Two weekends ago, St. Olaf’s football team defeated Carleton College at home by a score of 36-19 to win the 100th meeting between the two schools. A century after the
first game between the cross-town rivals, which St. Olaf won 14-13, the matchup still
brings out some of the largest crowds of the season and holds a special importance to
St. Olaf has won 55 of their 100 match-ups with Carleton, with 44 losses and one tie. The Oles’ longest win streak against the Carleton Knights was from 1997-2007, in which St. Olaf won eleven straight games against their crosstown rivals. This streak could be matched in coming years, as St. Olaf has won the last six matchups against Carleton, going back to a 2014 win away from home. During the decade-long win streak from
’97 to ’07, the Oles’ recorded their largest margin of victory against the Knights. On Nov. 3, 2007, St. Olaf defeated Carleton away from home by a score of 85-28, one of the largest margins of victory in MIAC history.
Over the years, the head-to-head match-ups have been marked by streaks of wins and losses as the two football programs alternated in levels of success and competition.
St. Olaf Head Football Coach James Kilian is in his third season on the Hill, after taking over the position in 2017 after three years at St. Thomas University. The Oles have improved under his tenure, going from a 4-6 record in 2017 to 5-5 in 2018. This season, the Oles have started 4-0 after a 48-26 away victory against Augsburg University on Sept. 28.
For Kilian, ensuring the team stays focused on winning is of paramount importance.
“We recognize and understand the importance and significance of the game, but that is as far as it goes for us,” Kilian said. “All the great traditions around the game are only enjoyed if you win, so we focus on what it takes to win the game and let the rest take care of itself.”
This focus on winning has clearly manifested itself on the field in recent years, as St. Olaf has defeated Carleton by scores of 29-26, 33-21 and 36-19 when Kilian has been in charge.
In their four victories this season, run-ning back Khayleb Willis ’20 has led the Oles’ offense. With 562 total yards and six touchdowns, Willis has been an outstanding performer this year. He ranks first in the conference in both average yards per game and touchdowns, and was named MIAC football athlete of the week after his outstanding performance against Luther College on Sept. 14. The rivalry against Carleton stands out for Willis as one of the highlights of his athletic career.
“I think the rivalry against Carelton is a special one,” Willis said. “I’ve come to appreciate the rivalry and traditions that follow the game, such as turning the eagle to face St. Olaf. This game is something I won’t ever forget.” The eagle has faced St. Olaf all four years Willis has been on the Hill.
Willis and the Oles will look to continue their winning ways at home against Hamline University this Saturday for the annual homecoming football game.