Chris Peterson Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Those waiting for the return of Havre High football won’t have to wait any longer. The Blue Ponies will kick off the 2007 season Saturday at Blue Pony Stadium against nonconference rival Whitefish in the much anticipated seasonopening game. There are plenty of questions surrounding the Ponies this season, after the team lost nearly all of its starters to graduation from a team that went 7-2 last season and won the Central A Conference championship. Havre was eliminated from the Class A state playoffs in the quarterfinals, falling to Frenchtown 12-7 at Blue Pony Stadium. However, Havre does return all-state tailback Kyle Finneman, who has moved from tailback to quarterback and will headline the Ponies newlook offense. “I think that we are ready to go,” HHS head coach Kevin Sukut said. “We are a little banged up, but nothing major and nothing more than any other team has to worry about. The big question for us is, whose going to step up and make plays. “We might have lost a lot of starters, but we are more experienced I think than we seem to be,” he added. “Our senior class got a lot of playing time last year, so we have players who are capable of stepping up. It’s just a matter of seeing who those people are going to be.” Finneman will fill in for graduated starting quarterback Tanner Donovan, but the Ponies were also forced to replace allstate performers Evan Hinebauch, Michael Erickson, Chris Buskirk and Beau LaSalle, among others. Joining Finneman in the backfield will be junior Jordan Van Voast, who will open the season as the starting tailback. However, the real strength of the team should be the receiving group, led by senior Loren Mack, who was an allconference performer a year ago. Fellow seniors Jay Darrah and Taylor Ita will also make an impact at wide receiver, as will juniors Michael Hickman and Nate Christanson. Senior Robert The Boy is the only returning starter for a new-look offensive line, which is the biggest question mark surrounding the Pony attack. “The big question for us is going to be along the line,” Sukut said. “Whitefish is a big physical team and they average about 220 to 230 pounds on the defensive line, so it will be a big challenge for us. Our young kids are ready, now they just need to be mentally prepared to go.” The Havre/Whitefish game has turned into a healthy nonconference rivalry between traditional Class A powers with the BSNF traveling trophy goes to the winner of the game. The game also has a Havre flare to it these days, even on the Whitefish sideline, as former Havre resident Pat Dryden is now in his second season as the Bulldogs' head coach. The Bulldogs have taken home the trophy each of the last two seasons with a 21-13 victory two years ago in Whitefish and a 9-7 win at Blue Pony Stadium a year ago. The Bulldogs lost their starting quarterback and running back from last season, along with nine other starters, but they return some talented receivers in seniors Bryan Whitcomb and Tyler Mason, as well as senior tight end Bryan Flickinger. “They return some pretty tough receivers,” Sukut said. “Both Mason and Whitcomb are strong players, so is Flickinger, who is a big part of their passing game.” Whitefish has turned over the starting quarterback position to athletic junior Alex Elespura, who has the strong arm to take advantage of a strong group of receivers. He is also a threat to make plays with his legs when things break down in the passing game. Seniors Matt Start and Brad Nielson bring plenty loads of experience to the running game and will share carries to start the season. “You always want to get the season off to a positive start and this game is even more important because it is such a big rivalry game,” Sukut said. “Not to compare this team to last years, but I think we are even more prepared for this game than we have been, in terms of conditioning coming out of the off-season. “Whitefish is a good solid football, that is very well coached and fundamentally sound,” He added. “So we expect it to be a very close, competitive football game that is probably going to come down to which team makes the most mistakes. So eliminating penalties and turnovers will be the most important thing for us to be successful.” Havre and Whitefish will begin the regular season Saturday inside Blue Pony Stadium at 2 p.m.