Sometimes just returning home can do wonders for a team coming off of a tough outing on the road. And as the Havre High football team comes out of a good practice week, one week after that tough road loss, the Blue Ponies are focused on getting back into the win column.
Anytime the Ponies take the field they look for a win. But add in a devastating Central A conference loss the week before, a beatable conference opponent on this tonight’s menu, and nine seniors playing in their last regular season home game at Blue Pony Stadium, and the Ponies want a win now more than ever.
Tonight at 7, the Ponies (1-1, 2-3-1) will host the Lewistown Golden Eagles (0-1, 0-5). HHS is still in the hunt for a conference title as the Ponies trail No. 1 Belgrade (2-0, 4-2), and lead Livingston (1-1, 1-5) and Browning (0-1, 1-5).
Head coach Jason Christenson and the rest of the Ponies haven’t put too much focus on last week’s 37-7 loss to Belgrade, but that has propelled them into tonight’s matchup with the Eagles.
“I think the kids did a good job of putting that game behind us,” Christenson said. “And they are focused on Lewistown and getting back on the winning track. And we always tell the kids that it doesn’t matter what a record is. Football is football and anything can happen, so they have to prepare hard for every team that they face and not take anybody lightly. I think the kids did a good job this week of focusing up, and I didn’t hear anything out of their mouths about Lewistown’s record. They just want to play the game and get back on that winning track.”
And a win would benefit the entire program, but nine seniors are also hoping to exit Blue Pony Stadium on a high note.
Tonight, Thomas Gruber, Ned Malone, Trevor Jensen, Ryne Antley, Tirsten Manuel, Jake Williams, Dustin Odegard, Kyle Duitsmen and Tyler Adams will all play their final regular season game at home. A just like every senior does, they are looking for a win in the finale.
“This will be their last home game under the lights,” Christenson said. “And being senior night, it is very special for those guys. To be able to get a win for them would be great, and that is important for everybody. I know they have worked extra hard this week, so hopefully we can come away with a win for them.”
But like Christenson said, records don’t tell the whole story about what a team can do on any given night.
Lewistown has had its fair share of struggles in 2013, but the Eagles have some very talented athletes that can hurt the opposition. On offense, junior quarterback James Derheim, a talent with his big arm and a threat with his legs leads the Eagles. And Derheim is accented by senior running backs Dylan Stenseth and Ethan Blythe, and wide receivers Dalton Farra and Hunter Errecart. The Eagles are expected to run right at the Ponies, similar to what the Ponies saw last week with the Belgrade offense. Havre will need to stop the run, as well as keep Derheim in the pocket, not running down the field and into the end zone.
It will take the entire defense doing their jobs to stop the Eagles, but the Ponies have the players to do it. The defensive pressure will be key with Dustin Odegard and Tyrell Pierce coming off of the edge, but Jake Williams, Jace Billy, and Jordan Scroeder will also have to come up and fill from the linebacker position.
“That loss hurt the kids last week,” Christenson said. “The defense is a very proud unit and I fully expect them to come out and play hard, play fast, and execute their assignments. Lewistown has a pretty athletic quarterback and they like to get him in the open field where he can hurt teams with his legs. We just have to get the kids refocused on their keys and reads. The defense is designed and based on that, and if they’re reading it right and flying to the football, then they execute very well. If they miss their keys and reads, then we struggle. We got back to basics and focused on just playing hardnosed football.”
Offensively, the Ponies know what they have to do each and every week.
There are no surprises with the Ponies trying to stay balanced. They have talented backs with Manuel and Kody Pribyl carrying the ball, and great receivers in Thomas Gruber, Parker Filius, and Nate Rismon.
But the entire offensive plan revolves around keeping Dane Warp upright and mobile. If the Eagles can pressure Warp successfully, the Pony offense will not perform the same. Offensive linemen Tyler Adams, Derek Matosich, Williams, Ruben Stewart and Odegard will all play big roles tonight.
“That is our focus every week,” Christenson said. “For the offensive lineman to put it on their shoulders and try to keep Dane off the ground. They know we go as far as Dane can go, so if he is on the ground and getting hurt, it upsets those guys and they take it personal. They have worked hard, and we expect Lewistown to pressure us, so put in extra work on picking up stunts and keeping Dane safe.”
A win tonight will keep the Ponies in contention for a conference title would clinch a berth in the state playoffs. Tonight the Ponies will host the Eagles at 7 at Blue Pony Stadium in Havre.
Tonight at 7 p.m.
Blue Pony Stadium
Radio: 610 KOJM AM