For the second straight year, the Havre High football team got a new season off to a less than desirable start.
The Central A Blue Ponies (0-1) annually open their season against the rival Northwest A Whitefish Bulldogs. And for the second consecutive season, the Bulldogs welcomed the Ponies with a harsh reception.
Saturday afternoon in Whitefish, the Bulldogs defeated the Ponies 45-27. The BNSF traveling trophy was also on the line, but will remain in Whitefish for another year. HHS does still hold an 8-5 record over Whitefish over the last 13 meetings. The Ponies won the meeting five consecutive times before the Bulldogs put together this current two-game win streak over the Ponies.
“I don’t think it was necessarily anything that they (Bulldogs) did to us to beat us,” Havre High head coach Jason Christenson said. “We had some penalties that really hurt us, we had some turnovers, and we had some special teams breakdowns that hurt us and led to two scores. Not to take anything away from Whitefish, they have a very talented quarterback and receiving core, and had a great game, but I think we shot ourselves in the foot more than them just coming out and hurting us. Our breakdowns really hurt us bad.”
And the game couldn’t have gotten off to any worse of a start.
Sean Foley is an explosive player for the Bulldogs, and has state speed on the track team. That speed and explosiveness was on display when Foley took the Saturday's opening kickoff 91 yards to pay dirt, giving the Bulldogs an early 7-0 lead they would eventually run away with. The Bulldogs added a 36-yard field goal to take a 10-0 lead over HHS through the first quarter. Foley finished the afternoon as a thorn in the Ponies’ side, eventually ending the outing with five scores.
“He is definitely their speedster that does it all,” Christenson said. “He lined up as a running back, a quarterback, and a receiver, and he has some wheels. He was also a corner for them, so he was their lockdown corner as well, and really just had an all-around good game.”
The Pony defense did do well to allow just one field goal after the surprising kickoff return, but unfortunately, the Ponies couldn’t keep the Bulldog offense at bay.
Whitefish scored on all four of their first-half possessions and racked up 24 points. The Ponies were pressuring the Bulldog offense, and even managed a couple of sacks, including a Jordan Schroeder sack in the second quarter, but couldn’t seem to keep the Bulldogs out of the end zone.
The Ponies scored on two of their three first-half possessions as well, but still trailed 24-13 at the break. In the second frame HHS narrowed the gap to 10-7 on a one-yard Kody Pribyl run, but Whitefish snatched back any momentum by capping off a 50-yard drive with a four-yard Nathan Park rushing score. The Ponies bounced back again, this time with a 19-yard Dane Warp to Nate Rismon scoring toss with 7:27 left in the half. But the Bulldogs also bounced back, blocking the PAT kick attempt, and then marching back down field and ending the half with another Foley touchdown, this time a 1-yard punch in on the ground.
The second half belonged to the Bulldog offense.
Foley scored two more times in the third quarter for Whitefish, scoring on a one-yard run and five-yard run to give the Bulldogs a 38-13 lead. Foley also added his fifth score of the afternoon with 10:57 left to play in the fourth, this time returning a 53-yard punt to the house, stretching the deficit to 45-13.
HHS added two scores late in the fourth, but it was too little, too late. Warp scored one a 3-yard carry with 7:31 left to play, and Thomas Gruber followed with a 10-yard reception for a score with 3:16 left to play.
The Ponies could have found themselves in a much tighter matchup Saturday, but their mistakes always seemed to haunt them and benefit the Bulldogs. Turnovers are always costly, but the penalties in poor situations are just as costly, sometimes. The Ponies had the Bulldogs on the ropes several times, forcing them into third-and-long situations, and then bailing them out with penalties. HHS quickly learned that they can’t afford to give explosive teams extra downs on offense.
“Special teams can be an easy fix,” Christenson said. “That is just going to come with repetition, and getting them to stay in their lanes and execute. Special teams are crucial, and as far as turnovers go, those are going to happen in football games. It comes down to how we handle those, and we didn’t do that well. Whitefish turned two turnovers into touchdowns. And as far as penalties, kids really came out fired up and excited. But there was some extracurricular hitting and shoving, which we don’t condone. The kids understand, and we will get these things corrected.”
Offensively, the Ponies didn’t play a poor game, in fact, HHS out produced the Bulldogs pretty much everywhere except for the scoreboard.
Warp finished the day with a 19-for-28 outing for 323 yards, two scores and two interceptions. He also rushed the ball 15 times for 56 yards and another score. But dropped passes hurt the Ponies, as the HHS receivers struggled to find a consistent groove with the sophomore quarterback.
“Dane was making the right reads and the receivers were running the right routes.” Christenson said. “And Dane was putting the ball right in their chests, and the receivers have to make those plays and catches. We had six drops on the day, and that is way, way too many. But Dane still passed for 323 yards and two touchdowns. And he did have two interceptions, but those came when scrambling around and just trying to make something happen.”
Gruber led the Ponies with six catches for 121 yards. Ned Malone had five catches for 92 yards, while Rismon had three catches for 41 and his touchdown. Pribyl, Jace Billy, and Schroeder also combined for four more catches for a combined 69 yards.
Billy led the rushing attack with 10 carries for 53 yards, while Pribyl racked up 26 yards on six carries, as the Ponies rushed for a combined 143 yards on the day.
Defensivley, the Ponies had four sacks, with Jake Williams, Tyler Adams, Josh Emge and Schroeder all recording one each. Trevor Jensen caused and recovered a fumble, while Gruber forced a fumble that was recovered by Whitefish. Schroeder led the defense with nine tackles, while Jensen and Williams added seven each, Adams added six, and Tyrell Pierce finished five.
Havre High showed a lot of promise in their first time out in 2013, but still have some areas of concern. But the Ponies will look to get back on track Friday, when they welcome the extremely tough Miles City Cowboys to Blue Pony Stadium.
Whitefish 45, Havre 27
Havre 0 13 0 14 — 27
Whitefish 10 1414 7 — 45
WF — Sean Foley 91 kickoff return (Nathan Boone kick)
WF — Nathan Boone 36 field goal
HAV —Kody Pribyl 1 run (Tyrell Piece kick)
WF — Chris Park 4 run (Nathan Boone kick)
HAV — Nate Rismon 19 pass from Dane Warp (kick blocked)
WF — Sean Foley 1 run (Nathan Boone kick)
WF — Sean Foley 1 run (Nathan Boone kick)
WF — Sean Foley 5 run (Nathan Boone kick)
WF — Sean Foley 53 punt return (Nathan Boone kick)
HAV — Dane Warp 3 run (kick failed)
HAV — Thomas Gruber 10 pass from Dane Warp (Dane Warp run)
Passing – Dane Warp 19-28-323.
Rushing – Jace Billy 10-53, Kody Pribyl 6-26, Gunnar Aageson 1-8.
Receiving – Thomas Gruber 6-121, Ned Malone 5-92, Nate Rismon 3-41, Kody Pribyl 2-37, Jace Billy 1-18, Jordan Schroeder 1-14.