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Ponies take another shot at Cowboys


The Havre High football team has done a lot of growing up this season. But with the Class A playoffs getting underway, the Blue Ponies are hoping they have grown up enough to continue their success.

Saturday in Miles City, the No. 3 Central A Ponies will face the hosting No. 2 Eastern A Miles City Cowboys at 1 p.m.

The Ponies and Cowboys met once during the regular season, and it's a meeting the Ponies would love to get back. The Cowboys rolled into Havre and defeated the Ponies 34-13 in the Ponies' second game of the season.

HHS showed its youth and inexperience in the early season loss to the Cowboys. The Ponies were just beginning their season with a new head coach, a new playbook and basically a new everything. And with six Blue Pony turnovers also taking a toll, the Ponies know they can play this Cowboy team better the second time around.

"There was a shock factor," Havre High head coach Jason Christenson said. "But now we are a lot more confident, we know how we can play, we know how we can execute and the kids are playing a lot harder and a lot smarter football. There is that element of knowing what to expect. We have seen them before and our guys know we have improved quite a bit from the first time they saw them. We know if we limit the turnovers and fundamental mistakes that we have a pretty good shot at beating this team. Right now the kids are pretty confident."

Even with a high level of confidence, the Ponies know what lies ahead.

Miles City is a very talented program that loves to run the ball. If Kyle Stanton can find the open field he is very dangerous. Tyler Essex is also dangerous out of the backfield, and will probably gain a lot of the Ponies' defensive attention. In their first meeting Essex racked up 137 yards on 20 carries.

However, quarterback Shane Cooley is Miels Ciyt's most dangerous weapon. He can throw the ball well, but can also burn a defense with his legs. Against the Ponies, Cooley ran for three touchdowns including a jaunt of 82 yards. And on the game, he rushed 14 times for 179 yards.

The Ponies know they have to stop the Cowboys' run game.

That has been their strength all season long, and it hasn't failed them yet. It's going to take an outstanding performance by the Ponies' defensive line, but more specifically the defensive ends, Josh Salapich and Brandon Smith. Both Salapich and Smith will pay significant roles in stopping the run game, and they will both have to be adamant in their responsibilities.

"Our defensive front is the most important," Christenson said. "Our defensive ends are going to play a huge role with their techniques and responsibilities. They are really going to have to step up their play and play very disciplined football. Miles City hasn't wavered from the run since we played them up until now. We have watched every game they played and that's their staple. They have some big guys up front and they have some big fullbacks that can block."

Offensively, the Ponies are going to have to take what the Cowboys' defense gives them.

If the Ponies can get Casey Schaub and Ryan Brandt going on the ground that will be a huge benefit. But if the running lanes aren't there the Ponies have to find a way to protect Justin Jensen, giving him time to comfortably and confidently throw down field to his receivers. If Jensen can connect with Logan Connor and Corderro Strickland on somewhat of consistent basis, HHS will have the ball in the hands of two speedy receivers that always have big play potential.

But wether the Ponies hit the ground running, or go to the air, the offensive line (Joey DeVries, Trent Nystrom, Roe, Salapich and Evan Flathers) has to find a way to block the Cowboys' big bodies up front.

"If it takes the pass to loosen up the run or vise versa," Christenson said. "That's what we are going to do."

The Cowboys are a very tough team, and though the Ponies are confident, they aren't over confident. The Ponies knows they have to play well to win, and they know they have to be nearly perfect. But the team that took the field in week two isn't the same team taking the field on Saturday.

"We have a good feel for them right now," Christenson said. "And I feel that our offensive and defensive game plans are a lot better this time around. It is going to be a lot better football game."

Saturday in Miles City, the No. 3 Central A Ponies will face the hosting No. 2 Eastern A Miles City Cowboys at 1 p.m.

The winner of Saturday's game will travel to Columbia Falls, the Western A regular season champion, on Nov. 6 for a quarterfinal matchup.


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