I had the opportunity to wa
tch the Havre High Blue Ponies face Dillon in the Class A state semifinals over the weekend. And after covering this team, this group of athletes all season long, it was unfortunate how things had to end in what turned out to be one of the Ponies' best football seasons in the past several years.
The season was up and down for the Ponies, but overall they found enormous success. And while I watched the Ponies suffer a tough 56-14 loss to end their season, that one game shouldn’t cast a shadow on an otherwise successful season by a team that showed no quit.
Dillon was by far one of the best football teams I have seen play since I have been covering the Ponies. And to be honest, I will be surprised if they don’t welcome in Billings Central this Saturday in the state championship game the exact same way they welcomed in the Ponies last weekend — with a resounding and emphatic win.
But as I covered HHS on the sidelines, I didn’t see one Blue Pony quit or hang their heads. Yes, I saw some frustration, but I also saw the team come together and the constant building of each other’s spirits and moral.
Instead of the loss that ended the great run for the Ponies, the 2011 squad should be remembered for what they did in the 10 games prior.
The Blue Ponies broke numerous school records on the offensive side of the ball and even answered a three game losing streak with a six game winning streak. And after a six-season drought from the state semifinals, the Ponies also punched their ticket to that game after clinching the Central A title and a quarterfinal win over Hamilton.
All of the hard work the players and coaches put in during the offseason and regular season paid off. Head coach Jason Christenson introduced the team to high paced style of offense and that really carried the Ponies. Justin Jensen emerged as one of the top quarterbacks in the Class A, if not the state and achieved a lot in his senior season that he can look back on forever.
Senior running backs Casey Schaub and Ryan Brandt also emerged as stars, as did wide receivers Thurman Holdsclaw, Brayden Grimson and Zach Plum.
And on the defensive side of the ball, Schaub also ended his senior season with much to be proud of. He constantly led the Blue Pony defense in tackles week in and week out. And after a strong season from the linebacker position, Schaub even earned an 83-yard interception return for a touchdown in the semifinal loss to Dillon.
After a season of hard work, that hard work didn’t disappear last weekend in the devastating trip to Dillon.
And as the game went on, so did the Blue Pony fight. HHS looked to score on every drive, no matter the score. They could have easily folded and even turned on each other, but instead, I heard nothing but positive talk on the sidelines. Players continued to keep the mood positive, and came alive when Jensen connected with Brandt in the end zone late in the game.
The Ponies had a great season, one of their best in years. They were fun to cover and even more fun to just sit back and watch go to work on the opposing teams. And looking back, hopefully that is what fans will remember from this season, the hard work and dedication that the players displayed every time they took the field.