Daniel Horton Havre Daily News email@example.com
Since day one, the Havre High football team has set its sights on defending its Central A title and advancing past the second round of the playoffs. And heading into the last weekend of the regular season, the Blue Ponies have a lot riding on their final game. Tonight the Ponies (5-2, 3-1) will travel to Belgrade where they will face the conference rival Belgrade Panthers (4-4, 2-2) in an almost do or die situation. With a win, the Ponies will finish no worse than second in the Central A, and keep their hopes of a postseason berth alive. "It’s one of those things where every week you work and look for improvement,” Havre High head coach Kevin Sukut said. “And you hope it pays off when you get to this time of year. We are treating this like a playoff game because that’s what it’s like for us in regards to taking care of business and getting into the playoffs.” From the beginning, defending the Central A title was at the top of the Ponies' list of things to do. And if they take the No. 2 spot, things will mostly stay the same. They won’t have the conference title, but the playoffs will still be their main focus. “Postseason is first and foremost,” Sukut said. “We want to make it to the next level. Our goal is to get to the semifinals and give ourselves a chance to get to the state championship. Every game is a mountain to climb, but that’s what we have our sights set on.” The Panthers are a good team. Their .500 record doesn’t really show it, but the Ponies will have to be well prepared. Offensively, the Panthers will come out in many different formations. They are a true run-pass team, and will mix it up throughout the night. And on defense, they are just as versatile. They will bring pressure if they see fit, and match up very well with the Ponies size on the line. “We are going to be challenged defensively to stop their run game,” Sukut said. “And in trying to control their pass game too. And we know offensively, we are going to have to execute all facets of the game. “They are one of the few teams in the Central A that have the ability to match up with us size wise on the line,” Sukut added. “They’ve got some pretty big kids and some good athletes.” Trying to stop both the run and pass game of the Panthers fits right into the Ponies' strengths right now. In recent weeks, the HHS has seen heavy doses of both run and pass plays. And with the way their defense has been playing, stopping both simultaneously will be tough, but doable. Facing Livingston and Butte Central, the Ponies saw two very good passing games. And facing Browning and Lewistown, the Ponies have dealt with two very good running programs. “Every game we play essentially prepared us for the next,” Sukut said. “There is a comfort zone there, knowing we have seen everything throughout our nonconference and conference schedule. It’s going to be nothing new.” The Pony offense is similar in their execution. Though they have steadily relied on the legs of Kent Pattison, they will also try to utilize the arm of C.J Evans tonight. They have strived for an offensive balance all season, and feel they have regained the rhythm to do that this weekend. “That wont change,” Sukut said. “We have struggled at times, but have done well with it at times as well. We worked hard this week and I think we are ready.” To date, Pattison accounts for 939 yards of the Ponies' rushing game this season. That is nearly half of the rushing yards, as the Ponies have just gone over 2,000 combined yards on the ground. Pattison’s execution on the ground has made it easy for the Ponies to turn to the running game when necessary. But tonight as the Ponies go to the air, they are still looking for receivers to step in time for the postseason. The Ponies are well aware of what hangs in the balance. Tonight is their biggest game of the season, and determines a lot about their postseason, and whether or not they will be there. “No team in the sport of football gets a free pass to the postseason,” Sukut said. “Every other sport you do. Football is the only sport where you have to earn your way as you go. In the regular season, if you don’t take care of business you don’t go to the postseason. Where I am at, and the kids are on board with this, if we don’t win this game like we are supposed to, we don’t deserve to go. We created this situation by losing to Butte Central, and it’s up to us and to the players to go down there and get the job done. And I have confi- dence that we are going to play a good football game and get the job done.” Tonight the Ponies will travel to Belgrade where they will face the conference rival Panthers in the Ponies' last game of the regular season. The game kicks off at 7 and can be heard locally on 610 KOJM AM.