By Bill Vander Weele (The Sidney Herald-Leader)
After falling behind by a 14-0 half-time margin against top-ranked Havre Friday, the Sidney Eagles hope their second-half defensive performance is a sign of things to come.
Sidney's defense, behind the standout play of defensive end A.J. Franzen and linebacker Lico Sifuentes, dominated play early and were much more aggressive in the second half of the team's 21-7 defeat.
"You're never happy to have a loss, but I'm pleased with how we came back in the second half and played hard," Sidney's Coach Mike Gear said. "In the first half, I didn't feel we played real well defensively. We had some sacks, tackles for losses and got some solid hits in the second half."
The defense couldn't be totally blamed for Havre's first touchdown in the non-conference game. A bad snap on a Sidney punt attempt gave the Blue Ponies possession at the Sidney 23.
After a 15-yard dash by Levi Briese produced a first down at the seven, Havre went on to score on a one-yard run by quarterback Dan Wirtzberger with 7:39 left in the first quarter. Wirzberger, a senior, kicked the PAT for a 7-0 margin.
The Eagles appeared poised to tie the game midway into the second quarter when quarterback Jared Abelseth used a great spin move en route to a 77-yard gain to the Havre three.
Two plays later, however, Sidney lost the ball when linebacker K.P. Fisher grabbed a pitch-out. Abelseth was injured during the drive and didn't return to action.
Havre then marched 78 yards on 12 plays to take a 14-0 advantage. The Blue Ponies hit paydirt on a 16-yard pass completion from Wirtzberger to Steve Heberly with 39 seconds left in the half. Wirtzberger kicked the PAT.
The second half opened Sidney's way when sophomore quarterback Josh Kringen connected with Josh Herman on a crossing pattern for a 65-yard gain to the Havre seven.
On second down from the eight, Kringen hit tight end Cory Baisch with 10:14 left in the third period. Herman kicked the PAT to cut the margin to 14-7.
Two sacks by Franzen, a 203-pound senior, caused Havre to lose 20 yards on its first possession on the second half.
The Eagles took over on the Havre 46 but couldn't pick up a first down. Defensive stops by Sean Tharp, Sifuentes and Franzen forced Havre to punt again. The Eagles took over on the Havre 39, but a fumble was recovered by Havre's Jacob Lorang on first down.
Another fumble gave Havre possession at the Sidney 31 in the fourth quarter, but the threat ended thanks to a quarterback sack by Ben Hettich.
The Blue Ponies, however, drove 53 yards on 10 plays on their next drive to put the contest away. Wirtzberger scored on a three-yard run and kicked the PAT with 2:02 left.
Sidney finished with 154 rushing and 111 passing. Abelseth ran for 69 yards on three carries. Kringen completed four of seven attempts for 98 yards.
Havre gained 116 rushing and 157 passing yards. Wirtzberger completed 13 of 19 attempts for 157 yards.