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Ponies, Rangers duke it out tonight

 


All but one regular season game is behind the Havre High football team, and with that one game coming tonight, the Blue Ponies face their biggest must-win game of the 2011 season.

Havre High's Ryan Brandt and the rest of the Blue Pony senior class will be honored before tonight's Central A showdown against Livingston at Blue Pony Stadium. The Ponies and Rangers are playing for an outright Central A title. For more on the game, see Page B5.

Tonight the Central A Blue Ponies are playing for a conference championship. Their 3-0 conference record is equal to the 3-0 record of the Livingston Rangers, and both teams will face off tonight at 7 at Blue Pony stadium in Havre with conference supremacy on their minds.

"We are positive, upbeat and the kids are excited to have a chance to play for a conference championship," Havre High head coach Jason Christenson said. "As a player that is one of those goals you dream about and they all know what is on the line. If we get the win we get the first round bye and we get an opponent that we can prep and condition for. We are focused up and it is a pretty exciting atmosphere over here."

The Ponies are riding high right now as they enter tonight's game with the momentum of a four-game winning streak. But the Rangers are also on a four-game winning streak and present the Ponies with the toughest matchup in the last several contests. And the Ponies can expect a very worthy opponent in the Rangers, as both teams seem to be evenly matched to this point.

Both teams faced Belgrade, Browning and Lewistown this season and found similar results. HHS defeated Belgrade 47-19 while the Rangers defeated Belgrade 41-14. And the Ponies defeated Browning 66-14 while the Rangers defeated Browning 27-0, and the Ponies defeated Lewistown 49-20 while the Rangers defeated Lewistown 36-21.

The Ponies put up slightly more points in the wins, but they can't expect that to translate into an easy win over the Rangers.

Livingston's offense is similar to the Ponies, in that they can run and pass the ball with good success. But even with the ability to run, it looks like the Rangers do look to attack teams through the air with quarterback Landon Wilyerd and wide receivers Brandon Ramirez and Braeden Greathouse. Greathouse leads the team in receptions and yards.

"They have a well balanced offense," Christenson said. "But they have a very explosive quarterback that can hurt teams with his legs and in the air. And they have a couple of really good wide receivers. We are still approaching this game like they will be well balanced and our defense is going to try and take one of those away and make them lean heavily towards one aspect over the other and hopefully that will work towards our advantage."

The Ponies have almost eliminated the opposing running game over the last three games. They have made teams live or die by their passing game and it has worked to their benefit each time. If the Ponies choose to do that again, this time against a spread, hurry up offense that can successfully pass the ball, the HHS defensive backs have to step up.

Brayden Grimson, Ryan Brandt, Mark Vukasin and Zach Plum have to play well. Opposing teams have been able to find big plays through the air against the Blue Ponies and some for TD's. Tonight the Ponies have to eliminate the run, but also not give up big plays through the air.

"We have just been making our defensive backs aware of who they are going to see," Christenson said. "We have watched a lot of game film and showed them what they are preparing for, and Livingston has very talented, fast and explosive receivers. Our kids have to prepare mentally and know what they are up against."

For the offense, it is business as usual for the Ponies.

Week in and week out the Ponies have put together a very consistent outing on offense. They run and pass the ball with great success and that is all they are looking to do tonight. That means Grimson, Brandt and Plum need to connect with Justin Jensen through the air and Casey Schaub and Brandt need to get it going on the ground. But as dependable and consistent as the offense has been, don't be surprised if HHS adds a few wrinkles and suprises for the Livingston defense.

"We just want to maintain a balanced attack," Christenson said. "We are looking to put the ball in our athletes hands and let them be successful."

Tonight the Ponies and Rangers will kick off at 7 p.m. at Blue Pony stadium in Havre with the Central A conference title on the line. The winner earns a first-round bye in the Class A playoffs.

 

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