By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The No. 1-ranked Havre Blue Ponies capped off a perfect season with a bang on Friday night as they cruised to a 70-0 romp over the winless Browning Indians. The win over Browning ends the Ponies' regular season with a perfect 9-0 record, and they head into a first-round bye in next week's Class A playoffs.
The Ponies put up a quick 22 points in the first quarter and never looked back against the struggling Indians. Senior tailback Scott Robinson started the scoring off with a 17-yard touchdown run early in the quarter. The Ponies also got their passing game going as quarterback Gary Wagner found Marc Mariani twice to give the Ponies a 22-0 lead.
The Ponies opened the second quarter with Wagner hooking up with Coda Tchida for a 15-yard TD pass. Then Havre's defense and special teams took over the game. Tchida's second of three touchdowns came on Browning's next possession when he returned an interception 40 yards for a score. On the the very next Browning possession, he took a punt back 50 yards for another score. It was Tchida's third punt return for a touchdown in as many games. His return in the second quarter gave Havre an insurmountable 46-0 lead.
With the game in hand, Havre High head coach Troy Purcell turned the second half over to his second unit, and the Ponies didn't skip a beat. Backup quarterback Tanner Donoven scored twice, once on a 4-yard TD run in the second quarter and once on a 16-yard pass to wideout Derek Verploegen in the third quarter. Evan Hinebauch raced in from 11 yards out for Havre's final offensive TD. Havre's second team defense also got in on the act, as Mark Larson returned a Browning fumble 60 yards for the game's final score.
"We had an opportunity to get a lot of kids some playing time," Purcell said. "It was fun to see the future of our program get out there and do some really good things on offense and defense.
"I thought our defense was outstanding all night," Purcell added. "Our special teams play was also very good, and those are things that contributed to this win."
The win over the Indians was Havre's third shutout of the season and that effort was led in the second half by the Ponies' second unit. Josh Morse had two interceptions on the night and junior defensive back Scott Miller forced two fumbles.
The Ponies now have two weeks of rest and practice as they prepare for a quarterfinals matchup with either Columbia Falls (5-4) or Stevensville (7-2). The Wildcats trounced Whitefish Friday to earn the third playoff berth out of the Northwest A. Stevensville finished second in the Southwest A.
"We're going to take Monday off and then go hard Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and then we'll give them the weekend off," Purcell said. "Then we'll get back to work next Monday and get ready for our first game.
"This has been a great season so far, but the kids know there is a lot of work left to do," he added. "I think everyone is really excited to get the playoffs started."
Other first-round matchups include Corvallis (3-6) at Libby (6-3), Belgrade (5-4) at Billings Central (6-3) and Miles City (5-3) at Butte Central (4-4).
Havre 22 30 12 6 - 70
Browning 0 0 0 0 - 0
Havre - Scott Robinson 17 run (Marc Mariani run)
Havre - Mariani 33 pass from Gary Wagner (Wagner run)
Havre - Mariani 22 pass from Wagner (pass failed)
Havre - Coda Tchida 15 pass from Wagner (Wagner run)
Havre - Tchida 40 interception return (Robinson run)
Havre - Tchida 50 punt return (Weigal run)
Havre - Tanner Donovan 4 run (run failed)
Havre - Derek Verploegen 16 pass from Donoven (pass failed)
Havre - Evan Hinebauch 11 run (run failed)
Havre - Mark Larson 60 fumble recovery return (run failed)