This weekend marked the final regular season game of the year for the Havre High football program. But with everything that was on the line, the Blue Ponies didn’t hold anything back as they blew through the Livingston Runnin' Rangers.
Friday night in Havre, the Central A Ponies hosted the conference rival Rangers. But while both teams entered Blue Pony Stadium with 3-0 conference records and a tie for the No. 1 conference spot, it was the Ponies who came away with the huge win. The Ponies defeated the Rangers 54-28 to claim the Central A conference title.
“We have to hand it to Livingston,” Havre High head coach Jason Christenson said. “They are a very talented football team. They kind of kept us on our toes, but the seniors stepped up and played hard, especially Ryan Brandt, he had a big game, but it was just a big game for us all around.”
Brandt was a huge factor for the Ponies in the air and on the ground once again.
He helped the Ponies who were down 7-6 early; grab a 20-7 lead after the first quarter. He also helped stretch that into a 34-14 halftime lead and a 40-28 lead after the third quarter. Brandt was a major factor with his 128 rushing yards, 18 receiving yards and 96 return yards. Brandt also turned all of those yards into one rushing TD and one punt return for a 70-yard TD. Brandt's ruhing score came on a 66-yard run in the second quarter. And on defense, Brandt was relevant as well, earning six tackles and three interceptions.
“This was great,” Brandt said. “Livingston is a pretty good team. We came out, played well on offense and defense and really got the job done. Livingston isn’t a slouch team by any means.”
But simply put, the Ponies dominated every aspect of the game.
HHS put up 573 total yards on offense. Casey Schaub helped lead the way with 21 carries for 194 yards and three rushing touchdowns. Schaub's scores came from eight, two and 37 yards out, while Braydon Grimson also pitched in with 11 receptions for 168 yards and two scores. Grimson's scores came from 47 and 11 yards out. Zach Plum also got in on the scoring action with two receptions for 22 yards and a four-yard receiving TD. Quarterback Justin Jensen was at the helm and passed for 267 yards on a 21-of-33 outing and only gave up one interception in the midst of his three TD passes.
“This was a huge win for us,” Christenson said. “We came into this game and we were really looking for that first-round bye, and now we have the time to prepare and shore up where we might be lacking a little bit. We will get some more reps and more practice time and just keep working.”
The HHS defense was stout as well, as they gave up a total of 253 yards and the three scores. The other Livingston score came on a kickoff return in the third quarter to keep the Rangers in striking distance 40-21. But for the most part the HHS defense was solid. They continued to give up big plays, something they are working to better themselves at stopping, but fortunately the HHS offense is able to cover some of those big plays up with big plays of their own.
The Rangers quarterback Landon Willyerd was the most explosive player the Ponies had to attempt to contain. And with his 138 passing yards, he connected on a 56-yard passing touchdown as well as ran for scores from seven and 19-yards out.
“They (Rangers) can strike from anywhere on the field on the ground or in the air,” Christenson said. “That makes it hard to prepare defensively for a team like that, but I though we bottled up their best receiver (Braeden Greathouse) pretty good. But their quarterback is shifty and we had a little bit of trouble with him, but we bent and didn’t break. We gave up a few points, but we expected that. He is going to hurt teams with his feet because he is a good player. They earned a few more rush yards than I would have liked, but they didn’t hurt us too much so we are pretty happy.”
Schaub found himself leading the defense once again. He grabbed 11 tackles, one for a loss and hurried the quarterback four times. Eli Hinebauch also had 10 tackles, while Kameron Pribyl and Grimson combined for 12 tackles. Brandt also had six tackles but added an amazing three interceptions, while Evan Flathers had five tackles and a sack. Plum also had on interception, and Thurman Holdsclaw grabbed nine tackles and hurried the quarterback four times as well.
Overall the Ponies did what mattered most, they won. They got the win, moved to 4-0 in the conference and can now call themselves Central A Champions for the first time in three years.
“This is exactly how we wanted to go out,” Jensen said. “This was a fun game with scoring left and right and it was the way we wanted to win. We came in here and were able to get the win in a dominating fashion and it was great.”
The Blue Ponies earned a first-round bye in the Class A playoffs and will now wait to find out who they host on Nov. 5 at Blue Pony Stadium. Havre gets the winner of this Saturday's Hamilton/Libby first-round match up next week in Havre. The game will start at 1 p.m.
Havre 54, Livingston 28
Havre 20 14 6 14 – 54
Livingston 7 7 14 0 – 28
HAV – Braydon Grimson 47 pass from Justin Jensen (kick failed)
LIV – Daniel Fowlie 56 pass from Landon Willyerd (kick good)
HAV – Casey Schaub 8 run (Casey Schaub run)
HAV – Zach Plum 4 pass from Justin Jensen (kick failed)
LIV – Landon Willyerd 7 run (kick good)
HAV – Ryan Brandt 66 run (Justen Jensen run)
HAV – Casey Schaub 2 run (conversion failed)
HAV – Brayden Grimson 11 pass from Justin Jensen (kick failed)
LIV – Austin Carroll 85 kick return (kick good)
LIV – Landon Willyerd 19 run (kick good)
HAV – Casey Schaub 37 run (Thurman Holdsclaw run)
HAV – Ryan Brandt 65 interception (conversion failed)
Havre Individual Statistics
Passing – Justin Jensen 21-33-267
Rushing – Casey Schaub 21-194, Ryan Brandt 10-128
Receiving – Braydon Grimson 11-168, Thurman Holdsclaw 4-47, Ryan Brandt 3-18, Zach Plum 2-22, Brandon Smith 1-12.
The Blue Ponies finish the regular season 6-3 overall and 4-0 in the Central A Conference. Ponies will play either Libby or Hamilton on Nov. 5 in Havre.
Class A Playoff Pairings
Lewistown at Laurel
Hamilton at Libby
Whitefish at Stevensville
Miles City at Livingston
Byes: Dillon, Havre, Polson, Billings Central.