By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
The Livingston Runnin' Rangers are used to playing on the road. The Rangers have played three out of their first four games in 2003 away from home.
However, whether it be at home or away, the Rangers have few, if any, fond memories playing the Havre Blue Ponies the past three seasons.
Livingston has not scored a point against the Ponies the past two years, including a 35-0 loss at home to Havre last October. That win clinched the Central A conference championship for the Ponies.
The Rangers will come calling tonight at Blue Pony Stadium looking not only to score on Havre, but to be an early spoiler in the Ponies bid to repeat as conference champions in 2003.
Tonight's game will be the Central A opener for both teams. Livingston has a 1-3 record and is coming off a 19-13 loss at the hands of the Polson Pirates in Polson last week.
The Rangers opened the season with a win over Colstrip before dropping games to Red Lodge and Hardin.
Meanwhile, the undefeated No. 2 ranked Blue Ponies come into tonight's contest on a roll having won four straight games, including a 35-0 homecoming blowout last Friday night over Eastern A foe Glendive.
But despite Havre's early season success, veteran Havre High head coach Troy Purcell hopes his team is taking nothing for granted.
"It is really nice to be 4-0 right now," Purcell said. "We've accomplished a lot of goals, but we also understand that the season really starts over for us right now. Everybody in the Central A is 0-0 and we have to focus on each conference game because they are all so important."
Following Purcell's logic, that means what the Rangers have done or haven't done thus far means nothing coming into this pivotal first conference game of 2003.
"Livingston is one of those teams that really scares you because they have an offense that can really exploit your defense if you're not well prepared," Purcell said. "We know what they want to do against us. It is just a matter of our team staying focused and executing our gameplan."
What the Rangers want to do against Havre is run the football. The Rangers are leading the Central A conference in all rushing categories and have thrown for less than 100 yards in four games.
It is basically the exact opposite of the Ponies, who not only lead the conference, and all of Class A, in every passing statistical category.
Quarterback Gary Wagner and receiver Daine Solomon are both at the top of the Central A standings in passing and receiving thus far in 2003.
Despite the two teams major differences in offensive philosophy, the key to tonight's matchup may come down to defense.
Havre is fresh off a shutout over Glendive, and other than the game against Columbia Falls, the Pony defense has not yielded much in the way of points. The Ranger defense was also slated to be they key to Livingston improving on a 5-43 record over the last six seasons.
Other than the blowout loss to Hardin, the Rangers have held up on defense, surrendering 19 points apiece to Polson and Red Lodge. Livingston's defense is anchored by senior linebacker Tony Deleo (6-0, 195) and defensive linemen Luke Olson (6-3, 210) and Zach Vigil (5-9, 210).
"We know that Livingston will try to run the football against us and they have had success moving the ball at times this season," Purcell said. "If we play good defense and take care of the ball on offense, hopefully things we'll work out."
The game between The Ponies and Rangers will kickoff tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Blue Pony Stadium. The game can be heard locally on 610-AM KOJM.