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Ponies aim for a memorable senior night

Week Nine: The FInal Night


October 19, 2018

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Ethan Roberts and the Havre Blue Ponies are hoping to close the season on a high note, as they take on Miles City tonight at 6 inside Blue Pony Stadium. Tonight's regular season finale will also be senior night for the Ponies.

Over the years, there have been some great high school football games between Havre and Miles City, and tonight the Blue Ponies and the Cowboys will have a chance to play another.

In the last two decades, Havre and Miles City have met numerous times for big games. There was the state championship back in 1994 and also the state semifinals in both 2002 and 2003, not to mention two more playoff games in 2013 and 2014. Yet this time around, the stakes won't be nearly as high. The Cowboys have a playoff berth wrapped up, but they still have a shot at a home playoff game. Havre, on the other hand, has no postseason ambition, but with it being senior night, HHS wants to close the season on a high note with a win tonight at Blue Pony Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6.

"We are excited about the opportunity," HHS head coach Ryan Gatch said. "It's always a big game when Havre and Miles City get together. I can remember driving over to watch the state championship in 1994, and there have been a lot of big games over the years. They beat us pretty good last year, but we got them up here a couple of years ago. We just want to give ourselves another chance to be 1-0 and to keep building on that momentum heading into next season. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain."

Technically, the Cowboys don't have much to lose either. Miles City could improve its playoff position with a win tonight, coupled with a Belgrade loss to Hardin. Yet, it's unlikely that the 0-8 Bulldogs upset Belgrade, which means Miles City will likely head to the playoffs as the fifth-place team from the Eastern A. However, after winning four straight games, including a narrow win over Sidney last week, the Cowboys appear to be peaking at the right time.

"They have been playing really well," Gatch said. "They got a solid win last week and they have won four in a row. They lost three of their first four games to start the season, but since then they have been rolling and they are going to think of themselves as road warriors, coming in here this week and going to Belgrade next week for the playoffs."

For Havre, there is a much different motivation when it comes to wanting to win. At 2-6, the Ponies don't have a chance to make the postseason. Yet, they are motivated to send the six-man senior class of Ethan Roberts, Logan Twombly, Tony Antley, Caleb Allestad, Brandon Shaw and Kollin Verploegen out with a win. An upset win over the Cowboys would also give Havre its first win in back-to-back games since 2016.

While the Ponies will be plenty motivated, the key to winning is still going to be execution, and against a Miles City team that boasts a daunting run game and an even better defense, that will be easier said than done. The Cowboys average just under 180 yards per game on the ground and their rushing attack is led by running back Aidan Barrows, who comes into the game with Havre averaging close to nine yards per carry.

"They are a big, physical football team," Gatch said. "It's going to be a game that is decided in the trenches. They are like a lot of the teams in the Eastern A, they have a big, physical offensive line, and we are going to have to match that style of play"

The Cowboys like to run the football, but Miles City has a solid quarterback, too, in Carson Hunter, who has passed for more than 1,000 yards this season, to go along with 10 touchdown passes. Jayden Venable is one of his top targets and leads the Cowboys with five touchdown receptions.

Of course, containing the Miles City offense is one goal. But to beat the Cowboys, the Ponies will need to get some takeaways, too.

"One thing we need to do is get on the right side of the turnover battle," Gatch said. "That's going to be a big key and we have to step up and be physical against the run."

When the Ponies have the ball, the focus of the offense will be running back Mason Dionne, who racked up more than 200 total yards last week. He also scored a rushing touchdown and threw a touchdown pass to quarterback Reese Bulkley. Twombly and Antley will be part of the offensive line that will attempt to open holes against a defense that allows just over 15 points per game.

While Dionne will be the focal point, Roberts, the Ponies leading wide receiver also be a big part of the game plan for Havre. He has five touchdowns catches this season and caught six passes for 80 yards last week after missing the two previous games. Roberts, Bulkley and Dionne will also lead the way for Havre defensively, along with Allestad and Kellen Detrick, who leads the team in tackles for loss and sacks.

"I told our guys this is a week for champions," Gatch said. "We have a chance to build some momentum and make a really positive statement heading into the offseason. We know it's going to be tough, but we feel good about our chances going in."

Havre and Miles City will meet tonight at 6, inside Blue Pony Stadium.

Havre Blue Ponies

(2-6) beat Livingston last week


Miles City Cowboys

(5-3) beat Sidney last week

Tonight at 6 p.m.

Blue Pony Stadium

Radio: 610 KOJM AM


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