By Alan Sorensen
The Havre High Blue Ponies have a lot to prove when they take the field against the Whitefish Bulldogs in view of Big Mountain Saturday.
The Ponies lost a heartbreaking overtime game on their home field Sept. 2 to start the season.
The young Havre squad under first-year head coach Troy Purcell played tough, but was shaky at the end. Whitefish ended up winning the afternoon game at Blue Pony Stadium in Montana overtime, 13 to 7.
"From our first time when we played them, I think we have improved and improved and improved every game," Purcell said.
Purcell predicted that Saturday's match up should be a monumental defensive struggle.
The last two weeks, the Ponies have limited their opponents to little more than a token score.
Stepping up and having an outstanding game for the defense against the Indians in Browning last Friday was Brandon Crawford, whom Purcell said "played pretty well." Crawford was named defensive player of the game for his two interceptions, fumble recovery and some knock down hits.
The Blue Ponies will use the same defense they've relied on for most of the year, the coach said.
"Our base package is our 43 defense, the college look," Purcell said. "We put our defense together this week with Whitefish in mind. We'll do certain adjustments to their formations."
Both teams come into the game with fairly strong defenses, but the improving Ponies appear to have the advantage on offense.
"Some games we pass for over 200 yards and sometimes we run for over 200 yards," Purcell said. "We just take whatever they give us and get it done."
The Ponies may be close to full strength Saturday, but there are still some major question marks.
"Grant Roman got dinged in the Livingston game and he sat out last weekend, but he's in this weekend," Purcell said. "Finneman got dinged about four weeks ago. We played him a little in the Livingston game, but we sat him for the Browning game.
"We'll wait until game time and see if we can get him in on both sides of the ball. He's a strong running back and a definite force at free safety."
Purcell said the entire team is rounding out at the right time and he wishes he could single out each player for recognition.
"The kids really came around," he said. "It's hard to mention some kids and not all the kids. You'd like to stick all the names in there."
Should the Ponies take the win in Whitefish, they'll be home to play either Dillon or Miles City in the second round. The game is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. in accordance with the MHSA, but Blue Pony Stadium could be a problem.
"Carroll's coming down to play Northern that same weekend," Purcell said, "so I don't know what will happen."
Fans who are heading to Whitefish for Saturday's clash are reminded that a free chili feed is scheduled in the Whitefish High School cafeteria from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.