Havre Daily News Sports
The Havre High football team has played a lot of important games over the last few seasons. Most of those have been for conference championships and state titles. But when the Blue Ponies travel to Glendive tonight, they will be playing their most important game of the season.
Tonight's game won't have playoff implications or Central A conference ramifications. Simply put, the Blue Ponies just need a win.
Havre has had a difficult start to the 2005 season with losses to Whitefish and Sidney to open the year. Not much has gone right for HHS so far and even though the Ponies spirits are still up, first-year head coach Kevin Sukut said that his team definitely needs tonight's game against the Red Devils.
"There is no question that this is a very important game for us," Sukut said. "It is important from a confidence standpoint because there is a certain level of frustration with the kids right now.
"We need good things to happen to us on the football field for our confidence to grow," he added. "But it is also important to us just to get a win and get things headed in a positive direction as we start the conference schedule."
While a Havre High football team has not had to face this much adversity in quite some time, Sukut and his coaching staff believe that they have a good football team and they believe that things will turn around.
"We have been talking to the kids all week about how we as a coaching staff believe in this team," he said. "We know we have the players and the talent to be a good football team. We believe that good things are going to happen for these kids this season."
If Havre's fortunes are to change tonight in Glendive, it will have to start on the offense side of the ball.
The Ponies have been struggling to move the chains and sustain drives so far this season. They have also been hampered by turnovers and a multitude of offensive penalties that have killed even the most promising of drives.
"There is no doubt that we have to cut down on the penalties and turnovers," Sukut said. "We just can't continually start drives in holes like we have, or have good drives end by shooting ourselves in the foot."
"We have two of the best running backs in our conference in Jared Weigel and Mark Larson," he added. "So we're really going to look to our running game to get us going. Hopefully that will take some of the pressure off of our passing game."
Just as the first two games of the season have proven, Havre will be in for another stern test when it faces Glendive tonight.
The Red Devils were picked to finish fourth in the Eastern A this season and they opened the year with a win over Class B Glasgow two weeks ago. Last week, Glendive was surprisingly shocked by upstart Lewistown leaving them at 1-1 on the year as they prepare to welcome the Blue Ponies.
Still, the Red Devils have a very talented offensive team and one monstrous lineman in 6-5, 252-pound Mike Persons.
Persons is the son of veteran head coach Jim Persons, who is in his 23rd year as head coach at Glendive. The younger Persons is widely considered one of the top lineman prospects in Montana this season and Sukut said that his presence makes Glendive a dangerous team on both sides of the football.
"Glendive is a very run-oriented team and they have some very fast running backs that like to get behind Persons and go," he said. Their quarterback is also very capable of pulling the football down and taking off as well. Our defense is going to have a big challenge containing their rushing attack."
On the defensive side of the ball, Persons is also considered one of the top defensive linemen in Class A football. Lewistown found success by going away from him last week. Sukut said that his team's game plan will be very similar.
"We watched the film of the Lewistown game and they never went to Persons side when they ran," he said. "Lewistown also had some good success throwing the football down field and we're going to look to do the same.
"With the kind of defense that Glendive has, we should have a real good mix of the run and pass," Sukut added. "We want to get our running game going right away. Hopefully that will set us up with some good opportunities to throw the ball down the field."
Other key players to watch for the Red Devils, include junior running back Drew Milne and senior quarterback Jess Johnson on offense. The Glendive defense features junior defensive end Tyler Culver (6-0, 190) and senior linebacker Dylan Hughes (6-0, 185).
It isn't that the Ponies have played poorly in their two losses. They just haven't done enough little things to win. The on-field mistakes are being corrected by Sukut and his staff. Still, Sukut said there is another factor that must change in order for his team to taste victory for the first time this year.
"It is all about mental preparation and focus," he said. "We have to be mentally prepared to play four quarters of football and I don't think we have had that yet this year."
"We have talked to the kids about how good football teams handle adversity well," Sukut added. "And I think we have a good football team and these kids are going to get this turned around."
Tonight's game between Havre and Glendive is scheduled to kick off at 7:30 at Dawson County High School Stadium in Glendive. The game can be heard locally on 610 KOJM-AM.