Havre Daily News Sports
It was an inauspicious beginning to what turned out to be a not so good night for the Havre High football team. The Blue Ponies came into Friday night's home-opener with top-ranked Sidney hoping to reverse their fortunes from a week-one loss to Whitefish.
Instead, Havre fell victim to a early Sidney passing attack, two tremendous field goals by Eagles' kicker Ben Bawden and a horrendous lightning storm that halted play for more than 40 minutes, as the Eagles stifled the Ponies 21-7 at Blue Pony Stadium.
With all of the difficulties the Ponies faced throughout the night, the opening seven minutes of the game may have been the worst of it.
After going three-and-out on their first possession, the Ponies' defense was then shocked, as the usually ground-oriented Eagles put the ball in the air behind 6-4 quarterback Jeff Stedman.
Stedman drove the Eagles down the field, completing passes of 22, 15 and 27 yards, setting up the game's first score as Dallas Webber crashed his way into the end zone from 7 yards out. After a successful two-point conversion, the Eagles were ahead 8-0.
Things quickly went from bad to worse for HHS. Havre started its next possession at the seven-minute mark of the first period, and struggled just to get a play off. A bad snap forced a no-gain situation and a false start penalty then backed the Ponies up even more.
On second and long, quarterback Tanner Donovan was picked off by Derek Fritz, ending any chance the Blue Ponies might have had to gain back some of the early lost momentum.
While the Ponies' defense did respond by holding Sidney to a three-and-out on the next possession, Havre's next drive would stall in Sidney territory, giving the Eagles the ball back as time expired in the first quarter.
"There is no doubt that we came out and played really tentative in the first quarter," said HHS head coach Kevin Sukut. "Our offense came out really flat and the timing was just not there at all. I thought things got better as the game went on, but there is no doubt that the start of the game really hurt us."
Already leading 8-0, Sidney continued to mount a stellar drive at the beginning of the second quarter. The Eagles held on to the ball for the first four minutes of the period and marched down the field, this time behind the solid running of Webber. But Havre's defense stood tall, as they would the rest of the night and limited the Eagles to a 25-yard field goal by Bawden.
Havre's defense continued to keep the Ponies in the game throughout the remainder of the first half, while their offense was still having trouble finding its way.
As the time the clock wound down on the first half of play, Sidney was left with the ball on Havre's 21-yard line. Bawden struck again, this time from 43 yards out. The strong kick gave the Eagles a commanding, but not insurmountable halftime lead of 14-0.
"I thought our defense started to play really well in the second quarter and by the end of the game we outplayed Sidney from a defensive standpoint," Sukut said. "We knew the game wasn't out of reach at halftime, and we just needed to get things on track offensively."
But no one could foresee the wild events that took place in the second half. The Eagles opened the second half with the ball and promptly drove down the field again, mostly behind the rushing of Webber. But Havre's defense once again held firm, forcing the Eagles into a fourth-down situation. The Eagles once again went to Webber and after it appeared that the fullback was stopped at the line of scrimmage, he promptly scampered away for a 25-yard touchdown that upped the Eagles' lead to 21-0.
Just as it had happened in the first quarter, disaster struck the Ponies again in the third. On Havre's next possession, after moving the ball solidly Donovan was picked off again by Fritz, stopping what could have been a promising drive.
To make matters worse, both teams were immediately forced off the field due to a thunderstorm that produced dangerous lightning almost directly over Blue Pony Stadium.
The delay happened as Sidney was again in a fourth-down situation. When play resumed nearly 40 minutes later, the Eagles again came up with a first down that kept the Havre offense off the field.
"I think the delay really hurt us because of that situation. We just didn't have many opportunities to get some momentum going," Sukut said. "But that was a spot where if we could have held them, we could have grabbed some momentum a little earlier than we did."
From the time play resumed to the end of the contest, Havre's defense played admirably, keeping the Eagles' vaunted offense from turning the game into a route.
The Ponies finally were able to find the end zone part of the way through the fourth quarter when Donovan hit Weigel for a short touchdown pass. But it wasn't going to be enough to overcome all of the difficulties Havre's offense had on the night, and Sukut said that addressing those concerns and correcting them are his team's top priority.
"Our problem the last two games has been our inability to finish drives and put points on the board," he said. "Right now, we seem to be struggling for playmakers and we just have to get over that hump. It is something we are going to continue to work on and continue to improve upon."
While the HHS defense kept Sidney at bay for most of the night, it did not have an answer for Webber. The fullback, who is sometimes overshadowed by star running back Gresh Melby, racked up 157 yards on the ground to go along with his two scores.
"Webber really hurt us," Sukut said. "We made some adjustments and tried to throw some different looks at him as the game went on, but we just couldn't seem to handle him. He is a tremendous football player."
As good as Webber was for Sidney, the Ponies did get a workmanlike effort from Weigel. The senior running back carried the ball seven times for 62 yards and he caught seven balls for 91 yards as well as the touchdown.
As a team, the HHS offense gained 230 total yards on the night, but Sukut admitted that all of the yards are meaningless without getting some touchdowns.
"It is just something we have to get better at," Sukut said. "We have got to figure out ways to score points. We got more consistent as the night went on but we continue to self destruct when we have good chances to score.
"It is something we really need to get corrected and I am confident that we will."
Defensively, the Ponies seemed to get stronger as the game went on. Senior linebacker Austin Small had a monstrous game, registering 19 solo tackles for Havre. Marc Larson added nine solo tackles and Weigel added eight.
Havre (0-2) will now how have the tough task of trying to win its first game of the Sukut era on the road. The Ponies will wrap up nonconference play when they travel to Glendive on Friday night.
SIDNEY 21, HAVRE 7
Sidney 11 10 0 0 - 21
Havre 0 0 0 7 - 7
SID - Dallas Webber 7 run (Conversion good)
SID - Ben Bawden 25 field goal
SID - Ben Bawden 42 Field goal
SID - Webber 26 run
HAV - Jared Weigel 10 pass from Tanner Donovan (Bruce Beecher kick)
Havre Individual Statistics
Rushing - Jared Weigel 7-62, Mark Larson 10-24.
Passing - Tanner Donovan 12-27-144-2
Receiving - Sean Peterson 3-33, Scott Miller 2-12, Jared Weigel, 7-91.