There was a feeling in the air that the Havre High football team had an opportunity to beat the Miles City Cowboys for the first time in a long time. But Mother Nature had different ideas, and an eventual tie will leave fans wondering what might have been.
Friday night at Blue Pony Stadium in Havre, the Central A Ponies hosted the Eastern A Cowboys. Both squads came into the contest 0-1, and now both teams leave the contest 0-1-1. The game was ended after a two-hour delay due to lightning, ending the game 6-6 tie with just over 10:30 on the clock in the third quarter.
The Ponies played an outstanding first half, the offense finding the end zone once, and the defense allowing just one score from the Cowboys. And to start the second half, the Ponies forced a Cowboys’ punt on the first possession of the third quarter. Miles City ran just four plays before punting to the Ponies, but before HHS could see if the momentum had rolled over from the first half, the lighting that lit up the sky shut down the game.
“It is tough,” Havre High head coach Jason Christenson said. “The kids were playing well on both sides of the ball and it was a good, hard fight. You just hate to see something like this happen and a game be called by something like this. We always want the kids to play hard through the fourth quarter and finish a game, but what can you do with Mother Nature.
“I have never experienced anything like this,” Christenson added. “It is just unfortunate with Miles City having to travel all this way.”
Havre High came out and made a statement on their first offensive drive of the night.
The Ponies started with the ball on their own 35-yard-line, and in just over two minutes, marched down the field for a touchdown. The Ponies ran seven plays, mixing the run and the pass. But the drive was kept alive after what could have been a drive-stalling false start penalty. On first-and-15, a scrambling Dane Warp kept from being sacked with a punishing stiffarm on a Cowboy defender, finding enough time to connect with Thomas Gruber for a 13-yard pickup through the air. Two plays later, Warp connected with Gruber on a 24-yard touchdown pass, giving the Ponies an early 6-0 lead. The Ponies missed the PAT kick.
“I thought the offensive line really executed and I think we caught them off balance a little bit,” Christenson said. “We were able to mix up the pass and the run, and that kept them off balance, too, but I was really happy with that first scoring drive. The offensive line really did a great job, our quarterback made some great reads, and our receivers caught the ball and made big plays after the catch.”
The game turned into a defensive battle for the remainder of the first half.
Miles City punted on its first possession, and Gruber ended the Cowboys' second drive with an interception with 2:21 left in the opening frame. The Cowboys also had a turnover on downs, but did find a way to score at the 2:56 mark in the second quarter. After a drive that started on their own 38, the Cowboys eventually punced in a score on an Evan Haughian three-yard run. The Cowboys failed to convert the two-point conversion.
For the HHS defense, Jordan Schroeder led the way with 12 tackles, including two for a loss. Tyrell Pierce added six tackles, followed by Trevor Jensen and Tyler Adams, both with five. Gruber also had four solo tackles, one pass breakup and his first interception of the season.
Havre High running back Jace Billy breaks tackles during the first quarter of Friday night's Class A football game at Blue Pony Stadium. The Ponies and Cowboys ended in a 6-6 tie after a two-hour lightning delay. The HHS junior varsity team hosts Rocky Boy tonight at 6 at Blue Pony Stadium.
On offense, Warp passed for 130 yards on a 7-for-9 outing with one touchdown and a pick. Gruber was the top target and brought in four catches for 75 yards. Ned Malone had one catch for 25, while Kade Rismon and Jace Billy each had one reception for 15 yards. Rushing the ball, Billy also had five carries for 26 yards, while Warp rushed eight times for 28-yards, and Kody Pribyl rushed the ball three times for 21.
The game could have gone either way coming out of the lockerroom at the half, but the Ponies were sitting in great position, especially after forcing a punt and gearing up to attempt to march down the field for another score. And after making some adjustments at the half, coach Christenson is disappointed they didn’t get that opportunity.
“We just went over the offensive things that we needed to adjust for,” Christenson said. “And we made sure the kids were concrete on the defensive adjustments we made at halftime. It is just unfortunate that we weren’t able to execute them.”
The Ponies, 0-1-1 overall, will travel to face Sidney Friday in another non-conference game.