A major goal has finally been scratched from the Havre High football team’s to-do list. And from the players to the coaches, the entire Blue Pony program can breathe a sigh of relief.
Sitting at 0-2-1 on the season, the Central A Ponies were not in panic mode, but a win was strongly needed. And after a couple of tight matchups the last couple of weeks, that win finally came. Friday night at Blue Pony Stadium in Havre. The Ponies defeated the Eastern A Glendive Red Devils 33-0, improving to 1-2-1 ahead of this Friday’s Central A opener against Livingston.
And the win Friday means positive momentum moving forward as well as a lot more confidence.
“The kids came out and wanted this win really bad,” Havre High head coach Jason Christenson said. “It feels good to finally get one this year, and it is nice to get that monkey off of our backs. Both sides of the ball played very well, and I thought that Dane (Warp) made some great decisions, and it was that competitive spirit that kept us in a lot of drives and helped lead us to a win.”
Warp, the standout sophomore quarterback, was just as happy with the win, and looks forward to more wins down the road with his new and improved offense after Friday night’s 33-point barrage.
“The win felt great and this is going to get us over the hump heading into our conference games,” Warp said. “It was a huge confidence-booster, and we have been working on our offensive chemistry, and I think that really showed and helped us break through. I think moving forward it should be smoother sailing.”
And the offense got on the board early and often.
On their second drive of the game, the Ponies set the tone for the rest of the night. Starting out on the Glendive 48-yard-line, the Ponies shaved more than three minutes off the clock before punching in their first score of the night. On third down the Ponies’ drive was kept alive after the Red Devils were called for pass interference, and the Ponies scored three plays later. This time, freshman Parker Filius got the goal-line carry and punched in a rushing score from three yards out, giving the Ponies an early 7-0 lead. And it was only the beginning.
Havre led 7-0 after the first frame, and soon looked as comfortable as they have all season long.
The Ponies scored 13 points in the second quarter, six in the third, and seven points in the fourth. Kody Pribyl scored on a 3-yard rush, followed by a 35-yard scoring pass from Warp to Thomas Gruber, an 18-yard Warp run, and another Filius run from 30 yards away.
But the score that really put the Ponies’ authoritative stamp on this win was the 18-yard broken play scramble by Warp at the 2:29 mark of the third quarter. The score came after a Gruber interception gave the Ponies the ball back and the score resulted in a 26-0 lead for HHS. All of the Blue Pony receivers were covered by the Red Devil defense and Warp had three Red Devils closing down on him on the sideline. But after reversing field and losing the pressure, Warp then lowered his shoulder and steamrolled a would be tackler on the one-yard line and powered his way into the end zone. It was an exclamation point score for the Ponies and summed up how the Ponies have been fighting for a win all season long.
“It was a good play, but we kind of want to get him away from that basically for self-preservation,” Christenson said. “You start running around and sometimes take focus off what you are trying to do, as well as have some defenders cracking down, and that is where the big hits happen. But, you know, he showed why he is one of the best quarterbacks in the state, in my opinion, and he did a lot of great things out there.”
“That score felt good,” Warp said. “I always just want to be aggressive. I want to make every play a positive play, and I hate having negative plays. Sacks happen a lot, but some of that is on me because I hold the ball and want to get the ball down field. I have trouble just throwing the ball away, and sometimes we have to make something happen.”
Warp finished 11-for-23 for 166 yards through the air, with one passing score, one rushing score, and an interception.
The offensive production was a concern before Friday night’s performance, but coach Christenson knew the potential was there. And after the win, it is clear that the Ponies took a lot of steps in the right direction. Special teams also played very well, with no unfortunate errors or fumbles, but the penalties still hurt the Ponies.
In the first quarter, Nate Rismon grabbed a 38-yard touchdown pass, but the score was due to an illegal motion penalty. And in the second quarter, Rismon found pay dirt again, but this time had a 32-yard scoring reception taken away by an offensive holding call.
“I guess we are just taking baby steps,” Christenson said. “We cleaned up special teams and got good production from our offense, so now we just need to be sound in our techniques and not get stupid penalties. We have to be smarter. But I think this is going to spark us and get us going in the direction that we want to go as we head into the conference next week. It was nice to get a win, and we are back home next week and the kids are fired up. This gave us a lot of confidence and that is great, the kids deserve it.”
The Ponies were pretty well-balanced. Along with Warp’s 166 passing yards, the Ponies also rushed for 259. Gruber had two catches for 60 yards and Filius had five catches for 55 yards. Rismon also had a catch for 25 yards, while Tristan Manuel and Pribyl combined for three more catches and 26 yards. Manuel carried the ball 10 times for 41 yards, while Pribyl carried the ball 18 times for 89 yards. Filius had eight carries for 71 yards, and Warp ran for 57 yards on 12 carries.
And as good as the offense was, the defense was not going to be outdone.
Defensively the Ponies have looked sharp this year, but couldn’t muster a win without an offensive spark. Friday night, the defense looked good once again, and was especially proud of their shutout efforts.
Glendive punted nine different times, as well as committed four turnovers. The Red Devils turned the ball over once, coughed up two lost fumbles, and got picked off once by Havre’s Gruber. Tyler Adams and Manuel recovered one fumble each, as the Red Devils produced just nine rushing yards and 179 yards in the air.
Havre High's Dustin Odegard, right, locks up with a Glendive offensive lineman during Friday night's Class A clash in Blue Pony Stadium. Odegard and the HHS defense pitched a shutout.
Trevor Jensen finished with a team-high 10 tackles, two for a loss, for the Ponies, while Jordan Schroeder followed with five. Jace Billy added another five, as well as two hurries. Tyrell Pierce, Mike Compton, and Kyle Duitsman all had one sack each.
“A shutout was one of our big goals,” Gruber said, “nd the defense was proud that we were able to pull it off. We knew it was something we could do, but we knew we had to stop the run. I think we also did a good job stopping the deep pass, they never really got anything there either. Our defense just looked good around today.”
“We were playing with the idea of bending and not breaking,” Christenson said. “And that was nice to see. We had some mistakes here and there, but they gathered themselves back up and kept battling. We had a pick and two fumble recoveries and that just shows we are maturing and getting better.”
Friday brings another home game for the Ponies, this time in conference play. Friday at 7 p.m., the Ponies and Livingston Rangers will face off at Blue Pony Stadium for Havre's annual homecoming game.