After advancing past Miles City in the first round of the state playoffs last weekend, the Havre High football team had an almost identical start to its quarterfinal matchup on Saturday. But it wasn't the same result for the Central A Blue Ponies, as they were unable to come up with another come-from-behind victory.
Last weekend's comeback came in the comfort of Blue Pony Stadium in Havre, but on Saturday the Ponies ran into what is clearly one of the best teams in the Class A ranks.
The Northwestern A Columbia Falls Wildcats remained undefeated this season (9-0) and defeated the Ponies 46-7 in Columbia Falls in the Class A quarterfinals. The Ponies ended their season at 6-5.
Just like the Ponies' first-round game, they entered the lockerroom at the half trailing 20-7. It was a tough first two quarters for HHS, but after a couple of promising drives stalled out in Wildcat territory, it looked as if it was just a matter of time before the Pony offense got going again. But it wasn't meant to be as the Ponies were shut out in the final two frames, while the potent Wildcat offense ran wild with 13 third-quarter points and 13 fourth-quarter points. The Wildcat offense was paced by standout quarterback Jared Trinastich who threw three touchdowns on the afternoon, and standout running back Zach Darling who rushed for another four scores.
"They have a lot of weapons, they have a lot of good skill kids," Havre High head coach Jason Christenson said. "It is hard to take away both dimensions of an offense, both the run and the pass, but we tried to do our best to at least eliminate one of them. But they did a good job of just opening up the pass with the run and vise versa, but the kids played hard and did the best they could."
Heading into the contest the Ponies knew just how tough the Wildcat offense was going to be, but down the stretch they proved even harder to stop.
Columbia Falls was held to just one score in the first quarter, as the Pony defense forced a missed field goal by the Wildcats, and forced the frame's final drive to be taken into the second quarter. But after a solid first quarter, the Wildcats were able to get into the end zone two more times. Thomas Gruber was a spark for the defense near the end of the second quarter with an interception, but the Ponies were not able to capitalize with points of their own.
The Columbia Falls' scores came on Trinastich passes to Trevor Houston from eight yards out, Mark Hader from 38 yards out, and Presnell from 16 yards out. Darling also punched in scores on a seven-yard run, 11-yard run, five-yard run, and on a 13-yard run.
Havre's offense showed signs of life all afternoon long, but just couldn't get into a groove against the Wildcats, who also have a very talented and greedy defensive unit.
HHS was forced to punt five different times, as well as turned the ball over on two drives, and ended the game with a lost fumble. But they did look good on their second drive of the second quarter when they found the endzone for the lone time on the day. The Ponies got a 35-yard kick return from Nate Rismon and started the drive near midfield. And nine plays later, including three first downs on the drive, the Ponies’ Parker FIlius punched the ball in from one yard out.
The drive started with a Dane Warp sack, but after a 19-yard Filius reception and a 21-yard Gruber reception, the Ponies found themselves set up for a much-needed score.
Havre also had a drive in the second quarter stall on the Wildcat 30-yard line after a Warp sack resulted in a turnover on downs, and another one in the third quarter stall out after reaching the Wildcats’ 23-yard line. Warp was sacked for a big loss on the drive and the Ponies were forced to punt.
“Columbia Falls played their zone defense very well and mixed it up with their man coverage underneath with two high safeties,” Christenson said. “They just mixed a lot of zone looks and covers, but what really hurt us was our penalties. Credit their team, they had a good game plan against us, but it came down to the penalty bug again, and unfortunately we had too many.”
The Ponies opened the first quarter with five penalties, and racked up 12 penalties on the afternoon.
It was a tough loss for the Ponies, especially after a great performance a week ago. The Ponies end the season with a winning record, while the undefeated Wildcats will travel to take on Billings Central.
Wildcats 46, Ponies 7
Havre 0 7 0 0 – 7
Columbia Falls 7 13 13 13 – 46
CF – Trevor Houston 8 pass from Jared Trinastich (Presnell kick)
CF – Zach Darling 7 run (kick failed)
CF – Mark Hader 38 pass from Jared Trinastich (Presnell kick)
HHS – Parker Filius 1 run (kick good)
CF – Zach Darling 11 run (Presnell kick)
CF – Zach Darling 5 run (kick failed)
CF – Presnell 16 pass from Jared Trinastich (Presnell kick)
CF – Zach Darling 13 run (kick failed).
No Stats were made available by press time.