Blue Ponies get their first road test in Butte
After starting the 2011 season with a dominating win in week one, the Havre High football team will find itself up against an even tougher opponent in week two.
On Saturday, the Central A Blue Ponies (1-0) will travel to Butte to take on the Butte Central Maroons (1-0) in nonconference play. Last Saturday the Ponies defeated Whitefish 54-25.
"We have a little bit of payback feeling towards Butte Central," Havre High head coach Jason Christenson said. "We lost to them pretty bad at our house last year and the kids remember that. They have that taste in their mouth and they want to go down there and get a win. Looking at game film, Butte Central is going to be a true test and will show us how tough we are and what we are made of."
The Maroons have handed the Ponies their share of tough losses in the past, including a 42-13 loss last season. But the Maroons don't look to be the same powerhouse they have grown to be over the last several seasons.
Butte Central graduated 18 seniors from last year's squad. And while 18 lost is already a big hit to take, a lot of those seniors were starters on the offensive, defensive, or both sides of the ball. The Maroons only return two starters from last season.
And while it is still early, the Maroons are showing signs of their youth and inexperience.
In their week one matchup against the Belgrade Panthers, the Maroons had to come from behind to take the 16-8 win. The Maroons struggled the entire first half, coughing up two fumbles, and forfeiting 50 yards on penalties.
Returning as a much more experienced squad, the Ponies can help themselves out by taking advantage of the Maroons 18 losses and overall youthfulness.
"They (Maroons) are very well coached," Christenson said. "So we aren't exactly looking at that. We are more going into the game knowing that if we play sound, assignment football and we play hard and physical, we will be ok. We haven't preached manipulating their age or inexperience, we have told our kids that they need to buckle up and take it to these guys and just go harder than they are going and that will make us successful."
But the Maroons are a team that seems to be able to reload every year. So young or not, the Ponies can expect a tough game. And on paper the Ponies look to be preforming slightly better after week one. When comparing week one stats, the Ponies could very well get their payback from last season they are so hungry for.
Last week, the Ponies passed for 277 yards, while the Maroons passed for just 99. And while the Ponies rushed for 177 yards, the Maroons slightly outdid HHS with 202 rushing yards. The Maroon defense could still be an improvement compared to Whitefish (Havre's week one opponent), but Belgrade is fairly young this season as well and was able to put up over 200 yards on the Butte Central Defense. Belgrade graduated 21 seniors off of last years' squad.
HHS will have to watch out for Zach Kasperick who rushed for 139 yards his last time out. The Blue Ponies will also have to keep an eye on quarterback Brady Tippett who can scramble as well as throw with good accuracy.
HHS quarterback Justin Jensen will have another chance to shine for the Ponies on Saturday after a huge start to the season. Jensen is coming off of a game where he passed 16 times for 277 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for one score.
Receivers Ryan Brandt and Brayden Grimson could also have another big game if they can find the holes in the Maroons' defensive schemes. Brandt had 91 yards receiving and Grimson had 81 in their last contest.
And rushing, the Ponies put up three touchdowns with their
177 yards, led by Brandt with 68 yards and senior Casey Schaub with 53.
Saturday's game also marks some unsual circumstances for both teams. Not only is it a rare Saturday game, one of three the Ponies will play this season, but its also a nonconference affair. Butte Central has moved to the Southwest A this season, leaving Havre, Livingston, Browning and Belgrade to fight it out for the Central A crown the Maroons have had a stranglehold on for years.
"They (Maroons) play hard every down for four quarters," Christenson said. "They are always charged up and they are very well coached. There isn't a real weakness to their offense or defense that we can see. But they do have some areas that we are just going to try and take advantage of, but they are going to be ready to go in their own house. We are going to have a tough contest ahead of us. On offense and defense we are just going to play to our strengths and just try to take advantage where we can. We want to play our style of game, stick to what we do best and it is just going to come down to out hustles who."
Saturday the Ponies (1-0) will travel to Butte to take on the Maroons (1-0) in non conference play at 2 p.m. The game can be heard locally on 610 KOJM AM.
HHS senior quarterback Justin Jensen looks to get away from a defender during last Saturday's game between the Blue Ponies and Whitefish Bulldogs. The 1-0 Ponies travel to Butte Saturday to take on the Butte Central Maroons.