Havre Daily News Sports Editor
With a couple of errant passes, the air went out of Blue Pony Stadium and out of the Havre High football team's chances of making a return trip to the Class A playoffs to defend its 2004 state championship.
Havre High succumbed to two second-half touchdown passes by Lewistown quarterback Colby Tognetti and two costly interceptions thrown by HHS quarterback Tanner Donovan, as the Ponies fell to the Eagles, 17-14, in a Central A Conference thriller Friday night in Havre.
The loss to Lewistown drops Havre to 3-4 on the season, and the Ponies are now a long shot to get into the playoffs. The Ponies will have to beat Butte Central in their regular-season finale Friday in Butte and hope that the Eagles falter at home against winless Browning.
“It is a real long shot to make the playoffs now,” said HHS head coach Kevin Sukut. “We're all really disappointed right now.
“But we have to pick ourselves up and get ready to go to Butte and put our best foot forward,” he added. “Because we want to finish the season on a winning note, and you never know what might happen.”
What happened to the Ponies Friday night was a case of too many big plays by Lewistown in the second half. Havre opened the game by marching down the field and scoring on its opening possession when junior Evan Hinebauch raced into the end zone from 5 yards out to give HHS a 7-0 lead.
Havre's defense played well all night and almost shut out the Eagles' usually potent offense in the first half, if not for a successful 30-yard field goal from Ryan Kapler. The field goal pulled Lewistown to within four points at halftime.
“We started the game off the right way,” Sukut said. “And our defense did a great job of limiting what Lewistown was doing to us offensively.
“But they made some good adjustments defensively in the second half, and the game ended up coming down to who made big plays,” he added. “In the end, Lewistown made the big plays and we didn't.”
Indeed, the Eagles opened the second half with Tognetti throwing an 8-yard TD pass to fullback Matt Irish to take the lead, 10-7. On its next possession, Tognetti struck again when he hit Max Pearson for a 15-yard touchdown strike that made the score 17-7.
The Ponies' offense continued to struggle until Havre finally put another solid drive together in the fourth quarter. With just over 11 minutes remaining in the game, senior Mark Larson scored from 5 yards out to pull Havre to within three.
Havre's defense stood tall the rest of the way, and after Larson and Jared Weigel sacked Tognetti on fourth down, the Ponies got the ball back with six minutes remaining in the game.
Havre managed to drive the ball to midfield, but the Ponies' comeback chances were crushed when Donovan was picked off by Pearson in Lewistown territory.
“What really hurts is that we had chances to win the game,” Sukut said. “On that last drive, we were just trying to get some better field position to at least have a chance for Bruce Beecher to tie the game up with a field goal.
“We had a lot of good opportunities to do some good things and we just didn't capitalize on them,” he added.
Larson was a bright spot for the Blue Ponies on an otherwise disappointing senior night. He carried the ball 15 times for 102 yards and had eight tackles on defense. Austin Small paced the Ponies on the defensive side of the ball with 13 tackles.
“I don't think we got outplayed,” Sukut said. “We just shot ourselves in the foot at critical moments in the game, and Lewistown made the plays when they had to.
“I am still proud of the way our kids fought to the end.”
Havre will travel to Butte Central for the final game of the 2005 regular season on Friday night.
Eagles 17, Ponies 14
Lewistown 0 3 7 7 - 17
Havre 7 0 0 7 - 14
HAV-Evan Hinebauch 5 run (Bruce Beecher kick)
LEW-FG Ryan Kapler 30
LEW-Matt Irish 8 pass from Colby Tognetti (Kapler kick)
HAV-Mark Larson 5 run (Beecher kick)
LEW-Max Pearson 15 pass from Tognetti (Kapler kick)
Rushing - Mark Larson 15-102, Jared Weigel 8-33, Evan Hinebauch 4-13
Passing - Tanner Donovan 11-22-2-62
Receiving - Sean Peterson 3-35