By Jess Green
The Havre High School Blue Pony Football squad held off a potent Belgrade Panther offense in a 21-14 homecoming victory. Coach Troy Purcell said that it was a pivotal game on an important night for the school. Last night was a big game: homecoming kickoff, senior night, and playoff contention.
"It was a must win situation," coach Purcell added.
During the pregame ceremony Brent Finneman and Stacey Siebrasse were announced as home coming king and queen. The senior attendants in the royal court included Samatha Velk and Ryan Fink, Lindsey Brandt and Matt Kemp, and Samantha Velk and Chad Maney. Junior attendants for the royal court were Laura Hedstrom and Kevin Harada. Katie Siebrasse and Levi Briese were the sophomore attendants, and the freshman attendants were Hailey Schnittgen and Chris Peterson.
Havre won the coin toss and chose to receive the ball. The kickoff was fielded by David Knight at Havre's 19 yard line and returned to their 30. Brent Finneman opened the game with a 41 yard run on the first play from scrimmage, but two plays later Havre turned the ball over with an interception. The Panther's capitalized off of the turnover and went up 7-0 early.
The Ponies didn't take long to respond. After a 31 yard kickoff return by Grant Roman, Brent Finneman broke another for 49 yards and a tying score.
On the Panther's ensuing drive, Kevin Harada intercepted a pass and returned it to the Panther 24 yard line. However, after a fumbled pitch Havre found themselves at the Belgrade 46 yard line with a second down and 30 yards to go. They were unable to make up for the loss of yardage and the Ponies were forced to punt.
The first quarter ended with with Belgrade driving close to mid field. After the Ponies stopped the Panther's drive early in the second, both teams held on with strong defensive play. Just four minutes and 36 seconds from the half Blue Pony Brent Finneman sparked the Ponies with a 33 yard run then capped off the drive with a 2 yard punch into the endzone putting the Ponies up 14-7.
Belgrade then put together a nice drive which ate up both yardage and time. The Pony defense stiffened and forced turnover on downs at the Pony 16 yard line to end the first half.
Belgrade started the second half with the ball at their 36 yard line and pounded their way up to the 46 yardline. Kevin Harada recovered a fumble for the Blue Ponies on a second an eight play and the Ponies took over at the Panther 47 yard line. With back to back 17 yard runs, Havre's Brent Finneman capitalized on the turnover running it in from the 17.
Finding themselves down 21-7, the Panther's needed a spark and a spark is what they got! On the first play of the next drive Belgrade quarterback Travis Wiley sprinted for an 82 yard touchdown.
The kickoff sailed out of bounds and Havre took the ball at their own 35. The Ponies drive stuttered from the start and Belgrade blocked the attempted punt. The Panther offense took the field at the Pony 45 yard line and pushed their way to down to the 30. On a second down and six, Travis Wiley coughed up the ball and Havre recovered on their own 28 yard line.
The Ponies took the ball up to the 43 yard line, but after a near turnover, an incomplete pass, and a sack by Belgrade's Jarod Arnold, the Ponies were again forced to punt.
The punt sailed high and the returner bobbled the ball. The Ponies recovered and were again in business at the Panther 35 yard line. Nearing the end of the third quarter, the Ponies looked good, methodically moving the ball down to the Panther 21 when a controversially called fumble gave possession back to the Panthers at their 18 yard line. The next play, a one yard run, ended the third quarter.
It appeared that the Panther's would tie the game after, on third down and eleven, Travis Wiley connected with Brad Milam for a 73 yard gain. However, the Pony defense would have nothing of it; they held the Panther's to a failed field goal try and retained the 21-14 lead.
After a three and out drive for the Ponies, Belgrade began a long time consuming drive. The drive started at their own 35 and reached the Pony 5 yard line leaving about a minute and a half left in the game. Once again, with a game saving effort, the Pony defense held. With a heavy rush, the Ponies got a sack on fourth and goal and their offense was able to run the remaining time off of the clock.
"We needed to hold em' there," coach Purcell said, "our defense stepped up when it was important."
Havre's coaches acknowledged Grant Roman and David Knight with exceptional play on defense, while Brent Finneman carried the offense.
Finneman ended the night with 185 total rushing yards on 17 carries averaging more than 10 yards per carry. Pony Quarterback Dan Wirtzberger ran for 49 and was one of six for seven yards.
Belgrade managed 420 total yards on offense with 249 of those yards being on the ground. Panther quarterback Travis Wiley was 13 of 20 for 171 yards on the day.