By Ryan Divish
Jealousy. It's probably the single biggest emotion I was feeling during the wild celebration following Havre High's 34-21 win over Billings Central Saturday at Blue Pony Stadium.
Not bad jealous, but good jealous, if there is such a thing. At least my ex-girlfriend used to say that there was.
In a job where emotions are supposed to be left at home, I was filled with a myriad of them, but jealousy was right up there.
Why? Because as I watched the players celebrate with their families and friends, I would have given anything to be in their shoes.
Yes, it was a win for the whole community to share in. But it's different when you once wore a HHS football jersey and went to battle at Blue Pony Stadium.
It's tough to describe really. But there is a camaraderie that is built during a football season between the players and coaches. There is so much time, energy and effort that is put into a season. There is no other sport where so much practice and preparation goes into so few games. And no matter how terrible practice can seem, it all goes by too fast.
To put it simply: It's hard to win a state title. Maybe that's why Havre hasn't had it happen 34 years. A lot of factors have to come together to win a title. It isn't just talent, speed or size. It's other intangibles like luck, heart, determination, unity and a 1,000 other little things that can't be written properly about.
Yet for all of its difficulties, Havre is a perennial a state-title contender every season. A quick glance back at the past shows that the Ponies have missed the Class A playoffs only three times in the last 15 years.
That makes it more astounding that there hasn't been another title in so long. There have been talented teams in the past plenty capable of winning the state title, but for whatever reason they didn't.
Maybe that is where my slight jealousy stems from. Because I dreamed real dreams of state championship trophies. I wasn't the first, I won't be the last. Every kid who dons a Pony jersey does. But only a few get to see those dreams come true.
And I hope the players from this year's team remember that there were others before them who weren't celebrating after the last game of the season. It's tough to celebrate a loss.
You couldn't help but be envious watching the endless streams of hugs, tears and smiles. It is something that they will remember for the rest of their lives. And it is something that can't be taken away. The label of champions can't be erased and won't ever fade.
In a way, most of us who played for Havre High can't help but be a little jealous - good jealous that is.
In what seems to have been another lifetime ago, I was wrapping up my student teaching at Frenchtown High School and talked one day with its longtime football coach Tim Racicot. He talked about his reason for running an option-oriented offense.
He told me that the ground-oriented offense was best for Montana because of the nasty weather that tends to dominate Montana in November.
Indeed, the old cliche is that running the football, time of possession and stopping the run wins state championships.
Well, Havre isn't into cliches.
The Ponies won their title their own way with an offense straight out of a Playstation 2 game. They throw the ball deep, they throw it wide and they throw it often. It's been entertaining to say the least.
"All year opposing teams have had more first downs, time of possession than us," said HHS head coach Troy Purcell. "But we've made big plays when we've needed to all year."
Indeed, there is simply not a more explosive team in Class A and possibly Montana high school football.
The Ponies need just a few minutes and a few yards of an opening to strike.
Obviously, we can never put every player's name and picture in the paper every week. There are a number of players who don't get all the recognition that say quarterbacks, running backs and receivers do. Look, playing on the offensive and defensive lines is far from glamorous.
Kids like Nick Daniel, Tyler Wheeler, Bill Zuelke, Chad Seely, Zack Musson, Chad Stratton, Bryden Vukasin play every week pretty much certain that their names won't be in the paper on Monday. Well, they're in there now.
And their value to the team's title can not be disputed. No, Havre would not be confused as a running team. The Ponies maybe run between the tackles less than 10 times per game. Still, blocking the various pitches, screen passes and the countless pass protections takes work.
You can't help but feel bad for Billings Central's Eric Rude, who was guilty of roughing punter Scott Robinson on the play. Personally, I had the sickest feeling in my stomach. As a senior, we were on the opposite end of the situation when a costly offsides penalty on a fourth down and short, gave Sidney new life, in the first round of the playoffs.
Havre was hurt another year by a roughing-the-kicker penalty in a playoff loss.
Obviously, Rude's play wasn't the reason the Rams lost the championship game. But it didn't help matters. You could almost hear the breath being knocked out of the Central players and fans after the play.
It has to be even more tough for Rude to take because he was a key factor in the Rams' two wins to advance to the title game. He had fumble returns for touchdowns in wins over Polson and Frenchtown. You can't fault a kid for trying to make a play, but that was a critical mistake in a crucial situation.
The play was so big that Billings Central head coach Jim Stanton could barely find the words to describe it. He just had this look of total bewilderment.
All of the momentum that the Rams had gained from tying the score was gone in a matter of moments.
Still, Rude's play didn't cost Central the game. They could have stopped Havre still and gotten the ball back. In 48 minutes of football, one play or one player is not for a reason for a win or loss. It's still a team game.