With week one now behind them, the Havre High Blue Pony football team was able to get a really good, and up close look at this years’ squad. And with an up and down first outing, it was clear that young squad has some growing up to do before they can they become truly competitive this season.
The Central A Ponies opened up the season with a Saturday afternoon game, facing the Whitefish Bulldogs in nonconference action on the road in Whitefish. And while the Ponies experienced some highs, they also suffered some lows as the Bulldogs went on to beat the Ponies 45-24. It was the first time the Ponies suffered a loss to the Bulldogs in the last six seasons, as the BNSF traveling trophy left Havre hands after a five-year stay.
“I am really proud of the kids and how they played for three and one half quarters,” Havre High head coach Jason Christenson said. “We had a couple of mistakes that a young and inexperienced team will make, and I think the kids tightened up a little bit, where a more experienced crew would keep battling and surging forward. The younger guys didn’t really know how to battle through adversity and I think that was the biggest difference in the ballgame.”
In the season opener, the Ponies had stretches of strong offense and stretches of strong defense.
In the first quarter, the Pony offense couldn’t get up and moving, but the defense allowed just one score and six points. And in the second quarter, the Pony offense took off with three touchdowns, but the defense also let up some, and allowed two more Bulldog scores. And the second half was just as sporadic. The HHS defense turned away the Bulldogs for no scores in the third frame, but again, the offense had trouble finding any positive momentum.
The fourth quarter proved to be the most difficult for the young Blue Ponies. They held a 24-18 lead heading into the final frame, but couldn’t hold on. The offense didn’t score a point, but was forced to punt the ball once, as well as fumbled the ball away and gave up two interceptions, one that was returned 42 yards for a score by the Bulldog’s Jed Nagler. But the defense didn’t perform their best either, as they gave up three other scores, and watched the lead slip away. After leading 24-18, the Bulldogs tied the game with a 26-yard pass, took the 31-24 lead with a 19-yard run, and extended the lead again with a 29-yard run. Nagler’s interception return was the final score of the game, giving the Bulldogs the 45-24 victory.
But the defense had their moments. Zach Plum had an interception for the Ponies, while the defense also forced two fumbles, three punts and four turnovers on downs. Thurman Holdsclaw had eight tackles, three for a loss, and a sack. Chet Schrauger also had 11 tackles and forced a fumble, while Jake Williams had 15 tackles, and Jordan Schroeder had nine tackles. Dustin Odegard also had five tackles and a sack, while JT Belcourt had six tackles, one hurry and forced a fumble as well. The defense also gave up a total of 435 yards of offense to the Bulldogs.
And the offense showed signs of explosion behind the leadership of freshman quarterback Dane Warp.
Warp connected with Tristan Manual on a four-yard TD pass, as well as with Holdsclaw on a 36-yard touchdown pass. Holdsclaw threw a TD pass, connecting with Thomas Gruber from five yards out. Holdsclaw also proved to be a top return man, returning a kickoff 72 yards for the Ponies' first score of the afternoon.
The Pony offense passed for a total of 174 yards and rushed for 121. They also had a total of five turnovers, with Warp throwing two interceptions and Kendal Swan threw the other. Warp also passed 15 times for 151 yards to lead the offense, while Holdsclaw reeled in 4 targets for 72 yards. Plum also had five catches for 40 yards, while Gruber had five catches for 38 yards. On the ground, Holdsclaw had 12 carriers for 86 yards, while Manual carried the ball 8 times for 51 yards.
It wasn’t the Ponies' best opening game, but they needed to get on the field to get a better look at the squad. With just a handful of seniors on the team this year, and after losing 12 starting seniors from a year ago, needing growth and experience was to be expected.
“We just have to keep preaching to the kids that we played a talented football team,” Christenson said. “They started seven seniors on offense and seven on defense that were quality kids, and we played well and held our own for a while. We just have to keep preaching that we need four solid quarters, and that we need to keep battling until the last whistle and learn from our mistakes. You have to keep battling.
“This game opened our eyes to where we are vulnerable,” Christenson added. “We are young and have a lot of holes to plug, but we now we really know where we need to concentrate on, where we need to work, and where we need to improve on. But this game went a long way for the kids’ confidence, and it showed us coaches where our strengths and weaknesses are too.
It was a nonconference loss as the Ponies start out 0-1, and HHS will get a shot at another nonconference opponent this week. Friday at Blue Pony Stadium in Havre, the Ponies will make their home debut against the Butte Central Maroons.
Whitefish 45, Blue Ponies 24
Havre 12 12 0 0 - 24
Whitefish 12 6 0 27 – 45
WF – Logan Harwood 42 pass from Luke May (run failed)
HAV – Thurman Holdsclaw 72 kickoff return (run failed)
WF – Shane Marcial 10 run (pass failed)
HAV – Thomas Gruber 5 pass from Thurman Holdsclaw (run failed)
HAV – Tristan Manual 4 pass from Dane Warp (kick failed)
HAV – Thurman Holdsclaw 36 pass from Dane Warp (run failed)
WF – Logan Harwood 59 pass from Luke May (run failed)
WF – Shane Marcial 26 pass from Luke May (kick failed)
WF – Shane Marcial 19 run (Walter Holiday run)
WF – Shane Marcial 29 run (Walter Holiday run)
WF – Jed Nagler 42 interception return (Walter Holiday run)
Havre Individual Statistics
Passing – Dane Warp 15-23-151, Thurman Holdsclaw 1-1-8, Kendal Swan 1-2-15
Rushing – Thurman Holdsclaw 12-86, Tristan Manual 8-51, Dane Warp 10- -16
Receiving – Thurman Holdsclaw 4-72, Zack Plum 5-40, Thomas Gruber 5-38, Ned Malone 1-15, Tristan Manual 1-4.