At times, the Havre High football team has not had the strongest defensive showings on the field this season. But stacked with a lot of young talent, highlighted by some talented veterans, the HHS defense is hopefully on its way to getting all of the pieces in place.
Senior defensive back Zach Plum is one of those key veteran pieces for the Blue Ponies.
Plum has highlighted the defensive efforts almost every week. And six games into the season, Plum currently leads the team with six interceptions, and has already earned a spot in the Havre High record books. In week one he had one interception against Whitefish, and earned one more interception in week three against Miles City.
Plum also grabbed another interception week four against Sidney for his third of the season, but doubled his efforts with three interceptions last week in a win against Lewistown. The three interceptions last Friday tied a Havre High defensive record for interceptions in a game.
“It feels pretty good,” Plum said. “It’s great actually. I have just been going hard everyday in practice and going hard in the EDD (every day drill) sessions. (Head) coach (Jason) Christenson always has us going hard.”
Plum has really benefited from EDD’s at practice, and is well aware they have played a huge role in his success.
Each day in practice, the HHS defense is hard at work. They prepare for each week’s opponents with a new game plan, as well as study game film at times and know exactly what to do against the different packages they will see. But it is also the little things that keep Plum a step ahead of the opposing offense, including keeping the ball in front of them, not letting the receivers beat them deep, staying low, a clean and fast back peddle, a hard break on the ball and receiver, and most importantly, not letting anybody into the end zone.
Plum has done very well so far in game situations, and has developed a knack for finding the ball before the receiver can get his hands on it.
“Usually I am in man coverage,” He said. “And I just watch the receiver’s eyes. When his eyes get big I know the ball is coming, so when his hands go up, my hands go up. That is when you look for the ball.”
But even with his six interceptions Plum has been able to reel in, the defense is still finding itself. They have shown great ability to stop the opposing offense at times, but have shown too many inconsistencies in the first six weeks of the season.
On average, the defense has given up 39 points per game, while the offense has been able to put up an average of 24 points per game. In their two wins, the Ponies have put 40 points in each, but that is a lot to ask for on a weekly basis by a young offense. If the Pony defense can continue to take positive strides and keep the opposing offense out of the end zone about two more times a week, then the HHS could start to see more wins, as well as a post season.
Plum knows the defense has the talent to be successful; they just have to clean some things up. On the top of his list of things to do, included not missing tackles, breaking down better, staying low and driving through the defender on every play.
“We aren’t making huge or big mistakes,” Plum said. “It is the little mistakes that are killing us.”
If Plum can continue to play well, then the defense should be able to follow right behind. All of the defensive backs, including Thomas Gruber, Ned Malone and Chet Schrauger have also really stepped up their game in the first six weeks, as has the young line and young linebackers. But Plum wants to continue leading the defense, and knows if he can come up with an interception, it can spark the Ponies efforts. He also knows, just a few more picks, and he can help the efforts and get into the record books by breakin Marc Mariani’s nine interceptions in a season.
“It seems like our offense always comes out fired up after an interception,” Plum said. “And we always play well after an interception. And the other defense, they don’t normally want to be on the field after the offense throws an interception.
“And I want to get four more interceptions at least,” Plum added. “And set the school record. And defensively as a whole, we want to start shutting teams down so that we can make the playoffs.”
Plum has two home games left in his Havre High career. The first is tonight when Havre host Northwest A rival Libby in a nonconference game at 6 at Blue Pony Stadium. Havre wraps up its home schdule next Friday night against Browning.