From the Fringe...
I’m a big believer in what the The Weather Channel tells me. Ask my friend and colleague Tim Leeds, he’ll tell you just how strictly I follow The Weather Channel and its prognostications.
And on the afternoon of Sept. 7, The Weather Channel was telling me some severe weather, some ugly stuff was headed towards Havre. And that weather wasn’t just headed towards Havre, it was barreling down on Blue Pony Stadium and the Havre Blue Ponies’ game with arch rival Miles City.
As fate, or bad luck would have it, The Weather Channel’s predictions that night were spot on. In fact, I told my wife what would unfold long before the 6 p.m. kickoff that night. I told her we would be in for a long night, because I knew, and TWC knew, there was going to be a lot of lightning in the area and lightning and high school athletics played outdoors just don’t mix.
What I didn’t know however was how weird the night would get.
Once the thunderstorms arrived in Havre, they seemed to sit directly over the bright lights of Blue Pony Stadium and showed no signs of going anywhere. And while the lighting strikes all around the area were more than spectacular that night, a two-hour delay was enough, and the game was called off with the Ponies and Cowboys tied at 6-6 just seconds into the third quarter.
So, at about 10 p.m., just as the rain and wind began to let up, Miles City pulled out of town and all the Blue Ponies went home. The game was called a tie, and it held little meaning in the grand scheme of things, because non-conference games in Class A don’t have any bearing on playoff qualifications.
Thanks to Mother Nature, the Ponies and Cowboys went their separate ways not knowing who was better in 2013. They would shake hands, get on their buses and the rivalry would pick up next year in Miles City. No big deal.
However, in life, and in sports, things have a funny way of working out, and you can chalk it up to fate because the Cowboys are coming back to Blue Pony Stadium.
Because of a couple of rare conference losses, Miles City wound up finishing third in the Eastern A this season, though it took a win over Sidney on the final night of the regular season to do so. Meanwhile, Havre did what it was supposed to do, which was take care of business in the Central A. The Blue Ponies lost just one conference game this season, winding up second overall.
Yes, it truly was fate which has brought Havre and Miles City back together. If Havre had found a way to beat Belgrade in Belgrade, Saturday’s playoff game between the Cowboys and Ponies wouldn’t have happened. But Belgrade was the better team that night. And just think, if the Blue Ponies don’t march back from a 21-7 deficit against Lewistown, if senior Ned Malone doesn’t make a touchdown saving interception in the final seconds against the Eagles, Saturday’s playoff game likely wouldn’t have happened either.
Then there’s the Cowboys’ win over Sidney. That’s a huge rivalry game, and an upset by the Eagles on the final night of the regular season would have knocked the Cowboys out of the playoffs. But Miles City was clearly the better team, beating the Eagles 28-14, and punching a ticket to the playoffs, and the long bus ride back to Havre.
It’s as if this game was meant to be after all. It may have seemed like it wasn’t back on Sept. 7, but fate has intervened, and now the Ponies and Cowboys will get to see who’s better. Both teams get a do-over so to speak.
I didn’t think about it as the lightning continued to brighten the skies over Havre, I didn’t even consider the possibility that Havre and Miles City could meet again this season. At that time, conference play hadn’t even started, and there were just too many games to be played to even ponder playoff scenarios.
But here we are, two months removed from that stormy night in Havre, and the Ponies and Cowboys are set to do it all over again.
These two programs are no strangers to each other when it comes to playoff football either. From the 1995 Class A state championship game in Miles City, to the Ponies’ stunning upset of then No. 1 Miles City in the 2002 Class A semifinals, to the Cowboys’ returning the favor in the 2004 semifinals, it’s been a great rivalry.
That rivalry continued in 2013, and it ended in the rarest of ties on Sept. 7. But, like Mother Nature intervened on that night, fate is now intervening again. Miles City gets to come to Havre for a second time this season. The Ponies get another chance to end a long drought against the vaunted Cowboys. Fans on both sides get an opportunity to watch two of Class A’s most storied teams settle it on the field when that chance was taken away from them earlier this season.
Simply put, it wasn’t meant to be the first time around, but second-chances are what makes sports, football and rivalries so great. The rematches, like Saturday’s game at Blue Pony Stadium, are what make sports so intriguing. And because of what happened back on Sept. 7, this rematch might be the most intriguing of them all.
It’s going to be an intriguing day for sure at Blue Pony Stadium, and this time, I won’t be looking at The Weather Channel. This time, the game will end the way it’s supposed to end. This time, the final score, the victor, who moves on to face Columbia Falls in the quarterfinals, all of it will be decided on the field.
After all, it’s clear now, this game, between Havre and Miles City was meant to be.
Havre and Miles City will square off Saturday at 12 p.m. in Blue Pony Stadium. The winner advances to play Northwestern A champion Columbia Falls Nov. 9 in the Class A quarterfinals.