By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
Havre used nearly everyone and got touchdowns from eight different players in its Central A conference opener against the Park County Rangers Friday night in Livingston. The result was a lopsided 53-8 win for the No. 1-ranked Blue Ponies.
For the third straight week, the Ponies scored on their first play from scrimmage and never looked back, overwhelming the Rangers with a 46-point barrage in the first half. As a result of the first-half explosion, the Ponies played a third straight game with a continuous clock in the second half.
"It was a great overall performance by our kids," said Havre High head coach Troy Purcell, "They were very focused, and we went down there and took care of business."
With a highly anticipated homecoming game with Belgrade looming in a week, it would have been easy for Purcell's troops to overlook a struggling Ranger team. But Havre was very sharp on both sides of the ball and Purcell credited his kids for not looking ahead.
"The kids were ready to play this week," Purcell said. "They were very sharp right from the start of the game and it showed in the first half."
Havre opened the game with Gary Wagner hooking up with one of his favorite targets on the first play from scrimmage. Wagner found Marc Mariani in single coverage and the two connected for a 51-yard touchdown strike that set the tone for another Havre route.
By the time the dust had settled on the first quarter, the Ponies had struck for three big plays. The second of those came on the Ponies' second play from scrimmage when Wagner hooked up with Coda Tchida for 37 yards and a touchdown. Scott Robinson then polished off the quarter with a 23-yard touchdown run that staked the Ponies to a 20-0 lead.
In the second quarter, Havre began to run the football more than pass, but the result was the same. The Ponies rolled up 26 more unanswered points. Wagner, Garrett Neiffer, Jared Weigel and Scott Miller all scored rushing touchdowns in the period to up the Ponies' lead to 46-0.
"Once we got up on them, we really established our running game," Purcell said. "And it was nice, because we got a lot of kids in the game and a lot of them scored touchdowns."
The lone bright spot for the Rangers came late in the first half when Mike Benvenga returned a kickoff 70 yards for Livingston's only touchdown of the night.
Once again Wagner was brilliant in limited action. He completed 4 of 6 passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns. He also carried the ball four times for 39 yards and a score. Robinson also had a solid night for the Ponies. He rushed the ball just seven times on the night, but those seven carries were good for 95 yards and a touchdown. Junior Scott Miller also took advantage of more playing time by rushing for 37 yards and his first varsity touchdown. As a team, the Ponies rushed for 221 yards and committed no turnovers.
"I am really happy with our performance," Purcell said. "Those games are tough to play sometimes, but the kids stayed focused and they played hard from start to finish."
Havre (5-0, 1-0) has four days to prepare for a long anticipated home match-up with archrival Belgrade (2-3, 1-0). The Ponies will host the Panthers as part of the 2004 Havre High homecoming festivities. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Blue Pony Stadium.
Havre 20 26 7 0 - 53
Livingston 0 8 0 0 - 8
Havre - Marc Mariani 51 pass from Gary Wagner (kick failed)
Havre - Coda Tchida 37 pass from Wagner (Wagner kick)
Havre - Scott Robinson 23 run (Wagner kick)
Havre - Wagner 14 run (kick failed)
Havre - Jared Weigel 26 run (kick failed) Havre - Garrett Neiffer 13 run (kick failed)
Havre - Scott Miller 10 run (Wagner kick)
Livingston - Mike Benvenga 70 kickoff return (Benvenga pass from Codi Price)
Havre - Craig Kallenberger 17 pass from Tanner Donovan (Wagner kick)
Rushing - Garret Neiffer 1-7, Colby Mader 2-9, Scott Robinson 7-95, Marc Mariani 1- -1, Gary Wagner 4-39, Jared Weigel 2-34, Scott Miller 7-37.
Passing - Gary Wagner 4-6-0-130, Tanner Donovan 1-4-0-17
Receiving - Coda Tchida 1-37, Marc Mariani 2-76, Craig Kallenberger 1-17, Rick Hoium 1-16.