By Tiffany L. Rehbein
The Havre Blue Ponies played with class in their 21-19 victory over Central A opponent Belgrade Panthers Friday.
The scoreboard was blank until Belgrades Chad Worthington scored on a 75-yard punt return with 7:04 remaining in the second quarter to lift the Panthers 7-0 at Blue Pony Stadium.
But the Belgrade score did nothing but spark the Blue Pony offense. After the Belgrade kick off, senior quarterback Ricky Brown connected with seniors Nate Baltrusch and Ryan McIntosh and turned on the running game with junior Brent Finneman to put together a drive that resulted in a touchdown on a one-yard run by Brown.
Junior David Knight connected on the extra point to even the game at seven.
Finneman led the Ponies with 14 carries for 71 yards and one touchdown.
The Blue Pony defense held Belgrade to just four downs while the Havre offense put together another scoring drive in the second quarter.
I think our defensive effort was outstanding, said second-year head coach Dan Olson. We played extremely well in the first half. Our defense basically shut them down.
With 3:03 remaining in the half, Belgrade committed a costly penalty that left the Havre offense with a first down and 24 yards to the goal line.
Brown used McIntosh and Finneman on the ground to penetrate the Belgrade defense. With :36 seconds in the half, Finneman rushed for nine yards and the touchdown. Knight connected on the extra point to lift the Ponies to a 14-7 halftime lead.
Seniors Michael Holden, Jesse Suek and junior Matt Sasaki played tough on the offensive line, pass protection for Brown, enabling him to connect on the long drive.
Brown went 14-of-27 for 215 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, and had a one-run touchdown rush.
Baltrusch finished with seven receptions for 103 yards and one touchdown.
Senior tight end David Heberly had two receptions for 20 yards while junior Danny Wirtzberger had two receptions for 33 yards.
Belgrades first possession of the second half resulted in a fumble. Havre capitalized when Brown hit Baltrusch on a 24-yard pass reception for a touchdown after the turnover.
Finneman, McIntosh and Wirtzberger each contributed on the drive that began at their own 32-yard line. Knight again hit the field goal to lift the Ponies to a 21-7 lead.
Havre and Belgrade exchanged possessions until Jesse Suek punted the ball to the wily Worthington who returned the punt for 70 yards and a Belgrade score with 1:49 remaining in the quarter.
Defense proved to be the game-winner in the end for Havre.
I think in the first half that was the best half of defense weve played all year, said defensive coordinator John Larsen.
On Belgrades first possession of the half, the Panthers marched for two first downs until senior Jay Rucinsky broke up a down-field pass with 9:33 remaining in the quarter.
Belgrades Josh Clark intercepted a Brown pass on Havres first possession of the quarter and McIntosh chased him down to save the touchdown.
On its possession after the Havre turnover, Belgrade put together two more first-down conversions and Trevor Dunning rushed four yards for the only touchdown the Havre defense gave up.
Blue Pony senior Doug Kallenberger made a heads-up play and tipped the ball to spoil Belgrades two-point conversion attempt, leaving the Ponies up 21-19.
That is an excellent example of a senior stepping up and making a big play when we needed it, Larsen said.
On its last possession, Belgrade converted on a crucial third down play. With a rush at the quarterback, Havre managed to hold Belgrade with no gain for the final three downs.
Defensive tackle Willie Hulett made a huge tackle in the Havre stand that stopped the Panthers drive.
With 1:40 remaining in the game, Belgrade fell short of the 35-yard field goal attempt.
We did a really good job of keeping them out of the end zone, Larsen said. Teams are figuring out who they cant run at. Teams dont run at Jesse Suek and they stay away from Tyler Bebee.
Knight, in only his second start of the season, made some big stops for the Blue Ponies, Larsen said.
Belgrade managed only 17 yards passing in the contest against Havre, who leads the league in passing defense. The Panthers notched 173 yards rushing.
Havre evened its record to 2-2 in the Central A, while Belgrade slipped to 1-3.
The Ponies travel to Central A opponent Browning Friday for a 7:30 kick off game.