Havre High is ready to get back into the win column. And with tonight’s game being the last game before the Blue Pony football team enters the conference portion of their schedule, now would be the perfect time.
Tonight the Central A Ponies will be in Sidney to face the Eastern A Eagles in non league play.
Havre has lost its last two contests, losing to Butte Central a week ago on the road and Miles City at home last weekend. The Ponies sit at 1-2 overall, and are hoping to prevent a three game slide before they return home next weekend to host the conference rival, Belgrade Panthers.
“The kids have done a good job of keeping the past in the past,” Havre High head coach Jason Christenson said. “And forgetting about those losses. We have been preaching all week that this is a brand new season, and lets get a win to carry over into conference play. We need to start climbing the ladder and start peaking now. That is our attitude and hopefully we can get the win.
“This should be a good game,” Christenson added. “They have some solid returners in key positions and have a powerful run game. It will be a tough game, but we have cleaned some things up (after the loss to Miles City) and have done a lot better job of getting our guys to recognize where they need to be and to get there faster.
The Eagles aren’t quite the caliber of team that Miles City is, but they will still test the Ponies on the road with their size and athleticism.
Seven returners highlight the Eagles roster, including their quarterback Ryan Sullivan and running back Alex Irigoin, who was a starting wide receiver last season. Sophomore Caleb Benson will also get carries. And the Eagles offensive line is somewhat of a wall, comparable to the Cowboys of last weekend. Sidney’s five offensive line starters are all over 230 pounds and can dictate a game if allowed to.
The Ponies defense will have their work cut out for them. Defensive ends Thurman Holdsclaw and Brandon Smith will impact the game if they can keep constant pressure on Sullivan. And with an explosive run and pass game, the Ponies’ secondary will also have to step up. But up against such a big line, the Ponies will look to get off the ball quick, and keep out of the arms of the Eagles lineman.
“It is old news to us, facing a big team,” Christenson said. “Once you have faced Miles City you have faced the biggest team in the state in my opinion. Everything else after that is just another opponent, just another big kid you are facing.”
Offensively, the Ponies are looking to get back to what made them so successful against Whitefish in their season opener.
An explosive offense is key for the Ponies. They have the ability to run the ball and pass the ball with great success when they are clicking. And with starting quarterback Justin Jensen back from injury, and backup Zach Plum back to his starting receiver position, the Ponies offense should be back in full force.
Before Jensen’s missed last week, he had already thrown for 567 yards, six touchdowns and just one interception. He also has one rushing score this season. Plum will benefit from Jensen’s return, as will Ryan Brandt and Brayden Grimson who have been the Ponies' top receivers this season. Grimson earned two touchdowns and nearly two hundred yards in tow games with Jensen under center.
Casey Schaub will also play a major role this weekend, as the Ponies No. 1 running back. A healthy passing game means the Eagle’s defense will have to take some of their focus off of him, and should pen things up more for the Ponies.
“For the kids,” Christenson said. “This boosts their confidence level. We have our starting quarterback (Jensen) back and he brings a confidence level and maturity level to that position. We just want to limit our turnovers and we want to put our key receivers and running backs in the best position for them to be successful. Sidney runs a similar defense as Miles City, so we have already seen it and refined what we can do to attack it and take away their strong points and tailor to ours. We just want to find and exploit their weakness and go from there.”
Tonight could be a real turning point for the Ponies. They have fallen in their last two games, but are looking to prevent a three-game losing streak. And while the scores of their last two games don’t show it, Havre has shown steady improvement this season. And if all the pieces come together, they could find a win tonight and set the ball rolling as they enter a conference schedule.
“The kids are still improving every week,” Christenson said. “We are making corrections and tweaking little things. But that is what is nice about having thee non conference games in a row, you can really refine the offense and defense and get kids plugged into spots that will make them and the team successful.”
Tonight the 1-2 Ponies will face the 2-0 Sidney Eagles in Sidney.