Six Oles honored by MIAC

Senior running back J.J. Strnad on Tuesday was among six St. Olaf football players honored by the MIAC for their play in 2015. J.J. earned All-MIAC Second Team Offense honors for a year in which he once again finished with more than 1,000 yards in total offense, with 13 total touchdowns.

Four Oles were named All-MIAC Honorable Mention: Quarterback Nate Penz, a senior from Rochester; offensive lineman Jaylen Jones, a senior from Blaine; cornerback Kyle Keenan, a senior from Minnetonka, and safety Seamus Walsh, a senior from St. Paul.

Senior safety Brice Peterson was named to the All-MIAC Sportsmanship Team.

Congratulations to a great group of players and terrific young men!


Want the memories to last a while longer? Buy a Memory Book!

Hello Oles!


It feels as if the football season ended, oh, about a year ago. I am already missing Saturdays, following our boys, cheering “First Down!” and singing Um Ya Ya after each Ole score. 

But that last game does not have to be your last memory of the 2015 season. I and Mark Wallin are putting together the 2015 St. Olaf Football Memory Book! 

The Memory Book is a great way to relive the ups – and occasional downs – of this past season. What I need to know is: How many of you wonderful people would like one? 

Now, that is a moot point for the seniors. The St. Olaf Touchdown Club has generously agreed to pay for Memory Books for all of our seniors. But what about the rest of you? Since we essentially self-publish this, I need to get a head count from people before I know what the price of the book will be. So if you all could, ASAP, respond to this email with whether you want a Memory Book and how many you would like, that would help tremendously. Contact me at jim.walsh@startribune.com.

Once I have a complete head count, I will send you a follow-up email with the price. In the past, Memory Books have run about $70-$75 (about the same price as a HS Yearbook). If I can get this done in time, the Memory Books will be ready and distributed at the team banquet in February.

Again, because this is essentially self-published and I do not have unlimited funds, I will need the books to be pre-paid before we print them. But I will send those emails later. For now, let me know ASAP if you want a Memory Book and in what quantity.

Thank you all for what you have done for St. Olaf football this season. Heidi and I miss our get-togethers on Saturdays and are looking forward to seeing all of you at the Team Banquet in February.



Oles among the league leaders

Okay, the St. Olaf football team finished the season 2-8, and 1-7 in the MIAC. But, considering that the coaches predicted them to finish last, it was a victory of sorts. Carleton finished last.

Anyway, several Oles have had excellent seasons regardless of the record. Here are a few:

Quarterback Nate Penz finished fourth in MIAC passing, with 2,093 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Running back J.J. Strnad finished sixth in rushing with 729 yards and 10 touchdowns in only seven games.

Receiver Troy Peterson finished fourth in receptions, with 59 catches for 565 yards and three touchdowns. Troy was also fifth in the MIAC in kickoff return average, with 19.1 yards per game.

Free safety Brice Peterson finished first in the MIAC in tackles and tackles per game, with a whopping 101 stops and 10.1 per game. Brice had nearly 20 tackles more than the next player in the conference.

Cornerback Kyle Keenan was second in the MIAC in passes broken up, with 12. He also tied for fourth in the MIAC with two interceptions.

Strong safety Seamus Walsh finished 13th in the MIAC with 66 total tackles, and 15th in tackles per game. He also tied for first in the MIAC, with an interception returned for a touchdown.

Congrats on a strong season, guys. The improvement you showed this year gives the Oles a great foundation for the future.



MIAC recognizes three Ole top performers for the week

On a weekend in which the MIAC sent its two top teams to the NCAA Div. III football playoffs (St. Thomas and St. John's), the conference recognized three Oles for their play in the final game of the season against St. John's University.

Nate Penz, the senior quarterback from Rochester Mayo, finished the day 19 for 31 passing for 193 yards, and finished the season as the fourth-ranked quarterback in the conference.

J.J. Strnad, senior running back from Palo Alto, Cal., was the Oles' leading rusher for the game, with 87 yards on 16 carries, and the season, with his second straight year of more than 700 yards on the ground. J.J. also had 23 receiving yards against the Johnnies.

Seamus Walsh, a senior strong safety from St. Paul Central High School, was the Oles' leading defender against the Johnnies, with seven total tackles, including four solo stops and a tackle for loss. Seamus, a converted high school quarterback, also had a 14-yard TD pass to break the shut out against the Johnnies.


Remembering to have fun...

The game against 10th-ranked St. John's University was not going well.

Yes, the Oles moved the ball. The offense, under quarterback Nate Penz's direction, racked up more than 300 yards. Nate passed for 193 yards, J.J. Strnad rushed for 87 yards and the Oles' receivers, primarily Troy Peterson and Connor Yahn, made several big plays.

But the Oles could not get into the end zone. And, despite having as many first downs as the Johnnies and the Ole defense keeping the Johnnies from executing long drives, St. John's lead increased throughout the afternoon. St. John's made big play after big play and dominated the scoreboard. At 47-0 midway through the fourth quarter, the mood among the Ole faithful and on the sidelines felt deflated.

I kept thinking about how this season was heading out with a whimper... and my mood was getting more and more sour.

Good thing this Ole coaching staff, led by Craig Stern and Eric Yuen and Justin Lerfald and special teams coordinator Pat Haynes, remembered what this game is all about.

Facing a shut out, but deep inside Johnny territory in the fourth quarter, the Oles decided to go for it on fourth down. Earlier in the day, at the Touchdown Club tailgating tent, Yuen hinted that there was a pass play prepared for senior left tackle Jaylen Jones. Yuen decided that this time, after all the Johnny touchdowns, after all the close-but-not-quite frustrations of the day, after another game of more than the Oles' fair share of disappointments, it was time to unleash the fun.

Nate Penz rolled to his right, all the Ole receivers went to the right... as did the St. John's defense. Then, calmly, Nate threw the ball left. To Jaylen. All by himself. The large senior from Blaine rumbled into the end zone for an apparent St. Olaf touchdown. The visitors' stands erupted in joy. Big Jaylen had done it!

Then we noticed the flag.

Jaylen, it seems, needed to be farther behind the line of scrimmage for the pass from Nate to be legal. Yuen knew this. Jaylen knew this. But, he admitted later to his coach, he just got too excited. No touchdown. Deflation again?

Nah. The Oles lined up for a field goal, despite having an earlier kick blocked. But Coach Haynes had hinted, like Yuen had, that the Oles had a trick up their sleeve. A fake field goal. "We just have to get to a spot where we can use it," Haynes said.

Haynes decided that this was the spot. Seamus Walsh, my son, is a safety. He is also the holder on extra points and field goals. He was also a very good quarterback in high school. Seamus caught the snap from center, jumped up from his stance as a holder and rolled to the right. As the St. John's defense realized what was happening, a couple defenders gave chase.

A couple others looked to drop back into coverage. They didn't do it soon enough to cover Tristan Voegeli, a freshman tight end from Winona. Seamus saw Tristan, all 6-7 of him, and launched the pass. The high arcing ball came down into Tristan's hands and the first year player fell backwards with the ball cradled in his arms.

It is remarkable, really, what a couple of fun plays run on an afternoon when nothing seemed to be going the Oles' way can do to the mood of a team. It is also amazing what remembering to have fun can do to the coaches and the parents at the end of a long season filled with so many losses.

There were tears, Saturday, as the team's seniors closed their final season playing in black and old gold. But there also was euphoria. There were smiles. There were shimmies and dances and bear hugs and jumps into each others' arms.

Our boys have worked so hard for each of these 10 games. They have played hard. They have battled hard. They have fought through injuries and heartbreaks.

And they won two games.

But all through this season, they looked out for each other. They smiled and laughed with each other. On Fridays, they played kickball. On Saturdays, they acted out skits in pre-game meetings. And, during the last game of the year, against the nation's 10th-ranked team preparing to enter the NCAA football playoffs, the players and their coaches remembered to do the most important thing of all -- the reason all of them started playing this game as little boys.

They had fun!