After the Miles City Cowboys defeated the Havre High Blue Ponies in two tough games a season ago, the Ponies were looking to return the favor.
But with the defending Class A state champion Cowboys still housing a very big and athletic squad, the Ponies unfortunately suffered their second straight loss of the season. This time around the Cowboys defeated the Ponies 48-14 Friday night at Blue Pony Stadium, giving the No. 2 Cowboys a flawless 3-0 record, and the Ponies a 1-2 record.
The game started out well for the Ponies, but injuries played a major role in the nonconference loss.
Senior starting quarterback Justin Jensen was out of the contest due to a concussion the week prior against Butte Central. And it wasn’t favorable conditions for junior backup Zach Plum to make his first career varsity start at quarterback. He was up against a stiff, well-coached veteran defense and he was attempting to dodge constant pressure.
“It was one of those things where it was unfortunate for Plum to be put in that situation,” Havre High head coach Jason Christenson said. “Especially against Miles City. But I thought (Plum) showed a lot of courage and stepped up as our backup. He played the best he could being thrown into that situation, but like I said, it was unfortunate it was against the No. 1 or No. 2 team in the state.”
Plum completed six passes on 17 attempts and connected with Thurman Holdsclaw for a 15-yard touchdown. But with a very large and very aggressive defense in his face, Plum also ended the night with five interceptions. And what started out as 13-7 deficit for the Ponies quickly turned into a 34-7 deficit at the half and a 42-7 deficit after the third quarter.
Holdsclaw’s touchdown came with 2:27 left in the first quarter when he snagged a jump ball in the corner of the end zone. The Ponies' other score came late in the fourth quarter, with 4:37 left in the game, rushing for a three-yard score after the Cowboys fumbled the ball on their own seven-yard line.
The Pony offense totaled eight turnovers, including five interceptions and three lost fumbles
Plum was 6-of-17 passing for 62 yards. And Holdsclaw reeled in two catches for 22 yards. Brandon Smith also had two catches for 23 yards. On the ground, Casey Schaub had 46 yards and a TD on 17 carries, while Tristan Manual had 14-yards on two carries. Plum also had 14 yards on six carries.
The Cowboy offense took full advantage of their size and speed, the Blue Pony turnovers, and the Ponies inexperience at the quarterback position.
“We just have to move on,” Christenson said. “We had nine or ten turnovers and you can’t win any games with that many. I think the kids played hard defensively, they did some great things and got some turnovers ourselves, but when one side of the ball isn’t clicking it takes away from the other.”
With Tyler Essex missing the game due to injury for the Cowboys, Miles City had to make changes in their running game. And using Robert Nalewaja in his absence, a No. 4 finisher in the state 100-meters, gave the Cowboys dangerous speed. Nalewaja scored one touchdown from three yards out, but broke off several big gains for the Cowboys.
Quarterback Ben Herzog threw for three touchdowns and ran for another. Herzog connected with Dalton Reid on a 25-yard pass and and a 47-yard pass, and Devin Begger on a 31 yard pass. Herzog also rushed for a 67-yard touchdown after breaking free on a quarterback keeper.
The Cowboys also came through on defense. Tyrell Hess and Alec Haughian both scored on interception returns. Hess returned the interception from 32-yards out and Haughian took his interception 28-yards to pay dirt.
“Offensively the Ponies can be pretty explosive,” Miles City head coach Dan Stanton said. “We just needed our defense to take away their strengths. And them not having their starting quarterback hurt them. But I thought our kids played well.”
The Ponies’ defense held the Cowboys to a total of 316 yards. Herzog connected with receivers six times on 19 attempts for 105 yards, and the Miles City running backs totaled 211 yards rushing on a combined 34 carries. Schaub led the Pony defense with 15 tackles while Kameron Pribyl had 12. Brandon Smith had a forced fumble and Brayden Grimson had a fumble recovery which led to Havre's first score of the game.
The Ponies would have liked a better result over the weekend, but their season is far from over. They have yet to face a conference opponent and have taken obvious strides in the right defection in just three games.
Up next for the Ponies will be another nonconference opponent when they travel to Sidney to face the Eagles on Friday night.
Miles City 48, Havre 14
Miles City 13 21 0 14 – 48
Havre 7 0 0 7 – 14
MC - Dalton Reid 25 pass from Ben Herzog (Andrew Abel kick)
MC - Devin Begger 31 pass from Ben Herzog (kick failed)
HHS - Thurman Holdsclaw 15 pass from Zach Plum (Kameron Pribyl kick)
MC – Dalton Reid 47 pass from Ben Herzog (Andrew Abel kick)
MC - Tyrel Hess 32 interception return (Andrew Abel kick)
MC – Ben Herzog 67 run (Andrew Abel kick)
MC - Roberts Nalewaja 3 run (Dalton Reid from Ben Herzog)
HHS - Casey Schaub 3 run (Kameron Pribyl kick)
MC - Alec Haughian 28 interception return (run failed)
Havre Individual Statistics
Passing – Zach Plum 6-17-62
Rushing – Casey Schaub 17-46, Tristan Manuel 2-14, Zach Plum 6-14
Receiving – Thurman Holdsclaw 2-22, Brandon Smith 2-23.
HHS (1-2) travels to Sidney this Friday.