Hopelessly behind — or so it seemed — the White Bear Lake Bears uncorked three touchdown passes in the last eight minutes Friday night, making it very interesting against unbeaten, No. 5 ranked Stillwater.
However, the huge rally engineered by Connor Gerrell was not quite enough. Stillwater prevailed 35-28, largely because the Ponies interrupted that late surge by scoring on a Bear fumble.
The Bears (3-2) trailed 28-7 before Gerrell fired to Rayshawn Brakes for a 37-yard touchdown with 7:27 left.
The Bears got the ball back on an onside kick (recovered by Mike Delaney) but Stillwater sacked Gerrell and shook loose a fumble, which linebacker Chance Swenson scooped up and raced 50 yards for a touchdown. That turn of events seemed to put the game away with Stillwater ahead 35-14 with 6:53 left.
Not so fast. Gerrell hit Alex Lockwood for a 30-yard score with 4:54 left. The Bears defense got ball back with a three-and-out. Gerrell and Lockwood connected again for a five-yard TD with 2:27 to go. Michael McCormack’s fourth conversion made it 35-28.
The Bears almost recovered another onside kick but Stillwater managed to cover the ball, then ran out the clock, picking up two first downs.
The Bears have erased 14-point defects twice this year, in a game they lost to Blaine 23-21 on the last play and another where they beat Mounds View 26-20. Even down by 21, the Bears can’t be counted out.
The Bears opened the scoring when fullback Anthony Lewis-Royal carried tacklers into the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown in the first period.
After that, it was all Eddie O’Keefe and Stillwater, until early in the fourth period. O’Keefe dashed 65 yards through a huge hole just two plays after the Bear touchdown, tying it 7-7. The 6-foot, 160-pound senior slashed into the end zone three more times, from 10, two and eight yards as the Ponies built a three-touchdown lead.
O’Keefe totaled 164 yards on 23 carries while quarterback Max Shikenjanski completed nine of 16 passes for 145 yards.
Gerrell was stymied in the first three quarters and was sacked five times in the game. With the late flourish, the junior flinger finished 14-for-33 for 177 yards with no interceptions. Lockwood caught six for 80 yards, Vatel Henderson five for 51 and Brakes two for 48.
Lewis-Royal, the Bear rushing leader for two seasons, plowed for a career-best 134 yards on 24 carries, giving him 556 yards and 11 touchdowns for the season. Brakes had 33 in four totes.
The Bears will host Anoka (4-1) on Friday.