Havre Daily News Sports
Securing a bid in the Class A state football playoffs has been the goal of the Havre High football team all season long. That process took a disappointing step backward Friday night as the Ponies were tripped up by the Belgrade Panthers 27-10 in Belgrade.
The loss to the Panthers puts Havre's playoff fate squarely on Friday night's final home game of the season when the Lewistown Eagles come to Blue Pony Stadium. The loss dropped Havre to 2-1 in the Central A Conference standings and 3-3 overall.
”We wanted to keep the position we were in heading into the Belgrade game,“ said HHS head coach Kevin Sukut. ”But the bottom line is we went down to Belgrade and got beat by a very good football team.
”Now we know exactly what we have to do,“ he added. ”We have to beat Lewistown on Friday in order to make the playoffs.“
While Sukut had hoped his team would put its best foot forward in Belgrade on Friday night, that didn't exactly happen. The Ponies' offense struggled to move the football in the second half once it fell behind the Panthers. And Belgrade dominated the line of scrimmage and time of possession, which Sukut knew were two huge keys heading into the pivotal contest.
”I thought Belgrade basically owned the line of scrimmage, especially from a defensive standpoint,“ Sukut said. ”They really stopped our running game early and that took us out of the things that we wanted to do.
”Belgrade is a very physical football team,“ he added. ”And they really took it to us in that aspect, and we just couldn't get anything going offensively.“
The Panthers' offense also took it to the HHS defense early in the game. Belgrade quarterback Derek Erickson scored two first-quarter rushing touchdowns of 20 and 10 yards to put the Panthers up 14-0.
After that, Havre's defense started to stiffen and the Blue Pony offense also awoke. In the second quarter, the Ponies got on the board on an 11-yard TD scramble by quarterback Tanner Donovan. Later in the quarter the Ponies put together another solid drive that resulted in a Bruce Beecher 30-yard field goal that pulled Havre to within 14-10 with just over five minutes left in the half.
That scoring spurt by the Ponies appeared to put them in good position as the two teams battled toward halftime. But the Panthers broke off a couple of long runs that got them down into scoring position. Havre made a valiant stand, but was unable to stop Zach Halgren from bowling his way into the end zone with four seconds remaining in the half. The touchdown put the Panthers up 21-10 and took any momentum Havre had away, as the teams broke for the half.
”I think that last score really hurt us,“ Sukut said. ”We were feeling pretty good about where we were, and if we could have kept it at 14-10 at the half, things might have been different.
”Our defense made a great stand right there and we almost kept them out on that last play,“ he added. ”But that score really took the momentum away from us.“
Havre's defense took control of the second half and only allowed the Panthers a late score when the game had already been decided. However, the Panthers' defense continued to stifle the HHS offense and Havre never managed to mount a comeback charge in the second half.
”Belgrade really took our running game away from us and we started to have some success in our passing game in the second quarter,“ Sukut said. ”So we really never went back and tried to establish the run in the second half. That is probably something I should have done. Basically, Belgrade just really wore us down on the line of scrimmage and we could never get anything going offensively in the second half.“
Indeed, Belgrade's defense limited Havre's normally reliable running game to 50 yards. Most of that came on two long carries by senior Mark Larson. Larson also led the HHS wide receivers with 75 yards on three catches. Donovan completed nine passes on 23 attempts for 148 yards. He also scored the Ponies' lone touchdown in the second quarter.
Belgrade's rushing attack did most of its damage in the first half. The Panthers got a huge effort from Halgren, who rushed for 107 yards on 22 carries. Erickson also found success on the ground, rushing for 89 yards and two scores. In all, the Panthers racked up 305 yards rushing on a usually stingy Havre High defense.
”I thought our defense played well, especially in the second half,“ Sukut said. ”But Belgrade really wore us down physically, and they are just a very solid football team.“
The win puts the Panthers in good position as far as the Class A playoffs are concerned. Meanwhile, the Ponies are down to a must-win game Friday night.
”We're disappointed because we went to Belgrade expecting to win,“ Sukut said. ”They are a good football team, but we know we could have played with them.
”Now we know that we have to beat Lewistown to make the playoffs,“ he added. ”We are going to really focus and work hard this week in practice so that we are ready to play on Friday night.“
Havre will celebrate senior night on Friday when it hosts the Lewistown Eagles at 7 p.m. at Blue Pony Stadium. It will be the final regular-season home game for the Blue Ponies.
Belgrade 27, Havre 10
Havre 0 10 0 0 - 10
Belgrade 14 7 0 6 - 27
B-Derek Erickson 20 run (Erickson kick), 8:34
B-Erickson 10 run (Erickson kick), 3:43
H-T. Donovan 11 run (B. Beecher kick), 9:03
H-Beecher 30 FG, 5:15
B-Zach Halgren 3 run (kick failed), :04
B-Erickson 1 run (Erickson kick), 3:36.
RUSHING-Havre, Mark Larson 2-48, Jared Weigel 1-2, Evan Hinebauch 2-(minus-1), Tanner Donovan 7-(minus-11). Belgrade, Zach Halgren 22-107, Derek Erickson 15-89, Tyler Bates 10-50, Rowdy Peuse 10-42, Ben Ward 6-17.
PASSING-Havre, Donovan 9-23-1-148, K. Finneman 1-1-0-5. Belgrade, Erickson 3-6-0-16.