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Pony Extra: HHS has time on its side

 

September 11, 2017

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre High's Mason Dionne runs through the Laurel defense during Friday night's game at Blue Pony Stadium.

Sitting at 0-3, things look a little bleak right now for the Havre High football team as far as the Eastern A playoff picture is concerned, but the reality is, things are so wide open, the Blue Ponies aren't out of anything just yet.

Certainly, the Ponies will need to play better than they have in recent weeks. But losses to Lewistown (2-1) and Laurel (3-0), two teams that look like locks for the playoffs, is nothing to be ashamed of. Right now, looking at the Eastern A Standings, you have Laurel and Sidney at 3-0, followed by Billings Central, Glendive and Lewistown at 2-1. Then, there's Belgrade, Hardin and Miles City at 1-2, sitting one-game ahead of Havre and Livingston, who are tied for last place at 0-3. But with six playoff spots available, HHS is still legitimately within striking distance.

Obviously, at 0-3, the Ponies have little room for error. They will need to win at least four of their last six games to have a chance at a playoff spot, but if HHS can win this week in Belgrade, that seems like a much better possibility. Billings Central, Sidney, Lewistown and Laurel appear to be the four best teams in the Eastern A and the Ponies have already played two of them.

And even if Havre loses both to Sidney at home and Billings Central on the road, that leaves Havre with four games it has to win against Belgrade, Miles City, Glendive and Livingston. The Ponies need to find a way to win a game before thinking about anything else, but sometimes, all it takes is one victory to get you going and if HHS can upset Belgrade on the road Friday night, it will at least have a pulse in the playoff race.

The news that should give Havre fans more hope than the standings, is the fact that the Ponies might have finally found a way to run the football. During the first two games, Havre rushed for just 35 yards. Against Laurel, HHS managed 148 yards on the ground on 36 carries. And if take away the 22 yards lost on four sacks, it was 170 yards on 32 carries, which is good for an average of 5.3 yards per carry.

Even more encouraging, was the play of backs Mason Dionne and Jeremiah Hughes. Dionne toted the rock 23 times for 122 yards and also found paydirt twice. The sophomore also created some nice chunk plays, as he had multiple runs of more than 10 yards. For his part, Hughes also ran the ball six times for 27 yards, with a long run of 11 yards.

As head coach Ryan Gatch said leading up to the Laurel game, "If you want to win in the Eastern A, you have to be able to run the football and stop the run."

So far, the Ponies have struggled to do both. But after the Havre defense was allowing more than 250 yards per game to start the season, HHS surrendered just 119 on the ground against Laurel. In all, Havre outgained the Locomotives 328 to 260, but turnovers and special teams plays were a huge factor in the outcome.

Turnovers will need to be reduced, as will the penalties and sacks. But if the Ponies can establish the run, it can make the game easier for both the offense and defense. At some point, every team needs to find its formula for winning and even though it lost Friday night, the Havre football team may finally have found it.

 

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