Havre Daily News Sports
Thanks to a Herculean effort by its defense and one courageous drive with less than two minutes remaining in the game, the Havre High football team got that elusive first win of the season.
Trailing 6-0 with 1:40 left in the game, the Ponies drove 85 yards for the game-winning touchdown to defeat the Glendive Red Devils 7-6 Friday night in Glendive. It was Havre's final tune-up before Central A conference play begins this Friday.
Havre's game-winning drive was capped off by a 25-yard touchdown pass from Tanner Donovan to senior wide receiver Scott Miller and it came when the Ponies' backs were squarely to the wall. Bruce Beecher kicked the game-winning point after to secure the win. For the third straight game, Havre's offense fell victim to a multitude of mistakes and penalties that foiled scoring opportunities throughout the night.
But in the final 1:40, the Ponies mustered just enough offense to avoid starting out 0-3 on the season. During the final march, Havre had to convert on fourth down twice in order to keep the drive alive. The game-winning score and subsequent drive proved that the Ponies could overcome a mountain of adversity.
Aside from its struggling offense, Havre High had to play without senior safety Logan Grant. Grant suffered a broken collarbone Thursday and is likely out for the season. Things got worse, as early in the first quarter, the Ponies suffered a major blow as senior Jared Weigel went down with a severely sprained ankle. His status is day-to-day. The injuries, combined with the Ponies' still inept offense, made for a long night, according to HHS head coach Kevin Sukut. Still in the waning moments of the game, Sukut's team found a way to get the job done.
"Everything finally clicked for us on that last drive," Sukut said. "Tanner stepped up and made some great throws and the offensive line stepped up and did a great job protecting him.
"Scott Miller made a tremendous catch on the last play," he added. "You have to give those kids a lot of credit for hanging in there and fighting to the very end. Nobody on this team quit, even with all the adversity they were facing before and during the game."
Of course, even more credit may have to be given to the Blue Pony defense. For the third week in a row, the HHS defensive unit kept its team in the game while the Blue Pony offense continued to struggle to find its way. The defense pitched a shutout of Glendive's offense, as the Red Devils' only score of the night came on a 40-yard interception return by Jess Johnson early in the first quarter. Glendive's offense managed just 127 total yards as the HHS defense seized control of the game right from the start.
"Obviously our defense is playing really well right now and they are doing a great job of giving our offense good opportunities to score," Sukut said. "They played a tremendous game on Friday night, and, no matter how tough things got, those kids kept fighting to help us have a chance to win. Our defense has really been carrying us the last three weeks."
Sukut is hoping the HHS offense will catch up soon. The Blue Ponies did manage 265 total yards of offense against Glendive. Donovan completed 15 of 26 passes for 195 yards on the night with one touchdown. But he did have two interceptions, including the costly one in the first quarter. Havre also suffered several offensive penalties that once again hampered scoring opportunities.
"We still encountered the same problems in Glendive that we had the first two weeks," Sukut said. "Penalties and turnovers have unfortunately been our story so far this year."
"It is definitely a situation where we are just not staying mentally focused to follow through and get things done," he added. "As a team, our mental approach to the game is not where it should be right now."
And Sukut is hoping the final 1:40 in Glendive will possibly turn things around.
"From a positive standpoint, I think that last drive will hopefully be a springboard for our offense," he said. "I think it showed these kids that they have the ability to go out and get it done when they have to, and that is huge for their confidence."
Aside from Donovan's night, the Ponies also gained 78 rushing without Weigel. Mark Larson also missed a portion of the game with cramps. Miller, who caught the game-winner, hauled in four balls for 70 yards. Defensively, the Ponies got 11 tackles apiece from Evan Hinebauch and Larson. Austin Small added nine tackles.
While Sukut could find many things that once again went wrong for his team Friday night, he also knows that a win is a win. No matter how the Ponies got it done, it was a very big step in the progression of this team.
"From a standpoint of confidence, this win was huge," Sukut said. "After the game you could just see the relief on the kids' faces because they know we are a much better team than how we have played so far.
"But it was also very satisfying because they are finally starting to feel good about themselves a little bit," he added. "I am really proud of these kids for fighting through all this adversity and never mailing it in even when it would have been easy to do."
The Blue Ponies will be back in action Friday night when they open up Central A conference play against Browning. The game between Havre High and Browning is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. at Blue Pony Stadium.
Havre 0 0 0 7 - 7
Glendive 6 0 0 0 - 6
GLE - Jess Johnson 40 interception return (kick failed)
HAVRE-Scott Miller 25 pass from Tanner Donovan (Bruce Beecher kick)