The Ponies are 4-3 overall and 2-0 in conference play. They are sitting in the No. 1 spot in the conference and have two very winnable games left on their schedule. And the first team standing in the way of the Ponies are the Browning Indians. Tonight the Ponies will face the Indians in Browning at 7.
“I think the kids are fired up to get back into the conference games,” Havre High head coach Jason Christenson said. “It has always been our goal to win the conference, so we have that opportunity if we can grab another win.”
And really, the game plan against the Indians is the same it has been over the last few games for the Ponies. HHS wants to keep producing through the air and on the ground offensively, and stop the run defensively.
And it is no secret that the Indians’ offense revolves around the ground game. One of their best athletes is Charles Old Chief, and he can hurt any team with his legs, especially when he has been known to lineup in several different positions during a game. But if the Ponies can stop the run, they will force the Indians into uncomfortable territory, the passing game.
“They (Indians) are going to run the ball right at us,” Christenson said. “That is their strength. It is a lot of misdirection and things like that, and they like to try and catch teams off guard with all of that misdirection. They will find a crease in the defense somewhere and find yards, but we just have to be disciplined and play our fits and we should be good.”
Over the last two games the Ponies' run defense has been almost impenetrable. Two weeks ago in a 49-20 win over Lewistown, the Ponies held the Golden Eagles to one-yard of rushing. And last weekend against Libby, the Ponies defeated the Loggers 24-14 after holding the Loggers to negative eight rushing yards. To do a similar job against the Indians, the Ponies have to know their reads and cant get caught looking the wrong way and getting beat deep for big yards and possibly a score.
This will depend on how well Thurman Holdsclaw, Brandon Smith and possibly Evan Flathers play from the defensive end position. They need to contain the run, as well as contain the Indians quarterback when he roles out of the pocket on passing plays.
“Big plays can hurt a team,” Christenson said. “With all of that misdirection it is easy to lose track of the ball carrier. Just take care of your job, let the other guys on the team do their job, and we should be fine.”
Christenson is also looking for linebacker Casey Schaub to keep playing at the level he has been. Schaub has led the defense in tackles a number of times this season and is coming off of another big game, where he had eight solo tackles in the run stop. Christenson said he will be key if can fill the gaps and fly to the ball like he has been doing so well this season.
On offense, the Ponies aren’t looking to do anything too fancy.
Run or pass, it doesn’t matter, HHS is going to do both, and probably do both well. They have found a way to be a very well balanced offense and can put point up in a hurry in both fashions. And just like always, quarterback Justin Jensen will play a key role, as will Schaub in the backfield and Ryan Brandt in the backfield or lined up as a receiver.
But this weekend, it is about keeping that consistency. The Ponies know they have a good thing going and are looking to carry this progress and consistency right into the post season.
“You don’t ever want to take a step back,” Christenson said. “And right now we are moving forward and want to keep performing well. That hopefully carries over into the next game and then into the playoffs and it is important for the kids’ confidence. Coach (Dan) Wirtzberger (offensive coordinator) always has a wrinkle for every team we face, so we will have another wrinkle ready and the kids are fired up and excited about it.”
With just two games left in the regular season, the Ponies are ready to play tonight when they face the winless Browning Indians at 7 in Browning.