Ponies rout Libby, advance to semifinals
The Havre Blue Ponies had a lot to deal with on Saturday afternoon in Libby.
Winter arrived in Montana this past weekend and the Ponies had a nearly 400-mile bus trip just to get to their quarterfinals playoff destination.
Havre was also contending with a 7-1 Libby Logger team that steamrolled its way to the 2003 Northwest A Conference championship. Meanwhile, the Ponies came into the contest fresh off of a major first-round scare from archrival Sidney the previous weekend in Havre.
Havre brushed it all aside like falling snow. The Ponies scored 42 unanswered points en route to a 42-7 win to advance to the semifinal round of the 2003 Class A football playoffs.
After Libby took an early 7-0 lead on a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Kevin Bertelsen, junior Scott Robinson electrified the Blue Pony faithful who made the long trek to Libby by returning the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a score.
According to HHS head coach Troy Purcell, Robinson's kickoff return ignited both the Pony offense as well as a dominant Havre High defense.
"We started off a little slow," Purcell said. "But Robinson's kickoff return gave us a boost and really got us rolling."
Following Robinson's TD, the Blue Pony defense got into the act. Libby began the second quarter with the ball but Matt Boucher picked up a fumble that eventually set up a 7-yard TD run by Colby Mader. Havre completed the two-point conversion to take a 14-7 lead.
It would be a lead the Ponies would not relinquish. On Libby's next possession, quarterback Vance Vincent was picked off by Daine Solomon, which led to Havre's third straight touchdown as Gary Wagner hit Solomon on a 22-yard TD strike.
The Ponies closed out the half with Wagner finding Marc Mariani for a 4-yard touchdown pass. The second-quarter onslaught saw the Ponies convert three Libby turnovers into points. The 23 points gave the Ponies an insurmountable 22-point lead at halftime, 29-7.
The third quarter saw Havre bury the Loggers for good as Wagner again found Solomon, this time from 55 yards out. Wagner capped off his day by finishing the third quarter with a 4-yard TD strike to Robinson.
In all, Havre scored 42 unanswered points after Bertelsen's touchdown.
Wagner had another huge day, throwing for four touchdowns and completing 11 of 19 passes for 214 yards. Solomon caught four balls for 133 yards and two touchdowns and Mader led the Ponies on the ground with 61 yards on 15 carries. Havre racked up 304 yards of total offense and has reached the 300-yard mark in every game this season.
Aside from all of the offense that his skill players put up, Purcell was quick to credit his defensive unit and his offensive line for aiding in the blowout win.
"As a team we played three quarters of really good football," Purcell said. "Our defense played really well and the offensive line did a great job. Overall, it was a great win for the entire team."
Purcell was also happy with the fact that his team got rid of the penalty and turnover bug that bit his team against Sidney. The Ponies had but one turnover on the day and eight penalties for 70 yards.
"I thought we did a lot better job of keeping the mistakes down," Purcell said. "The kids just did a much better job of staying focused, and I think it showed at the end of the game."
With the win in Libby, the Ponies were rewarded with a semifinal rematch with the Miles City Cowboys. Only this season, Havre will have to make the long journey to the Cowboys' home field. The Ponies knocked off the Cowboys 19-12 in the semifinals a year ago at Blue Pony Stadium. The Cowboys (9-0) downed Frenchtown 36-20 in Miles City on Saturday to set up this Saturday's rematch.
The game between Havre (10-1) and Miles City is set to kick off at noon on Saturday at Custer County Stadium in Miles City.
Havre 6 23 13 0 - 42
Libby 7 0 0 0 - 7
Libby - Kevin Bertelsen 1 run (Bertelsen kick)
Havre - Scott Robinson 90 kickoff return (kick failed)
Havre - Colby Mader 7 run (Craig Kallenberger pass from Gary Wagner)
Havre - Daine Solomon 22 pass from Gary Wagner (Wagner kick)
Havre - Marc Mariani 4 pass from Gary Wagner (Colby Mader pass from Wagner)
Havre - Daine Solomon 55 pass from Gary Wagner (kick failed)
Havre - Scott Robinson 4 pass from Gary Wagner (kick failed)