By George Ferguson
Homecoming, a statewide telecast and the team that is favored to win your conference. A big game for the Havre High football team? Just a little.
The Ponies will face all these at Saturday night's contest when they face the Laurel Locomotives in a key Central A clash at Blue Pony Stadium.
With those things in mind Havre, head coach Troy Purcell knows his team will have no problem getting excited about this game.
"The kids are very fired up for this game," Purcell said. "With the fact that this is homecoming, and the game is on TV, as well as the fact that it's Laurel, the kids will have no trouble getting up for this one."
But how big?
"I probably wouldn't even have to say anything to them before the game," Purcell added. "That's how big this one is."
Havre High senior quarterback Justin Kegel shares his coach's sentiments.
"If you can't get up for this game you probably shouldn't be playing football," Kegel said. "Laurel is the next step toward a conference championship for us and we're real fired up to go out and get this win."
The Ponies (2-2, 1-0) are riding some momentum as they hit homecoming weekend. Havre has reeled off two straight victories, including a 42-14 drubbing of the Browning Indians last Friday.
"We have been doing some real good things on the field," Purcell said. "And we're coming off of a real solid week of practice so we're excited about this game."
Laurel is coming off of a 14-0 win over the Belgrade Panthers and is sitting at 2-2 on the season and 1-0 in the conference.
The Locomotives have a new head coach but return a large core of veteran players from a team that went to the second round of the Class A playoffs last season. Many publications around the state picked the Locomotives to win the Central A this season.
This season the Locomotives pretty much go as their quarterback goes. Senior Jeff Fischer (5-10, 160) threw for more than 1,200 yards last season and 23 touchdowns and is a player Purcell feels will be a key to this contest.
"We are going to have to control Fischer," Purcell said. "He is a good quarterback who can run the option really well, and he is working behind a big offensive line."
Like Fischer, fullback Jim Nelson (5-9, 210) is another all-state holdover from last season and is a very capable running back. Senior Brent Evans and junior Chris Smith anchor a very veteran offensive line.
Defensively, Laurel also returns key players to lead a very stingy unit.
"Laurel is going to be very good defensively," Purcell said. "They have big tackles on the line and athletic linebackers, and they're coming off of a shutout of Belgrade, so they will challenge us."
The glue of the defense for the Locomotives comes from all-conference senior linebackers Heston Roberts (5-10, 170) and Tim Martin (6-3, 175).
Purcell sees the keys to his Ponies having success as simple,
"We just need to keep doing what we have been doing," Purcell said. "Using the formations that we have used the last couple of weeks to put ourselves in sucessful situations."
This is a crucial two-week span for the Ponies. After Laurel, Havre will then travel to Lewistown to take on the defending state champion Eagles. However, Purcell isn't looking ahead.
"Every game in conference play could mean the championship," Purcell said. "If you lose a game, that could mean the difference between making the playoffs or not, so every game from here on out is big for us."
Kegel also knows the implications of Saturday night's battle.
"This would be a huge win for us," Kegel said. "You have to play one game at a time, but beating Laurel could really set the tone for the rest of the season for us."
The homecoming game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at Blue Pony Stadium on Saturday night. The game is being broadcast locally on Omega Television on channel 43. The game can also be heard on 610 KOJM.