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Friday Night Lights: He Passes the Eye-Test

Havre High junior Mason Dionne is having a great season, and he looks forward to the tough challenges his Ponies have left

 

October 5, 2018

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre High junior running back Mason Dionne, right, smashes into a Hardin defender during the Blue Ponies' season-opening win over the Bulldogs back in August. As expected, Dionne is having a big impact on the Blue Ponies, on both sides of the ball. Going into tonight's home game against Billings Central, Dionne is the Ponies' leading rusher, and he also shines as a linebacker.

On the football field, it can sometimes be hard to measure improvement.

Certainly, wins and losses are one way, but another is the eye test and when it comes to that, few players on the Havre High football team pass the test more easily than Mason Dionne.

Overall, it's been another tough season for the Blue Ponies, who play in the ultra-competitive Eastern A conference. That makes every game a challenge and it's also part of the reason why the Ponies, despite being improved, have managed only one win this season.

Following a season-opening win over Hardin, Havre has dropped five consecutive games. However, outside of blowout losses on the road to Lewistown and Sidney, HHS has been competitive and had chances to win against Laurel, Belgrade and Glendive. And even though the Ponies find themselves on the outside looking in at the Eastern A playoff race, with Billings Central coming to town Dionne and the Ponies aren't lacking for motivation.

"It's fun when you get to play a good team like Billings Central," Dionne said. "We know those guys are really good, but we want to come out tough and surprise some people, show that we are better than people expect us to be."

If the Ponies are going to have any chance of upending the second-ranked Rams (6-0), who will invade Blue Pony Stadium tonight at 7, Dionne, a junior, two-way starter and team captain, will need to be among the best players on the field and so far through six games, at least as far as HHS is concerned, he has been.

As a running back, Dionne has racked up 388 yards on the ground, on just over 100 carries. While he has only averaged 3.6 yards per attempt, Dionne has continued to churn out tough yardage, even with defenses stacking the box against him. And part of the credit he said, goes out to his diet.

"I've noticed when I am eating better, I run better," Dionne said. "I try to make sure I am eating things like pasta and proteins, but also not drinking pop and that's made a big difference."

Whether it's his diet or some other reason, Dionne has easily been one of the Ponies' most productive players and his production has come in other areas, too, not just on the ground. As a pass catcher, he's done a solid job and does have a touchdown reception, one of four scores overall, yet what's been even more impressive this season, has been his ability to throw the ball down the field.

Normally, running backs don't throw a lot of passes. Yet most also don't throw the ball like Dionne, who has been used by the Havre coaching staff for longer throws and the half-back pass which has become a patented play in the Pony offense. It first showed up in Lewistown, in the second week of the season, when Dionne found Ethan Roberts for 52 yards. A few weeks later, hosting Belgrade, the Ponies went to the well again and Dionne completed another long pass to Roberts, this time for 43 yards.

Then, against Glendive, Dionne completed two more passes. The first was a hail mary at the end of the first half that was completed to Roberts but was stopped just short of the end zone. The other came on a critical fourth-and-10 and the result was a 31-yard completion to starting quarterback Reese Bulkley. The drive resulted in a touchdown, but Havre still lost 15-13. Yet, without Dionne, it wouldn't have been in that position at all.

"I have kind of worked on throwing a lot more this year," Dionne said. "But it's different doing it in a game. I have learned to try and look off defenders and get a strategy down to try and complete it."

In all, Dionne has attempted 10 passes so far this season and completed seven of them for a total of 207 yards, along with an average of 29.5 yards per completion. It's just another part of a repertoire that also includes playing linebacker, a position where Dionne has managed 32 tackles and two tackles for loss.

Of course, Dionne and the Ponies were hoping to find the win column more than they have this season and with three more games, there are still chances. Yet there is no question Dionne has been a bright spot for Havre, and as long as guys like Dionne and others can keep shining through, the wins will eventually start to follow.

 

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