By Kim Staudinger
The Havre football team used its season motto "We started as a team, we'll finish as a team" to perfection Friday night against Park County High School, defeating the Rangers 20-0 for the Ponies' first conference win of the season.
Despite having their playoff hopes dashed last weekend, the Ponies rebounded, earning their first shutout of the season.
Neither team scored in the first half, battling strong winds and frigid temperatures. The closest either team got to scoring was a fumble recovered on the 20-yard line by the Rangers.
"We just didn't execute as well as we knew we should have in the first half," Ponies head coach Troy Purcell said. "In the second half, we executed a lot better."
Park, which had only 17 players suited up for the game, has not had a winning season since 1976 and has only won one game in the last five years. The one win, a 7-0 battle, came against Browning on Oct. 5 of this year.
Still, the Rangers put constant pressure on the Ponies' offense, causing Havre to rush a few passes early on in the game.
"Livingston was a sound ballclub," Purcell said. "They just didn't have the numbers. They did an exceptional job of timing and putting pressure on us."
Havre's first score came with 4:03 remaining in the third quarter as junior quarterback Justin Kegel connected with Steve Harman on a 25-yard pass up the middle. The play was a third down and 12 situation for the Ponies.
The drive, which had started on Havre's 48-yard line, quickly moved into Park's territory on a 15-yard facemask penalty, setting up two consecutive runs by Harman, totaling 11 yards.
The extra-point attempt was blocked by the Rangers, holding the score at 6-0.
Havre wasted no time in the fourth quarter, scoring on a 5-yard pass from Kegel to Steve Heberly with just over 10 minutes left in the game. Kegel ran a quarterback draw for the two-point conversion, giving the Ponies a 14-0 lead.
"I have to give all the credit to the line," Kegel said. "They really blocked well for us."
Purcell echoed Kegel's comments, saying the whole line, especially Tyson Roe and Kevin Harada, adjusted well to new positions and had an outstanding game.
"Kevin knew he couldn't play his position," junior running back Levi Briese said, mentioning running back Harada's move to the offensive and defensive lines because of an injury. "Hats off to him for learning a whole new position in one week."
The Ponies put the game out of reach for the Rangers on the next possession as Briese rushed 16 yards on the left side for the score with just under eight minutes remaining in the game. Briese finished with 108 total rushing yards for the game.
"I was happy with the performance of the team," Kegel said. "It's always pretty nice when you can go out there on your first start and have your whole team come out and play really well."
The Ponies held Park to only 58 total yards for the game.
Kegel was 5-for-12 with 87 yards passing for Havre with two touchdowns. Kegel also had 16 rushes for 69 yards and a two-point conversion.
"Kegel did an exceptional job," Purcell said. "He hasn't had a snap at quarterback all year and stepped it up and played real well for us."
Harman added two receptions for 42 yards and one touchdown for Havre, followed by Heberly with two receptions for 20 yards and one touchdown and Briese had one reception for 25 yards.
Briese also added 19 rushes for 108 yards, Harman with 11 for 61 yards, Chad Zuelke with 2 for 21 yards and Heberly had one for 12 yards.
Sophomore Chaz Hurlbert came in on the last series as quarterback and gained one rush for five yards. Fellow sophomore Paul Riechis, who came in the game on the last series, had one rush for negative yardage.
K.P. Fisher led the team with 11 assisted tackles, two unassisted tackles, one interception and one hurry. Roe followed with nine assisted tackles, one unassisted tackle, one caused fumble, one fumble recovery and one sack. Harada had three assisted tackles, three unassisted tackles, one caused fumble, two hurries and two sacks. Ben Mader added six assisted tackles, two unassisted, one hurry and one sack. Jacob Lorang also had one fumble recovery and one hurry for the Ponies.
The Ponies are in action again Friday at home against Browning for Havre's last game of the season.