Friday Night Lights Feature: Last time under the lights
The senior class often carries a team. They are often the leaders; the more experienced players on the field and are usually looked upon by coaches and fellow teammates to step up in key situations.
For the Havre High football seniors, that is no exception. And not taking anything away from the rest of the HHS team, they too have been a huge part of this year's success. But the senior class seems to be stepping up big time across the board. And with this being their last season of prep football, and maybe even the last season of football anywhere from some of them, the Blue Pony seniors seem to have the necessary motivation to come out and work hard week in and week out as leaders of this team.
"They have done a nice job stepping up," Havre High head coach Jason Christenson said. "And some of the kids who weren't in a leadership role last year have really stepped up this year and have done a great job of taking that onto their shoulders. Everybody chips in, in their own way and own manner and having seniors that do that make for a great team and great season."
There are 15 seniors headlining the Pony roster this season and all 15 of them have stepped up and filled a role. And now on the brink of what could turn out to be a 4-0 conference record, a Central A conference title, a first-round bye and second-round playoff game at home, the senior class of 2011 has a shot at being a part of something that hasn't happened in many years for the Blue Pony football team.
And even with all of the emotion of tonight's game, that is really all the Pony seniors are focused on, not that they are being honored for the last time under the lights of Blue Pony Stadium.
"Hopefully this isn't our last home game," Havre High senior quarterback Justin Jensen said. "Because if we win we will host a playoff game in the second round. But this is a big moment for all of us and even a big moment for all of our friends and family that come to watch us play. The Ponies haven't made the second round of the playoffs for like six years, this is a big moment for us because we will get to be a part of something the Ponies haven't accomplished for a while, since they won a state championship."
Jensen is just one senior that has stepped up for the Ponies and is very focused on a conference title.. He is leading the offense from the quarterback position and is also a captain for this year's squad. The other captains and for the Ponies include Evan Flathers (offensive and defensive lineman), Casey Schaub (running back and linebacker), Kameron Pribyl (offensive line and linebacker) and Brayden Grimson (wide receiver and defensive back).
But the list of talented seniors doesn't stop there. The senior class shows up in a lot of key roster spots, and every single one of them has stepped up and hopes to turn in of the more successful HHS seasons in a while.
Other seniors include Ryan Brandt (running back and defensive back) Brandon Smith (tight end and defensive end), Eli Hinebauch (running back and linebacker), Cole Molyneaux (offensive and defensive lineman), Ethan Hettinger (offensive and defensive lineman), Joey DeVries (offensive and defensive lineman), John Gardipee (offensive and defensive lineman), Trent Nystrom (offensive and defensive lineman), Donny Lohman (offensive and defensive lineman), and Mark Vukasin (wide receiver and defensive back).
"It is kind of rare for an individual to be that vocal leader on a team," Christenson said. "It is not something a lot of people want to do because then you are really looked at. But as time goes on, I have seen more and more seniors step up and be those vocal leaders, and that is great, the other kids respond well to it and our improvement is because of that.
"The streak (four straight wins, three being conference) we have been on is pretty big." DeVries said. "And the game coming up is pretty big for us, we all want to win the conference title really bad this season. We (team) have been doing a lot of things well, but having such a big senior class has really helped as well."
Special night or not, the Pony seniors are still focused on goals set before the season even started. The conference title is still the goal and they have reached this point by hard work all season long.
"People always say that practice makes perfect," Jensen said. "We are making our practices up tempo like a game and making it as close to game-like scenarios as we possibly can. That keeps us working hard and helps us stay in game shape for each opponent we play."
The 2011 Havre High football senior class will be honored tonight when the Ponies host the Livingston Rangers in a game which will crown the Central A champion.
Havre High senior Casey Schaub stiff-arms a Whitefish tackler during a Class A football game back in August. The Blue Ponies and Livingston Rangers are playing for the Central A championship tonight in Havre. The winner gets a first-round bye in the Class A playoffs, while the loser hosts the third-place team from the Eastern A in next week's first round. Tonight's game kicks off at 7 p.m. with the Havre High seniors being honored before kickoff.