Havre 66, Whitefish 21
Quick Kicks: The Blue Ponies retained the BNSF Traveling Trophy for a third straight season with Saturday's win in Havre. Saturday also saw HHS debut its new helmet style for the 2010 season, stripes through the middle and the player's number on each side. The Ponies' offensive output surpassed any total of their eight games from a year ago, and they averaged a whopping 22 yards per play from scrimmage.
If anything can be determined after the opening game of the season, it’s that the Havre High Blue Pony football team is capable of overcoming both adversity and big plays.
Saturday afternoon at Blue Pony Stadium in Havre, the Central A Ponies dominated the competition, defeating the Northwestern A Whitefish Bulldogs 66-21 in both teams' season opener.
“From a coaching standpoint,” Havre High head coach Jason Christensen said, “getting that first win of the season, and of my head coaching career was a stress reliever, it felt really good. And for the kids, the way we won really boosted their confidence quite a bit.”
And with a winning margin of 45 points, it would appear that the Ponies had a relatively easy season opener.
But that wasn’t the case at all.
In fact, it took a lot of fight for the Ponies to emerge victorious after several big plays went against them, and facing a very unorthodox Bulldog team.
The Bulldogs definitely came to town with a few tricks up their sleeve.
After their first touchdown of the game the Bulldogs attempted and failed a two-point conversion. But the Bulldogs also surprised the Ponies with an onside kick immediately following. And in the game, the Bulldogs attempted three onside kicks and even recovered one on the Ponies’ 37-yard-line late in the first quarter which later resulted in a Bulldog touchdown.
“Those onside kicks kind of took us by surprise,” Christensen said. “We prepared for onside kicks and things like that, but going into the game we didn’t know what they were going to do.”
After the first quarter of play the Bulldogs led 21-10. But throughout the entire game the Ponies never gave up, overcoming adversity, and accounting for some big plays of their own.
“I think we had first-game jitters at the start of the first quarter and they (Whitefish) got a couple big plays on us,” HHS's Logan Connor said. “We just fought back and ended up with the win, it was a tough battle.”
“We were all kind of nervous,” HHS junior linebacker Eli Hinebauch said. “After the first series my legs were numb, but after that I got into it, and everybody got into it and after that first quarter we were able to shut them out.”
In the opening drive of the game Whitefish marched down the field with almost no resistance. But after trailing 6-0 early, the Ponies bounced right back and scored on a 36-yard touchdown pass from Justin Jensen to Connor for seven quick points of their own.
And in the Ponies' second series, a touchdown was taken away after a player was called for a chop block. And instead of pounding the ball in from the three-yard line, the Ponies were pushed back to the 18. HHS still came away with points on a Danny Roe field goal.
After the first quarter, the Ponies shut out the Bulldogs. And though HHS didn’t have to worry about answering Whitefish scores, adversity still made things difficult.
Trailing 21-10, the Ponies scored four touchdowns in the second quarter, four in the third and one more in the fourth.
Late in the second quarter a 55-yard pass to Casey Schaub that would have put the Ponies close to the goal line was called back after a holding call was made. But shaking it off, the Ponies scored on a 91-yard touchdown pass to Corderro Strickland on the very next play to take a 31-21 lead.
And in the third quarter, Brandon Brostrom had an interception return for 65 yards that was also called back and put the Ponies on their own nine-yard-line. But just like before, two plays later the Ponies overcame the call and scored on an 89-yard pass from Jensen to Connor to take a 47-21 lead.
Other HHS big plays included two Schaub touchdown runs, one for 46 yards in the second quarter and the other for 44 yards in the third. Evan Flathers also scooped up a Whitefish fumble and scored in the third quarter. And Johathan Austin scored on a 20-yard rush in the fourth quarter.
Connor led the offense with his three big touchdown catches from Jensen. Connor also had four catches for 159 yards.
“I didn’t think I was going to be the go-to receiver,” Connor said. “I thought I would just line up in the slot and get a ball every once and a while, but I guess not. I just got open and made some big plays.
“I thought it was going to be mostly a run, pitch and option type game,” Jensen added. “But you have to do what you have to do.”
Jensen had 357 yards of offense in the air. He also rushed for a three-yard score as well as throwing four. TDs And on the ground, Schaub led the offense which rushed for 297 yards with 97 of his own. The Ponies had 536 total yards.
“Offensively the kids executed unbelievably well,” Christensen said. “(Justin) Jensen set a school record and made great decisions. The offense was what kind of held us together.”
Defensively, Eli Hinebauch led the team with 11 tackles. Brostrom had 10 tackles and caused a fumble, while Schaub had eight tackles, two for a loss of yardage.
The Ponies now have a bye week before hosting Miles City on Sept. 10.