By Kim Staudinger
After a week of practices preparing to shut down Dana Knox, the Havre football team took to the field feeling well prepared.
But it was the Eagles who proved they are the team to beat, showing their versatility by adjusting to the defense and changing strategies to come away with a 34-7 victory Friday night at Blue Pony Stadium.
Instead of Knox leading the way, it was Chris Scotten, who attended grade school in Havre, and Scot Solberg who stole the show for Lewistown. Scotten led the Eagles in rushing with 79 yards and also kicked four extra points, showing doubters he can step it up when needed. Solberg was a defensive key for Lewistown, who held Havre to only 29 yards on the ground.
"He's a lot better fullback than people give him credit for," said Solberg of Scotten. "Chris stepped it up big this game. It was a big game for him."
Havre started the game off strong, accomplishing a season-long goal by holding the Eagles scoreless on their first possession and then coming back to score a touchdown of its own.
The Ponies needed only four plays to score, as Danny Wirtzberger and Kevin Harada each had runs of 29 and 24 yards, respectively. Harada also had two short runs of one and five yards as Havre moved downfield.
"That was huge," Havre coach Troy Purcell said. "It was a super goal for us to shut them down right away and to score on the first series."
Unfortunately, the opening touchdown with 6:54 on the clock in the first quarter was all the Lewistown defense would allow, holding Havre scoreless for the remainder of the game.
"We knew they would be fired up after last year," Solberg said referring to Havre's 14-0 loss in Lewistown last season. "We were a little flat before the game and that changed us. We needed to get woken up.
"The real key was our defense stepped it up and got us back into the game."
The Eagles tied the game at 7-all with 2:14 remaining in the first quarter on three consecutive runs, totaling 29 yards.
On Havre's first possession of the second quarter, Knox intercepted a pass, taking the ball 28 yards for the score and giving the Eagles a 14-7 lead. Lewistown's Nate Hammond also had an interception on the next Havre possession, but the Eagles's field goal attempt fell short.
Just when it looked as though the Eagles would take a seven-point lead into the half, quarterback Bryan Horacek connected with Doug Longfellow on a 34-yard pass for a touchdown with just over a minute to play. The extra point kick by Scotten was good, giving the Eagles a 21-7 halftime lead.
"That was a big score for us to get up by 14 instead of seven," Solberg said. "We were fortunate we got the punt return back. We were real happy to get that."
As the rain really started to pour, the game continued to get worse for the Ponies. With just over a minute left in the third quarter, Wirtzberger threw an interception to Knox, who returned it 80 yards for the score. After Scotten kicked the extra point, the Eagles led by 21 with one quarter of play remaining.
"Coming into the game, we knew we had to stop Wirtzberger," Solberg said. "He's a tough kid. We got to him quite a bit and he hung in there."
Lewistown would add its final score with five minutes to go in the game after Havre fumbled the ball on the four yard line. The extra point was blocked, keeping the score at 34-7.
"They pressured our line and pressured our quarterback real well, which made some good things happen for them," Purcell said.
The Ponies take to the field again this Friday at Belgrade.