Havre High has conference rivals like the Livingston Rangers and Belgrade Panthers in nearly every sport, but now that the Blue Pony football team is running into the Miles City Cowboys seemingly every year, a thrilling nonconference rivalry has also grown in football.
But the Cowboys have had the Ponies’ number over the least half of a decade, something the Ponies would like to change tonight in their home debut.
Tonight at 6, the Ponies and Cowboys will meet at Blue Pony Stadium in Havre. And with both teams starting the season 0-1 last weekend, they enter week two very hungry for a win against a very familiar opponent. Over the last three years, the Cowboys have handed the Ponies devastating losses at home, on the road, and in the Class A state playoffs. In 2010 the Eastern A Cowboys bounced the Ponies from the first round.
Fans who have been in Havre long enough, are fortunate enough to remember the 2002 season. It may have ended with a Blue Pony record of 7-4, but it also ended with a shot at the state title — losing to Laurel in the championship game — and with a shocking win over then No. 1 ranked Miles City, 19-12.
In November of the 2002 season, the Ponies’ upset over a powerful Miles City rushing attack came on a snowy and cold Saturday in Havre. It was a Class A state semifinal game at Blue Pony Stadium, and the Ponies were big underdog heading into the contest. And that year on Friday night, and deep into Saturday morning, a heavy snow fell on Havre, so much so that volunteers were up at dawn cleaning off the turf and stands at the Pony stadiem, getting ready for the Cowboys.
But the Ponies housed a team that was always capable of big plays on offense, defense, and special teams, similar to the 2013 Pony squad.
Tyler Thompson was part of the first big play, blocking a punt near the end of the first quarter. Two plays later, quarterback Justin Kegel found senior tight end Ben Mader for a 22-yard touchdown to give Havre a 7-0 lead. Holding a 7-6 lead later on down the road, the HHS offense showed off more big play capability. This time the Ponies found the end zone when Kegel hit star wideout Daine Solomon on a 61-yard touchdown pass to give the Ponies a 13-6 lead at the break.
Not to be outdone, the defense struck again in the third quarter. The Ponies got a big interception in the third quarter, and with a nice return, the Ponies’ offense had great field position. The turnover led to Kegel finding Mader on a 1-yard scoring throw and catch to give the Ponies a 19-6 lead heading into the final frame. Miles City scored again with five minutes to play, but the outstanding effort of the Havre defense made it difficult for the Cowboys to even get that. And by games end, the Blue Ponies had one of their biggest upsets in recent school history.
The HHS defense was stiff on that cold day in November, and they gave the Cowboys fits all game long. Miles City, which averaged nearly 300 yards per game rushing that season, had to fight Havre for every positive yard, and had to fight even harder for every point.
The Ponies prevailed, and wound up coming within inches of a state championship the following Saturday in Havre. The state title wasn’t quite meant to be, but in a series which has long been dominated by the Cowboys, that 2002 Havre High team made some big-time history of their own on that snowy and cold day in Havre.
Tonight, Havre and Miles City renew their rivalry when they meet at 6 inside Blue Pony Stadium.