The end of the prep football season is typically when the weather starts to turn ugly. Especially in the state playoffs, teams have to deal with the elements and they play in the wind, they play in the rain, and they play in the snow.
But football players and schedules can endure a lot and it takes special circumstances to postpone or cancel a football game completely.
A severe lightning storm looming over Blue Pony Stadium in Havre on a Friday night falls under that category of a special circumstance.
Friday night in Havre, the non-conference matchup between the Central A Blue Ponies and Eastern A Miles City Cowboys was delayed, and then canceled, resulting in neither team taking a loss but both teams taking a tie. After a two-hour delay due to lightning, the Ponies and Cowboys ended the night with the scoreboard lit up 6-6. Both squads are now 0-1-1 on the season, losing their week one matchups a week ago.
“We have had delays before because of weather,” Havre High Activities Director Dennis Murphy said. “But I don’t remember ever having to cancel a game because of it. But because of the new lightning rule that we have, it would have been another 30 minutes after that last lightning strike.”
Only six plays were run in the second half before the first lightning strike was seen southwest of Blue Pony Stadium. At that point, 30 minutes were put on the clock, and both teams retreated to their lockerrooms. But with every strike seen from that moment forward, the 30 minutes on the clock was reset. And as fast as the storm seemed to clear up and blow over, an even bigger storm blew over the stadium even faster.
As the wind blew harder, and as the rain grew stronger, the fans trickled out of the stadium, leaving nothing but the lights shining down on an empty field. An occasional coach or player poked their head out to check the weather, but as the thunder shook the stadium, it was clear that the storm was not letting up.
“It was just hanging here,” Murphy said. “At one time we had the wind blowing the storm away from us, but we were watching it and the wind shifted and blew it right back. We waited two hours and fifteen minutes, and our biggest thing was we wanted to play this football game. It is easy for us to wait because we live here, but it was harder for Miles City. Miles City drove seven hours to get here, so we wanted to try and play this game.”
Unfortunately, the storm did not let up, and the game could not go on as planned. However, the 6-6 tie won’t hinder either squad, as the non-conference matchup won’t come into play in any conference tiebreaker situations down the road.
The Ponies are now 0-1-1 and will face Sidney on the road Friday in another non-conference matchup.