By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsfirstname.lastname@example.org
After five straight weeks of steamrolling everyone in its path, it may seem easy to lack focus for the Havre High football team.
But not tonight, as the Ponies travel to Lewistown for a Central A conference showdown with the archrival Eagles.
Make no mistake, this is indeed a Central A conference game and HHS veteran head coach Troy Purcell knows just how important every game is, regardless of what his No. 1 ranked Ponies have done in prior weeks.
"These kids are smart and they understand what is at stake every week in our league," Purcell said. "They know that this week we have to be focused on being sharp and improving as a football team. A win in Lewistown means we are one step closer to a conference championship."
While it won't be hard for Havre to stay focused on tonight's game with the Eagles, it may be hard for the No. 1 ranked team to play much better than it has in the last four games.
Havre's defense has pitched 16 straight quarters of shutout football and last week it surrendered just 158 yards of total offense in a 41-0 homecoming win over the Belgrade Panthers.
Offensively, the Ponies are ranked No. 1 in Class A in total offense, scoring offense and passing offense.
Senior quarterback Gary Wagner is leading the state in yards per game, completion percentage and he has thrown for 18 touchdowns and only a handful of interceptions.
The Ponies also possess two of the most dangerous pair of wide receivers in the state in seniors Marc Mariani and Coda Tchida.
Basically, Havre's vaunted passing attack is wreaking havoc on opponents and tonight should be no different.
"There is no question that we are playing well right now offensively and I think we have gotten better every week," Purcell said. "But our defense has been really impressive, because we have played some pretty good offensive teams and we are shutting them down right now."
Havre will see the second-ranked offense in the Central A conference tonight when they arrive in Lewistown.
The Eagles, 2-4 on the season, are averaging about 100 yards less per game than the Ponies. Still, they are coming off a very important win over Butte Central, which puts them right in the hunt for one of three playoffs spots awarded to the conference.
Lewistown's offense is led by junior quarterback Colby Tognetti. The Eagles also have one of the top running backs in the conference in 5-9 junior Dustin Scotten. Senior receiver Jeremy Olson, at 6-2, is a dangerous threat in the Eagles' spread offense.
While scoring points hasn't been the Eagles' problem this season, stopping teams has been a nightmare. Lewistown ranks dead last in the Central A conference in every defensive category and are surrendering more than 30 points per game. A struggling defense is not what a team needs when Havre comes to town. But Purcell understands that the No. 1 ranking means his Ponies are going to get everyone's best shot.
"This is a great opportunity for them (Eagles) to have a special night at home," Purcell said. "They have a chance to knock off the No. 1 team in the state and that would put them in the driver's seat as far as the conference goes.
"We have never won in Lewistown since I have been here," Purcell added. "So our kids are going to get up for this game as well, because they know what is at stake. It should be a lot of fun."
Tonight's Central A conference game between Havre and Lewistown is slated to kick off at 7 p.m. in Lewistown. The game can be heard locally on 610 KOJM-AM.