By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsfirstname.lastname@example.org
COLUMBIA FALLS - One thing that can be said about Friday night's Class A football game between the No. 2 Havre Blue Ponies and No. 5 Columbia Falls Wildcats - regardless of the score, neither team would roll over and die. The Ponies staved off a furious fourth-quarter Columbia Falls comeback to win a pivotal nonconference matchup 41-32.
Columbia Falls' hopes for a win seemed all but lost midway through the fourth quarter as Havre had built a 41-18 lead. However, the Wildcats managed to score a touchdown with nine minutes remaining in the game on a 51-yard touchdown run by injured tailback Kyle Rosenbaum that pulled them to within 17 points at 41-24.
On Havre's next possession, the momentum continued to turn to the Wildcats' favor as quarterback Gary Wagner was intercepted by Craig Olson. Less than two minutes later the Wildcats capitalized on the turnover as Brad Bennett hooked up with Jace Ladenburg for a 2-yard TD pass. After the Wildcats completed the two-point conversion, they narrowed the lead to 41-32 with five minutes remaining in the game.
Following the Columbia Falls touchdown, the Ponies failed to get a first down, giving the Wildcats the ball back with just under four minutes remaining. The Wildcats drove the ball to the Havre 25-yard line before the drive stalled. The Ponies took over possession and ran out the clock to preserve the close victory and improve to 3-0 on the season.
"I thought at times the game was very sloppy on both sides," said Havre High head coach Troy Purcell. "We had some breakdowns defensively late in the game and we let them back in it. But when they had to, our defense stepped up and made some plays and we were able to hold on.
"It was nice to see that our kids could overcome some adversity, because we had to stop them late and also the way they came back from being down at halftime."
And just as it looked like the Wildcats were finished in the fourth quarter, the same could have been said for the Ponies at halftime. After a scoreless first period, the Wildcats struck first on 3-yard pass from Bennett to Olson to take a brief 6-0 lead. However, on the ensuing kickoff senior Daine Solomon took the ball back 95 yards down the right sideline to give the Ponies a 7-6 lead.
On the next possession, the Wildcats went on a six-minute drive that resulted in a Rosenbaum score on a pass from Bennett. The Wildcats were back in the end zone less than a minute later as they capitalized on a Wagner fumble which set up a 51-yard strike from Bennett to Rosenbaum. It built the Columbia Falls lead to 18-7.
However, Solomon's heroics were not done as he caught a pass from Wagner and took it 51 yards to the house to pull the Ponies to within five points at 18-13 at halftime.
"You can't say enough about Daine Solomon in the first half," Purcell said. "He made some tremendous plays and he has become a lot of fun to watch on the football field.
"Columbia Falls played really well offensively in the first half as well," Purcell added. "We knew we needed to contain Brad Bennett and I thought we did a good job of that. But Rosenbaum went off in the second quarter and he is a great runner."
It didn't take long for the Ponies to bounce back from their first-half deficit. Havre came out and started to control the clock and the field as Scott Robinson chewed up yardage and time on Havre's opening drive of the second half. The drive culminated in a 2-yard TD plunge by Solomon at the 8:18 mark. Solomon found the end zone for the fourth time at the end of the third quarter on an 8-yard pass from Wagner to give the Ponies a 28-18 lead. Havre also scored on its first two possessions of the fourth quarter on a 6-yard run by Colby Mader and a 4-yard TD catch by Marc Mariani, which ballooned the Pony lead to 41-18.
"I thought our kids did an excellent job of taking control in the second half," Purcell said. "Our execution was much better in the third quarter and Scott Robinson ran the ball extremely well, which is just what we wanted to do."
"Overall, I thought we played pretty well for most of the game," Purcell added. "We had some tough breaks and some things didn't go our way, but the kids were able to step up and overcome some mental mistakes. They played well when they had to and that should be beneficial to us down the road."
Overall, Solomon completed a monster night for the Ponies. Aside from his kick return in the second quarter, he racked up 92 yards receiving with two scores and he also carried the ball six times for 33 yards and a TD.
Robinson led the Ponies' ground attack with most of his 83 yards coming in the third quarter. He also had a pair of catches for 20 yards.
Kyle Rosenbaum also had a huge night for the Wildcats. Despite sitting out almost the entire third quarter with an injured shoulder he had a game-high 86 yards rushing on 13 carries. He also caught three balls for 40 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The Ponies will now prepare for Homecoming on Friday night. The contest between Havre and Glendive at Blue Pony Stadium will also be Havre's final nonconference tilt of the regular season.
HAVRE 0 13 15 13 - 41
COLUMBIA FALLS 0 18 0 14 - 32
CF - Craig Olson 3 pass from Brad Bennett (kick failed), 11:26.
HAV - Dane Solomon 95 kickoff return (Solomon kick), 11:12.
CF - Kyle Rosenbaum 3 pass from Bennett (run failed), 5:30.
CF - Rosenbaum 31 pass from Bennett (pass failed), 4:02.
HAV - Solomon 57 pass from Gary Wagner (kick failed), 3:44.
HAV - Solomon 2 run (Solomon pass from Wagner), 8:18.
HAV - Solomon 7 pass from Wagner (Solomon kick), 1:41.
HAV - Colby Mader 6 run (Solomon kick), 11:35.
HAV - Marc Mariani 4 pass from Wagner (kick failed), 9:32.
CF - Rosenbaum 51 run (pass failed), 9:12.
CF - Jace Ladenburg 2 pass from Bennett (Bennett run), 6:16.
RUSHING - Havre, Scott Robinson 7-83, Wagner 8-44, Solomon 6-33 Colby Mader 6-20. Columbia Falls, Rosenbaum 13-86, Ladenburg 11-51.
PASSING - Havre, Wagner 7-12-2-136, Solomon 0-1-1-0. Columbia Falls, Wagner 16-31-1-191.
RECEIVING - Havre, Solomon 3-92, Robinson 2-20, Tchida 1-20, Mariani 1-4. Columbia Falls Kyle Hatch 2-64, Rosenbaum 3-40, Olson 3-30, Kevin Boyer 2-30, Ladenburg 3-14.