By Kim Staudinger
The Central A conference has not been friendly to the Havre Blue Ponies football team this season. The Ponies started strong, defeating nonconference foes Whitefish, Sidney and Glendive, but have lost the last three, vs. Laurel, Lewistown and Belgrade, dashing all possible playoff hopes.
About the only positive thing the Ponies have going for them is the fact the next two games are should-wins against Livingston and Browning. But, as head coach Troy Purcell says, there are no sure wins.
"It's a crazy game," he said after the Ponies' 26-0 loss to Belgrade. "It just goes to show that anybody can beat anybody on any given day. There are no givens in this game."
The Ponies (3-3) were hoping to snap a two-game losing streak in Belgrade (5-1) and keep post-season hopes alive. Instead, the Panthers shut out Havre, marking the first time Belgrade has ever defeated the Ponies in a football game.
"Winning is contagious," Purcell said. "And losing is contagious. We gotta get back on a winning streak."
Senior quarterback Danny Wirtzberger completed 17 of 23 passes for 100 yards and Justin Kegel completed one of three passes for 20 yards for the Ponies.
Havre had 57 yards rushing, but lost 38 yards on sacks by the Panthers. Wirtzberger rushed for 37 yards, followed by Levi Briese with 21. Kevin Harada added two yards in limited playing time for the Ponies. Harada, who broke his jaw in Laurel, played mainly defense for Havre to avoid further injury.
Jason Johnstone pulled down five catches to lead the Ponies with 37 yards and Steve Harman added three catches for 28 yards. Briese also had four catches for 22 yards, followed by Wirtzberger, who had one catch for 20 yards. Steve Heberly, who faced strong coverage throughout the game, was held to four catches and seven yards. Harada also had one catch for six yards for the Ponies.
The Panthers rushed for 247 yards, 124 by Nate Brown in the win.
Offensive penalties were once again a downfall for Havre, costing Havre 45 yards and a touchdown.
Belgrade took control of the game early, recovering a Havre fumble. Jake Kallestad capped the effort with a six-yard run for a touchdown.
Belgrade's next score was a 20-yard field goal by Tyler Miller, giving the Panthers a 10-0 lead after the first quarter.
Miller added a two-yard run in the second quarter for Belgrade, mounting a 16-point halftime lead.
"A person could still rally back from that," Purcell said, referring to the halftime lead.
The Panthers scored two more times in the third quarter, putting the game out of reach for Havre. Brown scored on a 16-yard run and Miller kicked a 17-yard field goal for the Panther scores.
"They got two field goals on us," Purcell said. "So our defense held them twice within the 20-yard line."
Purcell also said the Panthers scouted Havre's offense well and knew what to look for in the game.
"They did a good job of covering our receivers," he said. "They contained Stevie real well. Momentum was definitely on their side throughout the whole game."
Scoring summary: Belgrade Jake Kallestad 6-yard run (Tyler Miller kick), Miller 20-yard field goal, Miller 2-yard run (kick failed), Nate Brown 16-yard run (Miller kick), Miller 17-yard field goal.