Daniel Horton Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Although it was the last game of the regular season for two conference rivals, both teams had a lot on the line. On Friday night, the Lewistown Golden Eagles were hosting the No. 4 Havre High Blue Ponies in what would be both teams final game of the regular season. And since the Ponies defeated the Eagles 30-7, it also marked the Eagles final game as they fell short of the Class A playoffs. “They (Eagles) played like a football team playing for their playoff lives, that’s for sure.” Havre High head coach Kevin Sukut said. “And they did a real good job taking us out of our run game.” The Eagles walked onto the field Friday night fired up. Their first series took up the majority of the first quarter, ending with just over 3:00 left with a missed field goal. Taking away the run game of the Ponies was a major contributor to HHS's slow start, but not even allowing the Pony offense on the field was also very effective. But when the Ponies offense finally had the opportunity to take the field, the Eagles defense stood strong. The Eagles put a lot of blitzing pressure on quarterback Beau Briese, and forced the Ponies to punt after running only three plays. The Ponies second drive was just as ineffective, as they were forced once again to punt on a three and out. “I have to give Lewistown kudos because they did take our run game away, and limited a lot of what we could do.” Sukut said. Defensive stands were a big contribution to the Ponies ability to keep the game scoreless though the first quarter, and part of the second. Jordan Van Voast and Paul Turner led the Ponies with 12 tackles and one sack each, while Ethan Hinebauch and Paul Jensen both had 10. And overall, the defense combined for nine sacks. “We’ve been doing a good job of bending and not breaking this year.” Sukut said. “Our defense did a great job of slamming the door when they did get down into the red zone. That’s demoralizing for a team when they reach the red zone and cant put points on the board.” Although the Ponies didn’t shut out the Eagles, they were able to keep them limited to one touchdown on the night, when Darren Buehler connected with Shane Durben for a 29-yard touchdown pass with 6:50 left in the second quarter. With the Eagles up seven and the Ponies lack of offense, what happened next was not expected. The Ponies special teams and Nate Christianson responded in a big way by returning the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. “That gave us some pretty good momentum and the kids got going a little bit.” Sukut said. “It was much needed and from that point we got things going” The Ponies’ very next drive put seven more points on the board. They went from having very little productivity and having to overcome adversity to going up 14-7 on a 16-yard touchdown from Beau Briese to Christianson with 2:35 left in the half. “It showed some resiliency, and you have to be able to do that.” Sukut said. “The game of football rides on momentum and emotion.” When the Ponies realized that the Eagles were going to throw everything they had at them to stop their run game, Sukut immediately knew they had to now rely on the passing game. And he was correct, as the Ponies went on to run the ball 18 times and only earn 22 yards. Christianson’s touchdown reception was set up by a Van Voast 44-yard reception, and the other scoring drives were also set up by big pass plays. Jarrett McLain caught two passes for 90 yards, Christianson was had 58 yards, Mike Hickman was had 43 yards. “All of our receivers stepped up and did some good things and made some huge plays for us.” Sukut said. After halftime, the game belonged to the Ponies. On their first drive of the third quarter, a big kick return and a 25-yard Christianson reception led to a fouryard Kent Pattison touchdown run with 7:00 left to put the Ponies up 21-7. Less than three minutes later, the Ponies were able to score on a two-yard run by McLain, to go ahead 27-7 after a blocked PAT. But this time setting up the score was Hickman, with a big reception to the five-yard line. With such a substantial lead going into the fourth quarter, the Ponies were able to achieve something they haven’t tried all season. After a 65-yard McLain reception, John Perrodin was able to hit his first field goal, putting it through from 16 yards out. With only 2:40 left in the game, the Ponies were able to go up 30-7, giving them a dominating win. Friday night’s victory was the Ponies' fifth straight win, and it gave them an undefeated conference record of 5-0 to end the regular season with an overall record of 7-2. “It really gives us some positive momentum.” Sukut said. “It was a goal of ours to have a perfect conference season, and you don’t want to go into a bye week after a loss.” Since the Ponies clinched their division, they also clinched a first round bye. With this week off, the Ponies are going to work on the fundamentals, as well as use the time to get rested up from their bumps and bruises. It’s important to stay focused, and keep the intensity for their next matchup against either Whitefish or Dillon. “These slow starts are something that you don’t want to have happen.” Sukut said. “You want to come out hitting on all cylinders right from the get go. When you get into playoff games, momentum and coming out and starting out quick is huge. We need to get that taken care of right away.” In other playoff games, the winner of Columbia Falls and Corvallis takes on Billings Central, the winner of Miles City and Butte Central takes on Polson and the winner of Belgrade and Hardin takes on Frenchtown. The first round of the Class A playoffs begin Saturday. The Ponies will play the winner of Saturday's Dillon-Whitefish game on Nov. 8 at 1 p.m. at Blue Pony stadium.