An 0-2 start to the season was not in the script for the Havre High football team this season. But the improvements keep coming, and the Blue Ponies are nothing but excited to get on the field again this weekend.
Tonight at 6, the Ponies are back on the road, this time facing the Cowboys in Miles City. It is another non-conference matchup
for the Central A Ponies who are coming off of tough losses to Whitefish on the road and most recently, Butte Central at home.
Miles City is not a mystery to the Ponies, and the Ponies know it will be a tough task to earn their first win against the Cowboys.
The Cowboys are always tough, and give any team they face fits. They continue to bring in size, especially on the offensive and defensive lines, and love to play hard, physical football. They also like to dominate teams up front with their size. They run the ball hard, and they run the ball a lot. But the Cowboys aren’t always run heavy, as they aren’t afraid to air the ball out either. If the Cowboys can really open things up with the run game, they can get extremely dangerous, really fast.
“Nothing ever changes with Miles City,” Havre High head coach Jason Christenson said. “They are always well coached, and this year is no different. They are big, they are physical, and they have some good skill kids. Our kids understand what they have to do to compete with this team, and they stepped up their game this week, and have had some great practices. They are looking forward to the competition.
“They are going to run behind the big horses they have on the offensive line,” Christenson added. “And on defense, they are going to fly around and play their style. They aren’t going to change anything for us, and we fully expect to face a team that is going to play hard for four quarters and play hard until every whistle.”
But the Cowboys are also very young, so if the Ponies put together a good game, they could very well return home with a solid win. The Cowboys start 13 sophomores this season and are 1-1 on the season. They already suffered a 38-0 loss this season, a rarity for Miles City.
The offense will be led by quarterback Alec Haughian, running back Evan Haughian, running back/tight end Beau Peaslee, and wide receivers Devin Begger, Timmy Regan and Tanner Treu.
And the Havre High defense focused a lot of their attention to one specific area this week in preparation.
Tackling killed the Ponies chances of a win last weekend, and it really showed in the score. And Christenson said they knew they needed to step up their game defensively, especially in that area of the game. So far this season the Pony defense has shown good pursuit to the ball, as well as a great point of attack on pass and run plays, however, they haven’t wrapped up. Last weekend the Ponies missed over 40 tackles, and gave up some big plays because of it.
It will take the entire defense stepping up to improve. Christenson isn’t singling out any one defender, but realizes it starts at the line and goes all they back to the corners and safeties.
“We have to get back to our fundamental tackling techniques,” Christenson said. “We need to trust ourselves and trust what we have taught by just wrapping up and making the tackle. If we can do that we should do better. You aren’t going to win many games by missing that many (40 plus) tackles, so the kids have to understand that they don’t need to run over the guy. We just need to stop the ball, wait for teammates to help, and good things will happen. I think the kids have a good idea of that.”
On offense, the Ponies’ No. 1 priority was to boost the play of the offensive line.
The Cowboys are going to put a lot of pressure on quarterback Dane Warp, but the offensive line has to limit that as much as they can. Warp was sacked over six times last weekend, and that number could stretch past that tonight with the physicality of Miles City.
Dustin Odegard, Travis Adams, Ruben Stewart, Tyler Adams, and Rocky Kuhr make up the offensive line and will have to have a solid game for the Ponies be successful.
“We put a lot of pressure on our offensive line,” Christenson said. “They really have to step up and do a better job drive blocking. We have to establish some sort of running game up the middle, we can’t rely on outside sweeps and stretch plays because team are teeing off on us. We have to establish something up the middle, and we have worked really hard to get off the ball los and fast and keep feet driving.”
HHS has already displayed an explosive passing game at times. If the run game can also get going, that will open up the door even wider to strike through the air, and will give the Ponies added weapons in running back Tristan Manuel.
“We are working hard and the kids are coming around,” Christenson said. “They are all working their tails off and still improving, it just takes time. The kids get thirsty for wins, and so do coaches. If we can pull a win out, that would be huge, and that would set the tempo for the rest of the season, and get that good taste back in everybody’s mouth. Miles City is one of the top teams in the state, and if we can compete, stay close, and even pull off a win, that would be huge for these kids.”
The Ponies (0-2) will face Miles City (1-1) tonight at 6 in Miles City.