Max Shikenjanski leads a strong offense with hopes of a section title
by Malik Mitchell
Top ten ranked in the metro, the Stillwater Ponies (7-1) are powering their way to success in Class 6A. Their (6-0) start made it their second consecutive 5-plus game win streak in the past eight years.
Head Coach Beau LaBore said, “we have a long way to go before we find ourselves to be dominant. We have a long way to go blocking, tackling, and improving field position with our kicking game. But, we are working on it.”
Stillwater handed the Forest Lake Rangers (6-2) their first loss of the season on Oct. 7. The Ponies have won eight straight against Forest Lake in the last eight seasons dating back to 2011.
Last season, they topped the Rangers 37-6 with home field advantage. This time the Ponies took the victory 27-14 at Forest Lake High School. In week seven, they blew past Mounds View 35-7 managing to put up 35 unanswered points. The Ponies faced the Eden Prairie Eagles in week eight, but they came up short, falling 35-14.
Despite losing, the Ponies have scored more than 250 points and amassed more than 1,900 passing and 900 rushing yards. Up until week six, Senior Max Shikenjanski led the state in pass completions and passing yards. The 6’2” star currently sits at second for pass completions (138) and third for passing yards (1,927). Shikenjanski has shown he can be a true quarterback as well taking off on the ground if need be. His accuracy compliments his arm strength while being able to throw on the run.
“It feels great. Knowing all your off season work has been paying off means everything,” said Shikenjanski. “There’s a lot of work to be done though, but for now leading in those categories is pretty cool. It wouldn’t be possible without the great receivers and offensive line I have though. They make me look good.”
“Max is a fierce competitor who takes every rep and every play seriously,” said LaBore. “He’s got all the tools, gets better all the time, remains coachable despite successes, and puts the team first. What more could you ask for?”
Shikenjanski has already surpassed his previous season’s stats by 41 completions and 588 yards. Holding himself to a high standard ultimately helped him reach a greater accomplishment.
“Definitely,” he said. “If I didn’t I wouldn’t be where I’m at. If something goes wrong, you better know I’m going to fix it the next play or the next day at practice. You always gotta aim for perfection, even if it’s not attainable. A lot of people count on me to be great, and I expect that out of myself.”
Regardless of Shikenjanski’s success, there is always a bigger cause overall. The team always comes first.
“Good stats are great and all but it all leads to wins if there are good stats,” he said. “There’s really nothing I’m chasing but a state championship for my team. And whatever comes with that I’m happy about. There would be some cool achievements to get, but I just want to win. I want to get our team to the state tournament and as far as we can get, whatever that is. That’s the final goal.”
Shikenjanski has made a name for himself on the basketball court as well. He previously verbally committed to The Citadel Bulldogs basketball after holding offers from Winona State University, UMD, Augustana State University, and Metropolitan State University. On October 21, the two-star athlete committed to the Golden Gophers as a PWO for football. Max is the son of former Gopher Basketball player Jim Shikenjanski.
“My aspirations are to make it to the highest level and succeed as much as I can on the biggest stage. I want to do everything I can to help my team win, and have fun while doing it. My dad has been through the whole recruiting process so he has helped me and gave me some tips with that. He’s been very helpful with everything. He has also taught me a lot about basketball and what I need to be successful at the highest level I can.”
The Ponies will head into the postseason with Brainerd (5-3) being their first opponent. After coming up short in qualifying for state, Stillwater still has their eyes on their goals.
“We don’t have mottos, but it has been a long time since we have won a section championship (2006), So, while we have been close seven times (section runner up) since then, they have focused intently on becoming the best team possible and putting themselves in the best position possible to achieve that goal,” said Coach LaBore. “We haven’t made the state tournament in many years, so that’s really the goal, and we will go from there. We just have to worry about ourselves, and what we can do. If we play our game and do what we know what to do, it’s tough to beat us.”