Chris Peterson Havre Daily News email@example.com
With just one spot in the class A state playoffs remaining in the Central A Conference, Lewistown and Havre played a do-or-die game at Blue Pony Stadium on Friday night. And unfortunately for the Havre High football team, once the game was over, its playoff hopes were officially dead as the Eagles bested HHS, 6-3. The Ponies clung to a 3-0 lead late in the fourth quarter when Kyle Finneman inexplicably fumbled the ball inside his own five-yard line, giving Lewistown the break it had been looking for all night. Not soon after, the Eagles cashed in on that break. After a false-start penalty moved the ball back from the threeyard line to the eight-yard line, Dylan Buehler connected with Logan Mossey on an 8-yard touchdown pass with just 2:03 remaining, giving the Eagles a 6-3 lead on what turned out to be the gamewinning score. The Ponies put together one final desperate rally to try and win or tie the game. Finneman completed a pair of passes to Todd Roe and then another to Jay Darrah to advance the ball to the Lewistown 25-yard line. However, the drive stalled there as Finneman threw three straight incomplete passes. Instead of going for it on fourth down, the Ponies sent Roe out onto the field to attempt a 42-yard field goal that would have tied the game and likely sent it to overtime. “What stings the most is that we outplayed them throughout the whole game. We just made a few mistakes that really costs us,” HHS head coach Kevin Sukut said. “You just can’t make mistakes at inopportune times like we did. We moved the ball well and I thought we controlled the game pretty well, but we just were not able to cash in on our opportunities.” And it wasn’t meant to be, as Roe’s kick fell painfully short, securing the 6-3 win for the Eagles (5-3 overall, 3-2 conference) as well as the third and final playoff berth from the Central A Conference. “We stalled offensively and we were just barely outside of his range, so we thought it was the right choice to make at that point,” HHS head coach Kevin Sukut. “I just felt at that time it gave us the best opportunity. A fourth-and- 10 conversion is pretty tough and we thought the field goal was the better option for our football team.” With the loss, Havre (4-5 overall, 2-3 conference) will miss out on the playoffs for the second time in three seasons after finishing the season with back-to-back losses to Lewistown and Belgrade. Once again the downfall of the Ponies was failed opportunities in the red zone. Havre made its first trip into the red zone midway through the second quarter, but failed to reach pay dirt and was forced to settle for a 26-yard field goal from Roe, which gave HHS a 3-0 lead that lasted until the final minutes of the game. However, the real backbreaker came right before halftime when the Ponies had a first-and-goal at the Lewistown 5-yard line. Finneman fumbled while he was scrambling toward the end zone and Lewistown recovered to dodge yet another bullet. Following the red zone turnover by Havre, Lewistown ran out the remainder of the clock in the first half, limiting the Ponies' halftime advantage to just 3-0. Neither team threatened to score in the second half, until Buehler hit Mossey for the touchdown after the fumble by Finneman. “I take responsibility for the loss,” Sukut said. “It's my job to win those games. I thought we had the kids to win the game and we just didn’t get it done. But the kids have nothing to hang their heads about. They played hard and I am proud of them. We just made a few too many mistakes to win the game. “It's just that I think we were the better team,” he added. “But when you get into a game like that, which is pretty much a playoff-type game, it comes down to mistakes and we just made more than they did. Everybody on this team gave is everything that they had. These kids battled all the way to the end. We just didn’t do enough to get it done, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort.” The Eagles will now advance into the opening round of the Class A playoffs, where they will play Hardin, the second-place team from the Eastern A Conference next Saturday at noon in Hardin.