Havre Daily News Sports Editor
It might be a long shot, but the door hasn't completely slammed shut on the Havre High football team's season. The Blue Ponies will travel to Central A champion Butte Central in hopes of pulling off a miracle tonight in order to make the 2005 Class A playoffs.
For all intents and purposes, Lewistown took that chance away from Havre last Friday night when they beat the Blue Ponies 17-14 in Havre. However, with a win tonight in Butte, coupled with a Lewistown loss at home against winless Browning, Havre would still sneak into the playoffs.
Havre's dim prospects made this week's practice and preparation a challenge.
“It is has been tough because the kids are dealing with a lot of disappointment,” Sukut said. “Most of them are not used to being in this situation.
“But we have tried to instill in them that even though it's a long shot, we still have a chance to make the playoffs,” he added. “And no matter what, we need to go to Butte ready to play and put our best foot forward.”
The Ponies (3-4) are the defending Class A champions, and the thought of missing the playoffs this season is disheartening to all involved. The task of beating a Butte Central team that is ranked No. 2 in Class A and is 6-1 on the season is even more daunting.
Since losing to Billings Central in week three of the season, the Maroons have been one of Class A's hottest teams. They are winners of four straight games and haven't really been pushed.
Sukut is fully aware of the challenges that face his team tonight.
“Butte Central only lost three players from last year,” Sukut said. “They are a pass-first offense, and they have some explosive players on offense.
“But I think what makes them such a good team is their tremendous defense,” Sukut added. “They are so athletic on both sides of the ball, and we are going to have to be on top of things in order to hang with them.”
Butte Central's defense has been the backbone of its success this season. The Maroons are giving up six points per game, which is not only tops in the Central A Conference, but in all of Class A football. Senior linebacker Stephen Burns is one of the league's leading tacklers, and senior cornerback Shaughn McKeon is leading the team in interceptions this season.
Offensively, the Maroons are loaded with fast, athletic skill players, led by senior quarterback Jake Stagnoli. The three-year starter is once again one of the Central A's leaders in total offense, and he is equally dangerous throwing or running the ball. Tight end Alex Murphy, at 6-3 and 200 pounds, is a force in the blocking scheme and is also a talented receiver.
“I think this game will come down to big plays,” Sukut said. “Butte Central is just such a talented team, and they are capable of really hurting you with the big play.
“Our defense will have their work cut out for them,” he added. “I think for us to have a chance, we need to come out early and make some big plays. We need something really positive to happen to us early in the game to get things rolling.”
Getting things rolling will be tough for Havre considering the state of mind the team has been in this week. Sukut said that emotionally, the mood during practice has been somber at best.
“It is very disappointing to be in this situation,” Sukut said. “But we have tried to impress upon the kids all week that how you deal with adversity shows the true character and measure of a football player and team.
“We need to make sure that we go into this game with our heads up and play good football,” he added. “Regardless of what happens, we want to finish this season on a positive note.”
Tonight's game between Havre High and Butte Central will kick off at 7 in Butte. The game can be heard locally on 610 KOJM-AM.