If anybody should be excited about getting back on the football field, it’s the Havre High football team.
In athletics, it is hard to think of anything worse than ending in a tie. Nobody likes a loss for obvious reasons, but ending a nonconference rivalry game at 6-6 after basically just one half of play is maybe just as bad. That is the situation the Central A Blue Ponies found themselves in in their home opener last Friday night, as the Ponies tied the Miles City Cowboys 6-6 after the game was called because of lightning.
Now the Ponies are prepared to get back into action as they travel to Sidney to take on the 2-0 Eagles tonight at 7. The Ponies are 0-1-1 overall
“The kids were upset with not being able to get that entire game played,” Havre High head coach Jason Christenson said. “And getting a chance to see what the outcome could be. And I know they really want to get back out on the field and play hard for four quarters, and just finish a game.”
And the Ponies will take the field tonight, but against a very good Eagles team. The Eagles defeated the Central A Livingston Rangers 7-6 in week one, but are coming off of a 28-6 win over Williston, N.D., last week.
The Eagles are no doubt a run-first offense. And while the Ponies did an adequate job stopping the Cowboys’ running game last week, they are going to see quite a bit more running from the Eagles. Jordan Stevens is a very talented running back and nearly had a 100-yard game his last time out. And Austin Kendall adds a one two punch in the backfield, as he is coming off of a 123-yard game a week ago. But the Ponies also have to be leary of Gresh Jones, a talented quarterback that can also use his legs in the running game.
Sidney ran the ball 43 times in its last outing.
“They are going to be hard to stop,” Christenson said. “And their offensive line executes their blocks very well. They will pass a little bit to keep a defense honest, but their bread and butter is the running game.”
Havre’s defense has the potential to be a game changer, but the success greatly depends on how the safeties play and execute their assignments.
Tristan Manuel and Trevor Jensen need to have big games. Manuel has already missed action due to a leg injury, but is back in the lineup after Thomas Gruber (corner) filled in as a safety last weekend. But with players back in their normal positions, that bend and don’t break mentality is going to be crucial, as linebackers Jordan Schroeder, Jace Billy, and Jake Williams are also expected to step up and leave their mark on the Eagles’ ball carriers.
In preparation, the Ponies have really worked on the keys and reads by the safeties and linebackers.
“That has been our focus this week,” Christenson said. “And hopefully that translates to success on the field. They need to fly around, fly to the ball, and get to where they need to be to be successful. Last week we had some breakdowns because our safeties weren’t where they needed to be during certain fronts or certain situations. Miles City got us in the cut back lanes and that is where they found most of their success. Our safeties know where they need to be and I think we have that corrected.”
Offensively, the Ponies would like to start this week how they started last week, with a score on the opening drive. And how successful the offense is, may depend on how balanced the it is. There is no doubt that everything runs through quarterback Dane Warp, and his arm may be the most powerful weapon the Ponies have. But teams know the Ponies can throw the ball, and try everything they can to stop that. In throwing situations the Ponies have to keep Warp upright, but to add to their attack, Billy and Kody Pribyl need to find the openings behind a hardworking offensive line.
“You always want to march down the field and score on your first offensive drive,” Christenson said. “And if you are able to mix up the pass and run when you score like we did last weekend, it just gives the offensive line so much confidence, as well as the quarterback, running backs, and entire offensive unit. If we can sustain drives in Sidney, and find a way stay balanced, that will go a long way for our offensive success.”
It will be a tough task, but the Ponies like their chances if they can execute the gameplan without mistakes and unforced errors. Havre also wants to use tonight’s game to continue to improve as Central A Conference play, and a huge showdown with the Livingston Rangers is now just two weeks away.
The Ponies will face the Eastern A Eagles tonight at 7 in Sidney. Havre is back home next Friday to host the Glendive Red Devils.
Ponies ready for a full 48 minutes tonight
Havre High at Sidney
Tonight at 7 p.m. in Sidney, MT
Blue Ponies are 0-1-1 overall, tied Miles City last week
Eagles are 2-0, defeated Ponies in Havre last season.
Radio: 610 KOJM AM