Daniel Horton Havre Daily News email@example.com
Normally, clinching a spot in the high school football playoffs with two games still left in the season would relieve a great amount of pressure from a team. But the Havre High football team knows what’s at stake when the Blue Ponies take on the Belgrade Panthers tonight at Blue Pony stadium at 7 p.m. The No. 3 Ponies and the Panthers enter tonight's Central A game undefeated in league play, both at 3-0. And if the Ponies can get another tough win tonight, the title of conference champions will be another goal crossed off of their preseason list. Tonight is also senior night for the Ponies, and the keys to them getting a victory couldn’t be more fitting. So much of their success this year has been because of how well the seniors have played, and tonight wont be any different. “That’s the way it should be.” Havre High head coach Kevin Sukut said. “They’ve been a great group of kids with their work ethic and leadership, and they know the importance of finishing what we have started and reaching our goals.” But to reach their goal this week, and move on to the goal of a Class A state championship, the Ponies are going to have to get through a tough Panthers team who are chasing the same goals. And it can be done, as long as the Ponies keep up their consistent play demonstrated in past weeks. “We’re going to approach it like we have every other game.” Sukut said. “But Belgrade just happens to be our opponent this week standing between us and a conference championship.” Leading the Panthers hopes of upsetting the Ponies dreams is quarterback Matt Thibault, running back Derek Crane and wide receiver Bobby Hirsch. The Panthers love to include all three of their major offensive threats by throwing the ball a lot and running the option. And the Panther defense is expected to bring a lot of pressure like the Ponies have seen the past two weeks from Livingston and Browning. The Ponies have a well-balanced offense, so if the Panthers can effectively take away either the run or passing game, they will stand a better chance of defeating the Ponies tonight. “I think the last two weeks have prepared us.” Sukut said. “The big thing for us now is to go out and execute. We know what we have to do, and it’s just a matter of the kids stepping up and executing and getting it done.” Having a well-balanced offense has been key for the Ponies thus far. They have handled the blitzing pressure by spreading the ball around between talented running backs and receivers, and they plan on doing the same tonight. The Ponies offensive line and receivers Mike Hickman and Nate Christianson need to play well tonight. If the blitz begins to work for the Panthers, the offensive line needs to allow Beau Briese enough time to get the ball away with quick screen passes to the outside. “It’s important to set the tone and come out with confidence.” Sukut said. “We need to get on the board right away and get into a good rhythm. That puts pressure on our opponent and helps us on the defensive side.” But it is going to take an all around good game by the Ponies to be successful against the Panthers. The offense, defense and special teams need to play like a playoff team, and keep errors to a minimum. “We need to be consistent and solid in all aspects of our game.” Sukut said. “With it being a conference match we need to be able to play and execute, and whichever team comes out and does that is going to walk away with the win.” The Ponies have been improving every week, and Sukut says they haven’t peaked yet. The Ponies need to have a complete game, which means four quarters of solid football and execution on every play. “I like where we are at.” Sukut said. “We are healthy and at home. This is the time, at the end of the season and right before the playoffs where you need to play your best football and I don’t think we are too far from that.” Having already clinched a spot in the Class A playoffs with a win at Livingston last Friday, the Blue Ponies will try to send their seniors out in style tonight against Belgrade. Havre can sew up the Central A championship with a win tonight. The game between HHS and Belgrade kicks off at 7 at Blue Pony Stadium, and it can be heard locally on 610 KOJM AM.