that happens it just compounds. You miss a third down, you get sacked and you’re second and 20 a couple times and it’s hard to make up for that. We’re certainly not good enough against a good football team to continually make up for those mistakes. It just kind of snowballed on us a little bit and again, I give them credit, they played great defense.”
After handing East Ridge its first sub-district loss with a dominating performance the previous week, Bollinger credited Stillwater for contributing to his team’s offensive struggles. The Raiders were also playing without top receiver Jaylen Newton.
“I think this conference and 6A football in general right now there’s a ton of parity and there’s some good football teams all across the board,” Bollinger said. “You’d better show up every week and play well or you’ll get it shoved in your face. They stuck it to us for the first half, there’s no doubt about it.”
The Ponies close out the regular season with road games at St. Michael-Albertville and Woodbury. The first round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs are slated for Friday, Oct. 27.
“Our coaching staff and I are hurting for these guys that they have this beautiful stadium renovated — and we’ve had some great crowds — and that they couldn’t find a way to get a win at home,” LaBore said. “That’s frustrating. This is a very special place for kids that have grown up here and have come to watch football games since they were very little and to not experience some of the joy of a victory, especially our seniors, is very unfortunate. Hopefully they will put this away as a source of motivation to find something better down the line, whether it’s playing a couple great games to finish the regular season, get themselves a good seed, and make some noise in the playoffs.”
C-D Hall 7 0 19 7 — 33
Stillwater 0 7 0 0 — 7
C-DH — Tony Underwood 2 run (Louie Rottjakob kick) 8:53.
St — Mark Roettger 7 run (Tyler Cullen kick) 5:05.
C-DH — Anthony Czech 13 blocked punt return (kick failed) 9:20.
C-DH — Charlie Dennis 59 fumble return (run failed) 9:14.
C-DH — Underwood 51 run (Rottjakob kick) 2:46.
C-DH — Zach McDonnell 21 pass from Danny Callahan (Rottjakob kick) 5:31.
First downs 7 13
Rushes-yards 28-142 44-83
Passing yards 42 68
Total yards 184 151
Comp-Att-Int. 5-8-0 8-23-1
Fumbles/lost 0/0 5/3
Penalties/yards 7/70 5/40
Punts/avg. 4/36.8 5/22.0
Rushing — C-DH: Tony Underwood 12-94, Peter Udoibok 1-50, Zion Guerra 10-24, Jamell Edwards 1-0, Demond Grigsby 1-(-2) and Danny Callahan 3-(-24); St: Mason Green 22-49, Matt Crowell 5-21, Adam Knapp 2-13, Cooper Yeary 2-7, Ryan Berg 1-0 and Mark Roettger 12-(-7).
Passing (com-att-yds-td-int) — C-DH: Danny Callahan 5-8-42-1-0; St: Mark Roettger 8-22-68-0-1 and Ryan Berg 0-1-0-0-0.
Receiving — C-DH: Zach McDonnell 1-21, Peter Udoibok 3-17 and Jacob Prince 1-4; St: Matthew McGinley 4-23, Adam Knapp 2-19, Cody Venske 1-14 and Holton King 1-12.
Kickoff returns — C-DH: none; St: Ryan Berg 2-34, Will Harter 1-25, Imani Skie 1-23 and Matthew McGinley 1-14.
Punt returns — C-DH: Zach McDonnell 1-6; St: none.
Interceptions — C-DH: Rajiv Redd 1-12; St: none.
Fumble recoveries — C-DH: Matthew Cunningham 1-60, Charlie Dennis 1-59 and Abe Schwinn 1-0 ; St: none.