Havre Daily News Sports Editor
It may have been a classic case of too little, too late. But Friday night in Butte, the Havre High football team finally showcased itself in a way that made eyes open and jaws drop, as the Ponies nearly knocked off No. 2 Butte Central in their final game of the season.
If not for a late drive that stalled unexpectedly, Havre would have been able to upset the Maroons on their home field. Instead, it was Butte Central that made a big play when it needed one the most, and the Maroons downed the Ponies in a wild shootout, 34-31.
Havre's offense, which has struggled to find an identity most of the season, gave the Maroon's top-ranked defense fits all night. In particular, senior running back Mark Larson ended his HHS career in style, rushing for 262 yards on 20 carries. Larson reached the end zone three times on runs of 7, 80 and 68 yards.
“It was one of those nights when everything finally clicked offensively,” said HHS first-year head coach Kevin Sukut. “We scored early and the confidence really started to grow in the kids. It is a feeling we haven't had too many times this year.”
Sukut also said the play of Larson and Havre's offensive line was a sight to be seen.
“It was one of the greatest single-game performances I have ever seen,” Sukut said of Larson's night. “Every time Mark touched the ball, something great happened. It was very special to watch.”
Larson's stats weren't the only positive thing happening to the Ponies on Friday night. They went into the game having no realistic chance of making the playoffs, yet they still put their best foot forward and came dangerously close to knocking off the Maroons.
The game featured several lead changes, the last of which came when BC quarterback Jake Stagnoli hit Matt Murphy on a 58-yard touchdown pass that gave the Maroons the lead late in the final period. The Ponies tried to mount a game-winning drive but fell just short.
“Both defenses had a tough night because both offenses were really going up and down the field,” Sukut said. “The game was full of big plays on both sides, and it came down to the fact that Butte Central made one more big play then we did.”
Larson's three touchdowns provided most of the HHS scoring, but senior running back Jared Weigel also gave the Ponies a big lift. Twice, Weigel and junior quarterback Tanner Donovan hooked up on TD passes that answered BC scores. The first came in the second quarter when Donovan hit Weigel with a swing pass and he went the distance for a 20-yard score to pull the Ponies to within 14-13 at halftime.
Weigel's second score came when he took a Donovan screen pass 59 yards to the end zone in the fourth quarter to again get the Ponies back in the game.
“We had a lot of kids step up and play well offensively,” Sukut said. “It was just one of those nights when everything came together.”
The loss drops Havre's overall record to 3-5 as its first season under Sukut comes to a close. The Ponies' difficult schedule got the best of them, as they lost their last three games of the season and will miss out on the Class A playoffs.
While Sukut admits that disappointment was part of the team's feeling on Friday night, he said he was extremely proud of the way they finished the season.
“We all feel like this team underachieved some this year,” Sukut said. “But the kids showed their true character on Friday night by going down to Butte and playing a great football game.
“They went out knowing they left everything on the field, and I am extremely proud of them for that,” he added. “I also feel like the game against Butte Central was a great building block for next season, and I have no doubt that through hard work, Havre High football will be back.”
Maroons 34, Ponies 31
Havre 7 6 12 6 - 31
Butte Central 6 8 6 14 - 34
BC - Jake Stagnoli 1 run (kick failed)
H - Mark Larson 7 run (Bruce Beecher kick)
BC - Alex Murphy 9 pass from Stagnoli (J.T. McIntyre run)
H - Jared Weigel 20 pass from Tanner Donovan (run failed)
H - Larson 80 run (run failed)
BC - Adam Fine 11 pass from Stagnoli (run failed)
H - Larson 68 run (pass failed)
BC - McIntyre 2 run (pass failed)
H - Weigel 59 pass from Donovan (run failed)
BC - Murphy 58 pass from Stagnoli (Matt Ritter run)
First downs: H - 16, BC - 22 Rushes-yards: H - 31-28, BC - 36-124 Passes: H - 8-17-1 22-33-1 Passing yards: H - 132, BC - 226 Individual Statistics:
Rushing - Havre - Mark Larson 20-262, Evan Hinebauch 3-14, Jared Weigel 3-11, Tanner Donovan 5-(-6). Butte Central - Matt Ritter 15-78, J.T. McIntyre 9-44, Jake Stagnoli 9-2, Team 3-0.
Passing - Havre - Donovan 8-17-1-132. Butte Central - Stagnoli 22-33-1-226.
Receiving - Havre - Weigel 2-79, Bill Siebrasse 1-17, Sean Peterson 2-15, Larson 1-14, Scott Ladenburg 1-5, Scott Miller 1-2. Butte Central - Murphy 6-115, McIntyre 7-45, Shaughn McKeon 6-41, Brett Kamrud 1-17, Adam Fine 1-11, Ritter 1-(-3).