Stillwater senior Danny Laudet, who spent the past 16 years living in Cabas, France, kicked a 35-yard field goal with 54 seconds left in the game, lifting Stillwater to an improbable 17-14 victory over No. 4, Class 6A Mounds View.
It was the first field goal of Laudet's career after five previous misses.
"All of his other tries except one have been from 45 yards or more," Stillwater coach Beau LaBore said. "I said on the sideline, 'Danny picked a great time to make his first field goal.'"
The Ponies had lost their past five games against Mounds View, including a heartbreaking 19-18 last-second defeat in the 2011 section playoffs.
They also were without three starters: quarterback/kick returner Nate Ricci and linemen Derrick Thingvold and Danny Buege.
Mounds View burst to a 14-0 lead. The Mustangs, with an unexpectedly dynamic passing game, easily moved downfield, getting short touchdown runs by Austin Smestad and T.J. Horn.
But Stillwater, with running back Nick Anderson doing his best Adrian Peterson impersonation, battled back to tie the score 14-14. With Mounds View players often hanging on his legs, Anderson ran for 151 yards and a first-half touchdown.
"Usually, when we're not moving the ball on offense, we depend on Nate to figure something out," LaBore said. "Tonight, our line dug deep and Nick ran like a beast."
With a halftime to adjust, the two teams battled for field possession in the third quarter with neither gaining an advantage. Anderson struggled to find holes and finished with finished with 204 yards on 37 attempts.
Mounds View played most of the second half without starting quarterback Mitch Fredrickson, who left after getting sandwiched between two Stillwater players on a sweep.
With both teams treading water, the game pivoted on a mistake.
On first-and-10 from its own 20, Mounds View's Smestad fumbled and the ball was recovered by Stillwater's Matt Ogren. Knowing Laudet has a strong leg, the Ponies played it safe with three short runs to the middle of the field, setting up his game-winner.
Mounds View drove to the Stillwater 26 in the final seconds, but a 44-yard field goal that would have tied it was blocked as time ran out.
"This is a great feeling," Laudet said. "I was a little nervous. These guys played so hard, I didn't want to let them down."