By Tiffany L. Rehbein
The homecoming festivities come to a head Friday night when the Havre Blue Ponies football team takes on the Fergus County Golden Eagles in Central A conference action.
Its always a fun week, said second-year head coach Dan Olson. We cannot get sidetracked by what needs to remain the focus. We have our backs against a wall.
The Blue Ponies, 0-1 in the Central A conference and 0-2 overall, are in a must-win situation at Blue Pony Stadium. They must win the remaining six games on the schedule to make playoffs.
Only in 1991 and 1993 have the Blue Ponies not qualified for the playoffs this decade. The seniors on this years squad were in the seventh grade the last time the Ponies did not advance.
We cant afford to stumble, Olson said. Weve got to play hard.
With a knee injury to up-and-coming sophomore Kevin Harada, the Blue Ponies will look to spread the ball out more over its offense.
Three wide receivers, senior Nate Baltrusch, senior Doug Kallenberger and sophomore Danny Wirtzberger, will run a three-out offense.
We need to clean up our mistakes and hopefully get the ball into our receivers hands, Olson said.
Against Butte Central last weekend, Baltrusch had eight receptions for 84 yards.
During the past week in practice, seniors Nick Newell and Chad Finneman and junior Grant Roman all got repetitions at wide receiver.
We need to generate some offense, Olson said.
Against Butte Central, senior quarterback Ricky Brown completed 12-of-28 passes for 142 yards, including two interceptions.
Brown also connected with senior tight end David Heberly for a seven-yard touchdown reception.
On the ground, the Blue Ponies rushed for 105 yards on 32 carries. Junior Brent Finneman led the way with 16 carries for 74 yards and Harada had six carries for 54 yards.
Defensively, senior linebacker Tyler Bebee and senior Willie Hullett at defensive tackle played well against Butte and look to be strong again Friday.
Bebee had a team-high 11 solo tackles.
Brown, Jesse Suek and Landon Grant have all played tough defensively at their respective positions. Suek and Grant combined to stop a long-rushing Butte quarterback last weekend.
Lewistown returns an all-state center in Ryan Dunn. Senior Matt Salvi is a returning starter at quarterback.
The Golden Eagles have some young running backs in juniors Andrew Rinaldi and damen Woolsey. Senior Receiver Jerad Otto, with Dunn and Terry Snapp, looks to play tough on the defensive end.
Senior all-state end Bobby Vanek looks to lead Lewistown on the defensive end.
This is a big week for us, Olson said. Its a crucial point. If we play as well as we did Saturday against Butte and eliminate our mistakes, we still have the ability to have a successful season.
Kick-off is slated for 7:30 p.m. at Blue Pony Stadium.