By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
To say the Havre High football team is on a roll right now is a bit of an understatement. It's kind of like saying Havre is a bit windy at times.
The No. 1 ranked Blue Ponies are in the midst of an impressive run of four straight nonconference wins to open the season, including a thrilling home win over highly touted Billings Central and a pair of shellackings over two top Northwest A opponents.
Tonight the Blue Ponies will travel to Livingston to open the Central A conference portion of their schedule. But don't expect a letdown from a Havre team that has absolutely steamrolled lesser competition this season.
"It is time for us to refocus now," said Havre High head coach Troy Purcell. "Our goal is to win a conference championship this season and we're right back to square one because everybody is 0-0 this weekend."
What may be more impressive about the Ponies 4-0 start is how they are getting it done. As expected, Havre is among the top teams in Class A in most offensive categories. Senior quarterback Gary Wagner has an astonishing completion percentage so far this season and the Ponies are getting major production from senior wide receivers Coda Tchida and Marc Mariani.
The Pony defense has been downright stingy and stellar thus far. Havre has pitched two shutouts this season and allowed just six points in their season opener against Glendive.
To be perfectly honest, Livingston is not up to the level of any of the four team Havre has played this year.
The fact that Havre hasn't allowed a single point since the fourth quarter of a 42-7 blowout win in Whitefish on Sept. 11 isn't good news for the host Rangers.
Livingston is 0-4 this season and has struggled offensively early on. The Rangers are feeling the effects of the loss of 15 seniors from last year's 2-7 team, and they have struggled to find replacements for their complicated Wing-T offense.
"Their offense is designed to really confuse defenses," Purcell said. "They showed signs of greatness against us last season, but they lost some key players and I don't think they have much experience back this season."
Despite the inexperience, the Rangers do have some speed in the backfield, which is what is required to execute their offensive gameplan. Livingston starts three juniors in its backfield. Scotty Schlecher took over the quarterbacking duties this season and running back Mychal McNamee (5-10, 160) and sophomore split end Eli Islay (5-6, 150) are potential speedsters.
The small amount of experience that the Rangers do possess comes on the offensive line and the defensive side of the ball. The Rangers O-line is anchored by a pair of seniors in Ben Blaseg (6-0, 200) and Drew Rudolph (5-10, 200). Returning all-conference linebacker Aaron Kulschner is back to lead the Ranger defense.
"They have some very quick players on offense," Purcell said. "We expect them to try to play ball-control offense against us and keep our offense off the field. Our defense will have to be sharp again. They have been doing a good job at making plays and getting the ball back for us so far this season."
The HHS defense will once again be without starting linebacker Brett Michels, who suffered a concussion two weeks ago. Michels isn't slated to be back on the field until practice next Monday. Meanwhile, Wagner has recovered from a hit to the back that he suffered in the first quarter of last week's contest with Columbia Falls.
"Other than Brett, we are pretty healthy this week," Purcell said. "We have had a pretty good week of practice and we are ready for this game."
The game between Havre and Livingston is scheduled to kick off at 7:00 p.m. tonight in Livingston. The game can be heard locally on 610 KOJM-AM.