Attempting to avoid a second straight loss, and the third loss on the season, the Havre High football team knows exactly what it has to do get the first win of the year.
Sitting at 0-2-1, the Central A Blue Ponies know they have a winnable week-four game. And after a couple of tight matchups over the last two weeks, the Ponies would love nothing more than to grab their first win of the season playing in Havre at Blue Pony Stadium.
And in their return home, the Blue Ponies will look to capture a win over the Eastern A Glendive Red Devils. Kickoff is tonight at 7.
Two weeks ago at home, the Ponies watched mother nature wash away a potential win against Miles City, an eventual 6-6 tie after just one half of football. And last week on the road, some costly mistakes aided in the Ponies dropping a tight game against the Sidney Eagles. The Eagles took down the Ponies 14-7.
“It is always great to play at home,” Havre High head coach Jason Christenson said. “And I think the kids are excited to play in front of this cheering home crowed again. Last time we were here fans only got to see half of a football game, but we are excited to hopefully get a full game in this time against Glendive.”
Typically football teams are concerned with executing the offense and defense when hoping for a win of any kind. But as the season progresses, the Ponies are looking at the special teams to help get the job done.
If HHS can get the kickoff, punt, kick return and punt return on track, it may pay dividends moving forward. The HHS defense has held the opposition to just 20 points over the last six quarters of play, and while the offense may not be at its peak level of performance just yet, it always houses explosive potential for coach Christenson. But with the special teams having its own issues early this season, that could be the fix needed to get Havre a notch in the win column. In week on against Whitefish, the Bulldogs returned the season opening kickoff 91-yards for a score, as well as a 53-yard punt for a score against the Ponies. The result was a punishing and lopsided loss for HHS. And last week, as the game was tied at 7-7, a late muffed punt return in their own red zone resulted in the go ahead score for the Eagles.
“We are especially focusing on our return teams,” Christenson said. “Really getting ready for Glendive’s speed and quickness. Special teams is what has really hurt us as of late, so we really wanted to get those to where we felt comfortable executing them. We also wanted the kids comfortable so they can just field the ball and avoid those goofy mistakes. Special teams are always important, and they can sway a game one way or another and we saw that against Sidney with the fumbled punt. If we execute, we can just let our offense and defense take care of themselves.”
Everybody on the defensive side of the ball better be ready to play nearly mistake free football as well.
Tanner Schwartz is a very talented quarterback for the Red Devils, and he has talented targets in Dennis Berg, Taylor Schwartz, and Jarod Asche to throw to. Asche is a sophomore tight end, and listed at 6-7, he is a very big target for Tanner Schwartz. Colter Bachmeier and Tai Sokoloski also add a spark in the running game, as the Red Devils should prove to be very well balanced behind a line that houses big bodies like Hunter Herbaugh (5-8, 235) and Brayden Pabst (6-5, 205).
Jace Billy has stepped up as one of the Ponies’ top linebackers, while Dustin Odegard and Tyler Adams will attempt to get to the quarterback from the defensive line. Trevor Jensen and Thomas Gruber have also played well to this point as two talented defensive backs.
“Glendive is very versatile and has a very well coached offense,” Christenson said. “We just have to execute and try to keep them contained with our defense.”
If the defense can continue to limit the opposition’s scoring, the Ponies’ offense has to get on the scoreboard enough to win. Seven points won’t get many wins at the Class A level, and the HHS offense is equipped with enough talent to light up the scoreboard on any given night.
And as important as special team’s play is, penalties have proven to be just as costly for the offense. Last week the offense committed 12 turnovers, all crucial in a offense that is still finding its groove. If the penalty flag is flying a lot less, it should allow Dane Warp to reignite the Ponies. Lately Warp has been scrambling for his life as the penalties result in long yardage and obvious passing situations, allowing the defense to blitz more bodies than the Ponies can pick up.
Odegard (6-0, 200) has moved to the offensive tackle position, allowing Jake Williams (5-9, 190) to remain at center. But Odegard and Williams are just two bodies on a talented offensive line. Mike Compton (5-11, 230), Ruben Stewart (5-11, 250), and Tyler Adams (6-1, 220) will all benefit from fewer penalties, and have more than enough talent to keep Warp upright.
Warp was sacked over half a dozen times a week ago. But if allowed to do his job, Warp should be able to connect with his fleet of receivers. Tristan Manuel is also getting more involved in the running game after coming back from an injury, and can also be a crucial component in getting the offense where it needs to be.
“We have to stop hurting ourselves and just be confident.” Christenson said. “The offensive line has to be confident in their blocks and that will allow our quarterback to have confidence in his line, execute his reads, and play the game without worrying about being sacked.”
Kickoff is tonight at 7, as the Ponies welcome in Glendive to Blue Pony Stadium in Havre.
Ready to Win
Havre High vs Glendive
Tonight at 7 p.m.
Blue Pony Stadium
Radio: 610 KOJM AM