There were moments when the Havre High football team looked like it was going to make the most of its emotional homecoming game with the Belgrade Panthers. However, youthful mistakes and a nearly impossible to stop Panther rushing attack overshadowed those moments.
The Panthers rus
hed for over 400 yards, including a memorable performance by Zac Brady, and Havre committed four costly turnovers in a 32-7 loss Friday night at Blue Pony Stadium. It was homecoming night for the Ponies and the Central A Conference opener for both teams.
“Penalties and turnovers really hurt us tonight,” Havre head coach Jason Christenson said. “Belgrade is too good of a football team to keep giving them a short field to work with like we did tonight. The turnovers were costly and that penalty we got after our touchdown, I love the emotion, but we can’t have those kinds of mistakes because those gave Belgrade a short field and they took advantage of it.
“And, they (Panthers) are a very good football team, they have a lot of seniors on the line and that was another big difference tonight,” he added.
The Panthers dominated the first half by keeping the Ponies out of the endzone, but Havre’s defense stepped up to the plate as well. Belgrade got on the board at the 6:29 mark of the first quarter when quarterback Dillon Marks scored on a 1-yard run. But Havre’s defense did well to hold the Panthers down the rest of the way. Jordan Schroeder forced a Belgrade fumble in the second quarter, but Havre gave the ball away three times in the first half too, once on a fumbled snap, once on a muffed punt and finally, Belgrade grabbed an interception in the endzone.
The Panthers also capitalized on the muffed punt, as just a few plays later, Marks hit Tristan Walker for a 41-yard touchdown pass to make the score 12-0 at halftime.
But Havre wasn’t down, and the Ponies responded in the third quarter. Thomas Gruber intercepted Marks in the endzone to turn away a Belgrade
scoring chance, then Dane Warp hit Zach Plum for a big 45-yard gainer. A couple of plays later, Warp connected with Gruber for a short TD pass, and all of a sudden, the Ponies found themselves only trailing 12-7 with 2:32 in the third period.
“We felt good about where we were at at halftime,” Christenson said. “I thought our defense did a really good job for the most part, and we did move the ball and make some big plays in the passing game. But at the end of the day, too many mistakes, and too many turnovers really hurt us.”
And one costly one was a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after HHS scored late in the third. That moved HHS back 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff and with a short field, Belgrade began to chip away at the Ponies with the run game. Zac Brady went wild in the second half, breaking off long runs, including a 22-yarder to answer Havre’s score and put the Panthers ahead 18-7 to start the fourth quarter.
And Brady kept going. He scored from 15 yards out with 8:34 to go in the game, and more importantly, his runs kept the ball away from HHS’s offense. In all, Belgrade scored 20 unanswered points in the second half and put the Ponies away on the ground.
“He’s (Brady) one of the best running backs in the state,” Christenson said. “And he showed why tonight. He’s also got a lot of seniors on that line and they did a really good job blocking for him tonight. They (Panthers) have a good running game, and especially in the second half, they really wore us down.”
The Belgrade lines may have been the biggest difference. Havre had huge plays in the passing game as Warp connected with Plum for big gains all night. Plum caught seven balls for 180 yards, including pass plays of 39, 45 and 35 yards. Holdsclaw and Gruber added five and four catches and 50 and 48 yards, respectively, while Warp went 16-of-24 for 283 yards and one TD. But while the HHS passing game gained big yards, Belgrade’s defensive line did a good job containing Holdsclaw, Tristan Manual and the HHS run game. The Ponies were bottled up to the tune of a negative six yards on the night after sacks and losses.
Defensively, the Ponies held the Panthers to just 47 yards passing, but they still racked up 451 yards of offense. Gruber and Ned Malone each had interceptions for HHS, while Gruber, Jake Williams and Holdsclaw each recorded 10 tackles. Jordan Schroeder and Chet Shrauger added nine tackles a piece.
“There were some bright spots,” Christenson said. “I thought Dane made some big plays in the passing game and he’s just going to continue to get better and better with each game and each experience. Our defense had some good moments tonight too. We created a few turnovers and they did a good job of giving us chances in the first half.
“It was a hard-fought physical game,” he added. “And our kids played hard all night. We just have to learn from these mistakes and get them corrected and get ready to go again next week.”
The game was also marked with a scary moment in the second half when Shrauger went down with an apparent head injury. He lay on the field and was attended to by medical staff for a lengthy period of time before being immobilized and taken to Northern Montana Hospital in an ambulance. Shrauger was released from the hospital the following morning and is expected to be fine.
The Ponies (0-1, 1-3) hit the road this Friday night for a trip to Lewistown in what will be a huge Central A game as far as the upcoming playoff picture is concerned. HHS is back at Blue Pony Stadium on Oct. 5 to host Libby.
Belgrade runs away
Belgrade 32, Blue Ponies 7
Belgrade 6 6 6 14 – 32
Havre 0 0 7 0 – 7
BEL – Dillon Marks 1 run (kick failed)
BEL – Tristan Walker 41 pass from Marks (kick failed)
HAV – Thomas Gruber 4 pass from Dane Warp (Pierce Kick)
BEL – Zac Brady 22 run (pass failed)
BEL – Brady 15 run (Brady run)
BEL – Kaley Foley 20 run (no attempt)
Havre Individual Stats
Rushing – Tristan Manual 4-18, Thurman Holdsclaw 2-6, Dane Warp 11 (-11), Zach Plum 1 9-15).
Passing – Dane Warp 16-24-283-2-1.
Receiving – Zach Plum 7-180, Thomas Gruber 5-50, Thurman Holdsclaw 3-48.