By Tiffany L. Rehbein
BUTTE A scoreless fourth quarter was good for the Blue Ponies in that the Butte Central Maroons did not score. However, it was bad for the Ponies in that they, too, did not score. The result, the Blue Ponies were a touchdown shy of a tie and more than a touchdown shy of a win.
The Blue Ponies, 0-1 in the Central A and 0-2 overall, fell to the Maroons, 2-0, 14-7 Saturday at Butte in the Central A conference match-up.
I thought our kids played really hard and we were pleased with that, said second-year head coach Dan Olson.
The Maroons got on the scoreboard first with a Nate Stillwagon 12-yard run into the end zone in the first quarter.
The Blue Ponies answered in the second quarter on a seven-yard pass completion from senior quarterback Ricky Brown to senior tight end David Heberly. Havre evened the score at seven with the extra-point attempt by Brown.
However, first-half penalties and turnovers marred the Blue Pony attack before halftime.
After the Blue Pony touchdown, a crucial late-hit penalty by the Blue Ponies set up Butte with favorable field position. Off-side and holding penalties plagued the Ponies throughout the first half.
Although the Blue Ponies gave up 266 rushing yards to Butte, Olson said three-to-four important goal line stands thoroughly stopped the Maroons.
We really tightened up when the Maroons got in scoring range, Olson said.
Offensively, Brown completed 12-of-28 passes for 142 yards, including two interceptions and one touchdown.
Junior Brent Finneman had 16 carries for a team-high 74 yards followed by sophomore Kevin Harada, who played little more than one half due to an injury, who had six carries for 54 yards.
Senior Nate Baltrusch connected with Brown for eight receptions and 84 yards in the effort.
Senior Heberly, who scored the only Pony touchdown, had a seven-yard reception.
I thought our defensive game worked really well, Olson said.
Senior linebacker Tyler Bebee led Havre with 11 solo tackles.
He played very, very well, Olson said. Bebee left the game with five minutes remaining due to a severe concussion.
A knee injury to Harada early in the second half, a possible season-ending ligament tear, also plagued the Ponies.
At defensive tackle senior Willie Hullett played tough and Brown, at strong safety, stepped up nicely, Olson said.
Seniors Jesse Suek and Landon Grant, from their defensive end positions, contained Maroon quarterback Zac Thomas, who rushed for more than 200 yards last week in Buttes win over Billings Central.
Their quarterback did not have nearly the game that he had last week, Olson said. However, Thomas did manage to elude the defense in the third quarter as he ran for what turned out to be a game-winning 51-yard run.
The Ponies, in a crucial 0-2 start, must win their next six match-ups to stay in playoff contention.