After earning a first round bye in the Class A playoffs the Havre High football team is ready to take the field. The Blue Ponies have had a long two weeks of focused practice, and are anxiously ready to face somebody besides themselves.
And the No. 1 Central A Ponies will get that opportunity on Saturday at 1 p.m. Playing at Blue Pony Stadium in Havre, the Ponies will host the Hamilton Broncs, the No. 3 seed out of the Southwest. Hamilton is coming off of a 28-11 first round win over Libby, while the Ponies earned a first round bye after clinching the Central A title for the first time in three years.
“After you go through two weeks of not hitting anybody but your own teammates,” Havre High head coach Jason Christenson said. “The kids get antsy and just want to get out and see a team and play against somebody besides their te
Havre High senior Ryan Brandt (left) races past a Lewistown defender during a Central A Conference football game last month in Havre. The Blue Ponies are finally back in action when they host a Class A quarterfinal game against the Hamilton Broncs Saturday at 1 p.m. inside Blue Pony Stadium. Pony fans can follow the game on twitter at twitter.com/havredaily, and online at www.havredailynews.com.
ammates. They just want to get on the field, play the game and get the playoffs rolling.
“And there are no easy teams in the playoffs.” Christenson added. “And Hamilton is coming off of a big win over Libby and they are a good football team. They are well coached and offensively, they are very diverse and explosive. We have prepared hard for Hamilton and we are just going to go out play as hard as we can and hopefully we come away with the win.”
HHS spent the two weeks of practice not only preparing for Hamilton, but also re evaluating their defensive schemes. They went back to the basics and really worked on their coverages, the area in which teams really hurt the Ponies this season.
“We went back and touched on the fundamentals and our basic coverages,” Christenson said. “We just got the kids refocused and improved on some things, so we are a lot better on our coverages and hopefully it continues on into the game.”
Defensive backs Ryan Brandt, Brayden Grimson, Zach Plum and Mark Vukasin should have really benifited from the focus at practice and will have their work cut out for them with the Bronc’s passing game. The Broncs are led by sophomore quarterback Josh Bauder and wide receiver Tyler Murray. They can pass the ball very aggressively and will look take their game vertical against the Ponies.
The Blue Pony defense has to pressure Bauder. He is young, but good, and if they can get in his face and disrupt his timing, they could force the turnovers that would give HHS an edge. This means the Ponies will look to get after bauder with the defensive lineman, and more specifically Thurman Holdsclaw and Brandon Smith from the defensive end position.
“We just have to mix it up,” Christenson said. “We need to stem from different looks, stem from a cover four to a cover zero, or from a zero to a cover two. We just have to keep them guessing and hopefully that disrupts his (Bauder’s) timing and creates some turnovers.”
But the Broncs can also produce on the ground, meaning the Ponis can just focus on eliminating the passing game. Bauder rushed eight times for 58 yards a week ago and Murray added 57 yards on 12 carries. Mike Bienusa is also their top back and rushed for 50 yards on 19 carries against Libby. Linebackers Eli Hinebauch, Casey Schaub and Kameron Pribyl will need a big game to help drop back into the pass coverage, but also recognize the run and step up to plug the gaps.
The HHS offense is well aware of the pressure it should face on Saturday as well.
The Ponies have produced record breaking numbers this season in the air and on the ground. They are as well balanced as an offense comes, and that will be their strength on Saturday. Schaub and Brandt will get their carries out of the backfield, but the Justin Jensen and Grimson, Plum and Brandt will also have to get it going in the air. Easier said than done, as Christenson is fully expecting a heavy dose of quarterback pressure from the Broncs.
“They do a very good job of disguising their defensive coverages and stunts,”Christenson said. “And that is something that Jensen has to be on top of his game with. He has to make his reads and pick up on what they are trying to do and make good decisions. Hamilton’s defense plays hard and we expect to see a very tough contest out of them.”
At this stage in the season, only one thing is certain, that every team is a worthy opponent. And while Hamilton has surprised some with their appearance in the second round, the Ponies aren’t overlooking anybody. They resect what the Broncs have done and have done all that they can to prepare.
“This is not going to be an easy game,” Christenson said. “They are very dynamic, well coached and just a talented team. I just hope we can come out with the win.”
Saturday Havre will host Hamilton in a Class A, second round playoff game. The game kicks off at 1 p.m. at Blue Pony Stadium. The winner moves on to face either Dillon or Laurel in the semifinals.
Havre vs Hamilton
Saturday, 1 p.m.
at Blue Pony Stadium
Radio: 610 A.M. KOJM
Follow on twitter at
Havre High/Hamilton Starters
#7 Justin Jensen, QB, 5-9, 165, SR
#30 Casey Schaub, RB, 6-1, 200, SR
#5 Ryan Brandt, RB, 5-8, 170 SR
#6 Brayden Grimson, WR, 5-10, 175, SR
#84 Mark Vukasin, WR, 5-8, 155, SR
#10 Brandon Smith, TE, 6-3, 210, SR
#50 Cameron Pribyl, OL, 5-10, 180, SR
#52 Evan Flathers, OL, 5-11, 195, SR
#61 Joey Devries, OL, 6-0, 235, SR
#75 Trent Nystrom, OL, 5-10, 235, SR
#55 Ethan Hettinger, OL, 5-10, 235, SR
#30 Casey Schaub, LB, 6-1, 200, SR
#43 Eli Hinebauch, LB,5-10, 160, SR
#50 Cameron Pribyl, LB, 5-10, 180, SR
#2 Zach Plum, DB, 5-8, 160, JR
#5 Ryan Brandt, DB, 5-8, 170 SR
#6 Brayden Grimson, DB, 5-10, 175, SR
#84 Mark Vukasin, WR, 5-8, 155, SR
#21 Thurman Holdsclaw, DL, 6-2, 200, JR
#10 Brandon Smith, DL, 6-3, 210, SR
#52 Evan Flathers, DL, 5-11, 195, SR
#75 Trent Nystrom, DL, 5-10, 235, SR
#3 Josh Bauder, QB, 5-11, 180, SO
#45 Mike Bienusa, RB, 5-11, 190, SR
#2 Tyler Murray, WR, 6-0, 165, SR
#6 Kris Cleveland, WR, 5-9, 140, SO
# 21 Hunter Kerr, WR, 5-9, 170, JR
#9 Zander Smith, WR 5-9, 170, JR
#68 Jackson Kanenwisher, OL, 6-1, 220, SR
#52 Tyrell Born, OL, 5-11, 210, JR
#60 Seth Ray, OL, 6-0, 215, SR
#74 Charlie West, OL 5-10, 190, SR
#54 Carlton Breault, OL, 5-9, 225, SR
#52 Tyrell Born, LB, 5-11, 210, JR
#45 Mike Bienusa, LB, 5-11, 190, SR
#9 Zander Smith, LB 5-9, 170, JR
#6 Kris Cleveland, DB, 5-9, 140, SO
# 21 Hunter Kerr, DB, 5-9, 170, JR
#2 Tyler Murray, DB, 6-0, 165, SR
#22- Matt Turley, DB, 5-8, 155, SO
#33 Dustin Wiedenkeller, DL, 5-10, 180, SR
#68 Jackson Kanenwisher, DL, 6-1, 220, SR
#60 Seth Ray, DL, 6-0, 215, SR
#54 Carlton Breault, DL, 5-9, 225, SR