There was a lot on the line for the Havre High football team, but the Blue Ponies just didn’t get it done.
Friday night at Blue Pony Stadium in Havre, the conference rival Belgrade Panthers defeated the Ponies 41-12.
Entering Friday’s game, both squads were tied at 3-1 for the No. 2 seed in the Central A. But with the loss, the Ponies dropped to 3-2 and slid into the No. 3 spot. Both teams made the playoffs, but the difference is now the Ponies will take to the road and face Miles City instead of remaining at home and hosting Laurel.
The Ponies have struggle at home all year long. They defeated Whitefish in their first game of the season, but dropped games to Miles City, Butte Central and now Belgrade at home to go 1-3 at Blue Pony Stadium. And though every game was a tough loss, the loss to Belgrade had the biggest effect on the Ponies.
“Where the game fell, that late in the season, eight games in,” Havre High head coach Jason Christenson said. “We don’t really have any excuses. You can’t put it on the kids and them being young. They have all the knowledge they need to execute, so it kind of fell on the coaches shoulders and I kind of felt that we didn’t get it done.”
The Panthers came out and started the game on fire.
The Panthers took a 10-0 lead after the first quarter of play, and stretched it to 27-0 just before halftime. The Panthers scored on 35-yard field goal and a two-yard run in the first quarter. And in the second, they scored on a 31-yard run as well as a 32-yard interception return and a 35-yard field goal.
HHS had the ball on seven different occasion, but just couldn’t break the Panthers’ defense.
“We just didn’t execute,” Christenson said. “We weren’t playing fundamental or assignment football on offense or defense and it really hurt us.”
But the lone bright spot for the Ponies was the start of the second half.
The Ponies came out fired up, and looked like a completely new team. And in the first five minutes of the third quarter, they cut the Panther lead to 27-12. And though it wasn’t the roaring comeback the Ponies would have wished for, they showed what they are capable of when they play their style of football.
In the Panther's first drive of the second half, the Ponies’ Casey Schaub forced a fumble that Ryan Brandt scooped up and carried down field for 15 yards. The Pony offense then took over on the Panthers’ 20-yard-line and scored on the ensuing play with a 20-yard rushing touchdown by Schaub.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Ponies then recovered a squib kick on the Panthers’ 27-yard line, setting up another quick score.
This time it took five plays, but again it was Schaub getting the rushing score, this time from six yards out.
Coming out of the lockerroom after the half, the Ponies came to play. They scored two quick times, and were on their way for a third. But on a play where Schaub had broke a run to the outside and had nothing but pay dirt in front of him, a very late whistle came in, stopping the play and assessing a false start penalty.
“During halftime we just told the kids to go for broke,” Christenson said. “No matter what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, just go out there and play your hardest, have a lot fun, create your own luck and create some enthusiasm. I think we did that, but then we had a couple of bad breaks and got back into our rut. That hurt us.”
After the late whistle on what was a maybe touchdown play, the Ponies' drive resulted in a punt. And from then on, the momentum was back in the hands of the Panthers, who went on to score two more times in the game.
On the night, Justin Jensen was 14-of-26 for 113 yards and two interceptions. Logan Connor had four catches for 40 yards, and Brandt followed with four catches for 31 yards. Corderro Strickland also had three receptions for 28 yards.
On the ground, Schaub had 13 carries for 68 yards and two touchdowns, while Brandt had seven carries for 35 yards.
Defensively, Schaub who had 12 tackles and a forced fumble led the Ponies. Danny Roe had six tackles, and Brandt recovered a fumble.
It the was a tough outing, but the Ponies (5-3) will look to shake this loss off and have short memories. On Saturday they will be back in action where they will face the Miles City Cowboys in Miles City in the first round of the Class A playoffs.
Belgrade 10 17 0 14 — 41
Havre 0 0 12 0 — 12
BEL — Kyle Hunter 35 field goal
BEL — Kade Page 2 run (Kyle Hunter kick)
BEL — Justin Ricker 31 run (Kyle Hunter kick)
BEL — Kade Page 32 interception return (Kyle Hunter kick)
BEL — Kyle Hunter 35 field goal
HAV — Casey Schaub 20 run (kick fail)
HAV — Casey Schaub 6 run (conversion fail)
BEL — Justin Ricker 25 run (Kyle Hunter kick)
BEL — Kade Page 15 run (Kyle Hunter kick)