Fourth-ranked Ponies rush for 409 yards in dramatic fourth-quarter win against Maroons to capture the 2006 Central A title
Chris Peterson Havre Daily News email@example.com
It’s official. The Havre High football team can finally call itself Central A champion, a place that Havre has grown accustomed to being over the last decade. The fourth-ranked Ponies all but erased some early-season doubts by winning the conference championship with a hard-fought 21-6 victory over Butte Central Friday night at Blue Pony Stadium. The two teams battled to a 6-6 stalemate through three quarters, so the conference championship came down to the final quarter of the final regular season game. Havre dodged a bullet early in the fourth quarter, as a muffed punt by Chris Brandt, gave the Maroons the football at the Havre 25-yard line. But as it had all night long, the Blue Pony defense rose to the occasion. The Ponies sacked Butte Central quarterback Matt Ritter twice and forced the Maroons to punt. The HHS offense took over at its own nine-yard line, 91-yards away from the go-ahead score. And that is when the Ponies turned to fullback Evan Hinebauch. After the offense advanced the ball out to its own 45, Hinebauch took matters into his own hands. With shear heart and determination, he turned a routine run play, into a dazzling 52-yard scamper that set up a one-yard touchdown run by Tanner Donovan to give the Ponies a 12-6 lead. “The line did a great job of opening up a hole,” Hinebauch said. “Then I just kept moving my feet and making guys miss.” On the touchdown, Butte Central was called for a personal foul, setting up a two-point conversion run by Hinebauch to go ahead 14-6 with 8:56 remaining. “Evan just played his butt off,” Sukut said. “His big run totally changed the momentum of the game. Then we called a timeout to think about going for the two-point conversion and he looked me right in the eye and told me he could get it done, and he did.” Finally out in front, all Havre had to do was protect the lead. The Maroons took over after the ensuing kickoff at their own 16-yard line and two plays later Ritter tried to connect on a deep pass to Brett Kamrud. But Nate Harada was there to make yet another big play, as he intercepted the pass giving the Ponies the ball back on their own 31. “That was a great play,” Sukut said. “Nate showed a lot of heart and a lot of guts. He was definitely not 100 percent and to go out there and make a play like that was incredible. I think that play really demoralized their team.” The very next play after the interception, Havre slammed the door on the Maroons for good. Kyle Finneman took a toss-sweep play and ran nearly untouched for a 69-yard touchdown making the score 21-6 with 7:48 to play. “I got a great block from Kyle Rummel, and then I just turned it on because I didn’t think anyone was going to be able to catch me.” Finneman said. Said Sukut: “I have got to give a lot of credit to Kyle, he played with heart and showed a lot of character. He just has that big-play capability and he can score from anywhere on the field.” The Havre defense closed out the game by holding the Maroons scoreless on their final three possessions to seal the 21-6 win. “The defense just played spectacular all night long,” Sukut said. “They kept us in the game until the fourth quarter, when we were finally able to make some big plays and put it away.” The Ponies got on the board early, as Finneman scored on a 42-yard touchdown run on the Havre’s first possession of the game to go up 6-0. The Maroons later tied the score, when Ritter tossed a six-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 6-6. Havre racked up an amazing 409 rushing yards in the win, in large part because of Finneman, who finished with 212 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns. Hinebauch also netted an astounding 183 yards rushing on 21 carries. Havre’s defense held the vaunted Butte Central offense to just 224 total yards and Ritter connected on just 7-of- 12 passes for 115 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Hinebauch also had a big game on defense for HHS with 10 tackles, an interception and a quarterback sack. Rummel had a solid game as well for the Ponies with 11 tackles, three for loss, and one sack. “There is a just a feeling with this team that they will always find a way to get it done no matter what the circumstances,” Sukut said. “They have a lot of heart and a lot of determination and when things go bad, they just stay with it and keep fighting until good things start happening. “We are really excited about this win,” he added. “We have now accomplished another one of our goals, and now we have got a bye week to get rested and get some things fine tuned and ready to go for the playoffs.” The Ponies (7-1 overall, 5-0 conference) will play the winner of the Frenchtown/Whitefish first-round Class A playoff game which takes Saturday in Frenchtown. Havre will host the winner in the Class A quarterfinals on Nov. 4.