Blue Ponies host Maroons tonight at 7 with the Central A championship and a first-round bye in the Class A playoffs on the line
Chris Peterson Havre Daily News email@example.com
You can’t get a regular season football game much bigger than the showdown between the No. 4 Havre High football team and Butte Central. The Blue Ponies and Maroons will battle it out tonight at Blue Pony Stadium and the winner will go home with the Central A conference championship, a first-round bye in the playoffs, as well as home field advantage for all playoff games except the state championship game. “It’s a huge game,” HHS head coach Kevin Sukut said. “The divisional championship has been one of our goals all season long and to get that we need to win this game. A win also means a lot more than a divisional championship because it would mean a bye and home field advantage.” The fourth-ranked Ponies (4-0 conference, 6-1 overall) and the Maroons (6-1 overall, 4-0 conference) both enter the game unbeaten in conference play and on six-game winning streaks. The Maroons only defeat came at the hands of No. 3 Billings Central by the score of 33-14 in the opening game of the season. Since then, Butte Central has won all its games by at least 10 points except one. “They are a very good football team,” Sukut said. “They are extremely well coached and they have some great athletes. They are not as big as they have been in the past, but they have tremendous speed all over the field.” The Maroons’ offense revolves mostly around star quarterback Matt Ritter. Ritter is a dangerous dual threat, who leads the Central A in total yards with 1,878. He also leads the conference in rushing and passing yards, as well as touchdowns with 13. “He’s a tremendous athlete,” Sukut said. “He has good size, he throws a good ball and he is dangerous when the plays breaks down and he uses his legs.” The Maroons boast the most balanced offensive attack in the conference. They average 175 yards a game on the ground and 148 yards per game through the air. The Maroons implore the spread offense that features four wide receivers and puts the quarterback in the shotgun on nearly every play. “They run everything out of shotgun,” Sukut said. “They throw the football a lot, but they are also very effective running the football out of that formation.” Brett Kamrud is Ritter’s favorite target and leads the conference in receiving with 27 receptions for 418 yards. Adam Fine is another versatile threat on offense for the Maroons. Fine is third in the conference in rushing with 535 yards and ninth in receiving with 10 catches for 163 yards. “It’s going to be a challenge for us,” Sukut said. “But I think our secondary can match up against them and it will be important for us to apply a good pass rush.” When the Ponies have the football, they will look to take advantage of a weak Maroons’ run defense that allows 187 yards per game Havre will look to exploit that weakness with the top rushing attack in the Central A. A ground attack that features the league’s second leading rusher in senior Evan Hinebauch, who averages just over 100 yards a game and Kyle Finneman, who is sixth in the league in rushing with 439 yards on the season. “They have had a lot of trouble stopping the run this year,” Sukut said. “Running the football is our biggest strength on offense and we are definitely going to run the ball right at them.” However, the Havre offense can do much more than run the ball. They have the second-best passing attack in the conference led by quarterback Tanner Donovan, who is second in passing yards with 914. “We have become a lot more balanced as the season has gone on,” He explained. “And we will continue to look for balance and offense and we will take some chances down the field.” Injuries could also play a role in the outcome, as Butte Central may be without standout receiver Clay McQueary. The Ponies had a couple of players injured in their win over Lewistown last Friday. Kyle Finneman hurt his shoulder and Nate Harada suffered an ankle injury. But both players have practiced this week and are expected to play. “We have some bumps and bruises,” Sukut said. “But you always have to deal with some injuries at this time of the year. But everyone is ready to go. “The kids want this game pretty badly,” he added. “They put a lot of work in the off season and in practice to put themselves in this position. Now they are here and they have a chance to achieve what they have worked so hard for.” Before the game, Havre High will honor its 18 seniors. Tonight’s winnertake- all tilt between HHS and Butte Central will kick off at 7 at Blue Pony Stadium. The game can be heard locally on 610 KOJM AM.