Riley Buxell.jpg

Riley Buxell

OAK PARK HEIGHTS — Facing the pressure of an elimination game, the Ponies did not panic after hitting a rough patch in the second half and rallied for a 4-3 overtime victory over North St. Paul in the quarterfinals of the Section 4AAA tournament on Wednesday, Oct. 13 at Stillwater Area High School.

The chaotic victory propels the third-seeded Ponies (13-2-2) into the semifinals where they will face No. 2 seed St. Paul Central (13-2-1) on Saturday at 4 p.m. The Minutemen were a 5-0 winner over seventh-seeded Tartan.

Each of the top four seeds in Section 4AAA advanced, with top-seeded East Ridge hosting No. 4 seed Woodbury in the other semifinal on Saturday.

Stillwater jumped out to a 2-0 lead against the Polars, but then gave up three straight goals in the second half to fall behind 3-2.

“It was wild,” Stillwater coach Jake Smothers said. “The kids lost and then retained their composure. That was a big thing for them to regain what they had lost. It’s not easy to do that when there’s so much pressure.”

Riley Buxell provided the boost as Stillwater climbed back into the game with his goal in the 68th minute to even the score at 3-all. He also assisted on the game-winner by Dylan Magistad less than four minutes into the overtime period. The game-winner came after a scramble in front, with Magistad knocking down an attempt to clear the ball. Buxell came up with the ball and shoveled it to the keeper for the save, but Magistad was there to poke in the rebound.

“That is what’s special about high school soccer is what you got from both teams and the emotion when the game was over,” Smothers said. “Looking at the North St. Paul kids, you realize what it means and how difficult it is to win these games.”

Stillwater was riding high after first-half goals by Magistad and Buxell in the 14th and 24th minutes provided a two-goal cushion. North St. Paul answered with two goals in the first 10 minutes of the second half and surged in front 3-2 on a goal by Ismael Nogueron in the 58th minute.

“All three goals were our fault,” Smothers said. “To be honest, what we addressed at halftime was avoiding exactly what happened to us in the first 10 minutes of the second half.

Magistad has emerged as an offensive threat for the Ponies despite playing in the back and Buxell delivered in the clutch again.

“Dylan and his desire to change the game from an offense perspective as a defensive player, that’s certainly been a big added bonus and something we’re going to need going into Saturday,” Smothers said.

Buxell scored just two goals a year ago, but they were the game-winners in the team’s section semifinal over Woodbury and again in the finals against Park.

“He is a significant part of the team’s attack,” Smothers said. “It’s very rare that a goal we scored doesn’t go through him at some point or another.”

The coach remained confident even while trailing late in the second half because of the opportunities Stillwater was creating against the Polars (6-9-1), who allowed 40 this season, compared to 16 for the Ponies.

“We made a significant change in formation once we went down 3-2 and once we did that we seemed to get the ball into the attacking area with relative ease,” Smothers said. “We just had to manage the emotion of the moment. I just knew we were going to get it.”

North St. Paul 0 3 0 — 3

Stillwater 2 1 1 — 4

St — 14:00 — Dylan Magistad (Mikias Taddess)

St — 24:00 — Riley Buxell (Taddess)

NSP — 41:00 — Emiliano Esquivel

NSP — 49:00 — Esquivel

NSP — 58:00 — Ismael Nogueron

St — 68:00 — Buxell (Dominic Dobier)

St — 83:00 — Magistad (Buxell)

Stillwater 5, Cretin-Derham Hall 2

At Oak Park Heights, after playing Cretin-Derham Hall to a 2-all tie in the first half, the Ponies scored three unanswered goals to pull away for a 5-2 Suburban East Conference victory in their regular season finale on Thursday, Oct. 7 at SAHS.

With the victory, Stillwater (6-2-1 SEC, 12-2-2) finished fourth with 19 points in the SEC standings, trailing only Mounds View (7-2-0, 11-5-0), East Ridge (6-1-2, 11-1-3) and Woodbury (6-1-2, 11-2-3).

“It was a good end-of-the-season game,” Ponies coach Jake Smothers said. “We keep scoring goals, which is great.”

Michael Modean and Colin Vilme each scored for the Ponies in the first half, but Mikias Taddess provided the spark after intermission with two goals in the first 15 minutes.

Dylan Magistad also tacked on a late goal for Stillwater.

Cretin-Derham Hall 2 0 — 2

Stillwater 2 3 — 5

C-DH — 4:00 — NA

St — 8:00 — Michael Modean (Riley Buxell)

C-DH — 14:00 — NA

St — 18:00 — Colin Vilme (Blaine Batchelor)

St — 45:00 — Mikias Taddess

St — 55:00 — Taddess

St — 76:00 — Dylan Magistad (Rohan Kumaran)

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