Havre Daily News Sports
Homecoming has always been good to the Havre High football team. And it was just as kind to HHS head coach Kevin Sukut and the 2005 Blue Ponies, as they blew out the Livingston Rangers 32-0 at a rain-soaked Blue Pony Stadium on Friday night.
Not only did the win keep the Ponies (3-2, 2-0) undefeated in conference play, but it kept them right in the hunt for another Central A conference crown, with just three games remaining in the regular season.
"We talked to the kids after the game about this win and where we're at right now," Sukut said. "We feel really good about how things have progressed the last three weeks.
"Things are starting to gel a little for us," he added. "But we also know what we have in front of us. Our team goal is to make the playoffs and the next three games are going to be huge."
Before Havre could think about the next three weeks they had to get by the Rangers. And they wasted little time serving notice that the offense was going to be part of the equation.
Havre marched down the field on its opening drive and managed to put three points on the board when Bruce Beecher connected on his first of two 25-yard field goals on the night. While the Ponies didn't put the ball in the end zone, Sukut said that Beecher's kick was important toward how the rest of the night would go.
"I think it was huge for our offense to go down and get that field goal," Sukut said. 'It was a real positive to put an early drive together and make sure we came away with some points. And Bruce Beecher did a great job kicking in what were some pretty tough conditions."
From that point on Havre's defense would stifle the Livingston rushing attack, while the HHS offense continued to improve even as the rain fell harder.
The Ponies upped their early lead to 10-0 when Tanner Donovan hooked up with senior wide receiver Sean Peterson for a 30-yard touchdown strike at the 3:46 mark. It was one of two TD passes Donoven threw on the night. The second one came at the 6:46 mark of the second quarter when he found sophomore tight end Kyle Finneman in the corner of the end zone for a 15-yard score. The TD gave Havre a commanding 16-0 lead at halftime.
Finneman was starting his first varsity game and his impact was felt immediately, according to Sukut.
"I thought Finneman did a tremendous job on Friday night," Sukut said. "His athleticism and size combined with his speed just gives our offense a whole other dimension. He is a really smart football player even though he is a sophomore and he gives us another weapon for Tanner to throw to."
The rain continued to pour down on Blue Pony Stadium throughout the second half and Havre's defense continued to pour it on the Ranger offense. The Ponies ended up pitching their first shutout of the season, while the offense tacked on another 16 points.
Beecher connected on his second field goal of the night in the third quarter and Finneman closed out the scoring with a 10-yard TD run as the backup quarterback.
Sandwiched in between was a 15-yard touchdown run by senior Mark Larson. A week earlier, Larson was taken out of Blue Pony Stadium in an ambulance with a concussion. But he ended up carrying the rushing load for the Ponies against Livingston as well as starring on defense. Larson carried the ball 10 times for 81 yards and also caught three passes for 30 yards. On defense he racked up nine solo tackles.
"I thought Mark Larson played a really gutty football game Friday night," Sukut said. "He gave us a tremendous effort on defense and he ran the ball really hard for us.
"I thought with him rushing the football we really got our running game going and that took some pressure off of Tanner," he added. "And Tanner lookeda lot more comfortable throwing the ball. Our offensive line stepped up and did a great job protecting him and he threw the ball well. We had a very balanced night offensively."
Indeed, the Ponies rushed for 191 yards on the night and Donovan completed 10 passes for 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Defensively, the Ponies got another standout night from senior linebacker Austin Small. Small registered two quarterback sacks to go along with a forced fumble and 12 tackles. Cody Seely also chipped in with nine tackles.
While Havre may not have been perfect on either side of the ball against Livingston, it was one of its best efforts of the season, and that fact did not go unnoticed to Sukut.
"This was a nice win for us," he said. "We cut down our mistakes and we were a lot more consistent offensively.
"We still have work to do and a lot of areas where we can improve," he added. "But I am very happy with how the kids have played the last two weeks. We needed to take care of business at home and we did that."
Havre will now prepare to travel to Belgrade on Friday night. The showdown with the Panthers will be a critical Central A conference matchup.
Ponies 32, Rangers 0
Livingston 0 0 0 0 - 0
Havre 10 6 10 6 - 32
Havre - FG, 25 Beecher
Havre - Sean Peterson 30 pass from Tanner Donovan (Bruce Beecher kick)
Havre - Kyle Finneman 15 pass from Donovan (kick failed)
Havre - FG, 24 Beecher
Havre - Larson 15 run (Beecher kick)
Havre - Finneman 10 run (kick failed)
Rushing - Mark Larson 10-81, Evan Hinebauch 6-36.
Passing - Tanner Donovan 10-19-1- 145
Receiving - Mark Larson 3-30, Sean peterson 2-39, Kyle Finneman 2-26.