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A reunion 15 years in the making

Saturday night will be the first time Carroll head coach Troy Purcell has been in Blue Pony Stadium since guiding Havre to the 2004 state championship


October 31, 2019

406 Sports

Carroll College head football coach Troy Purcell hasn't been inside Blue Pony Stadium since his Blue Ponies' historic 2004 state title. That changes Saturday night when he brings the Fighting Saints to Havre to take on the MSU-Northern Lights in a 7 p.m. game at Blue Pony Stadium.

No matter what he has, or will, achieve in what has been an impressive coaching career, Troy Purcell will never forget that sunny November day in 2004 — the one where his Havre Blue Ponies captured the school’s first football state championship in three decades.

It’s a memory, Purcell says, will be etched in his mind and heart forever.

That day, when Havre beat Billings Central for the 2004 Class A state championship, was also the last time Troy Purcell was inside Blue Pony Stadium.

Yet, that will finally change Saturday night when he brings his Carroll College Fighting Saints to Havre to take on the MSU-Northern Lights in a Frontier Conference showdown.

“The last time I was on that field was when we won the state championship in 2004,” Purcell, who left Havre after that school year to become the highly successful head coach at Bozeman High, said. “I haven’t stepped foot on it since. I’ve been back to Havre, I used to be able to come back and go elk hunting with my good buddies, Jason Christenson, and those guys, but I haven’t been on that field since that really special day.”

Up to that special day, Purcell had spent plenty of time on the turf at Blue Pony Stadium, cultivating a powerful Pony program that reached the state title game in 2002, the Class A semifinals in 2003 and the ultimate prize in 2004.

“I loved Havre, loved everything about the community, about the program, about Havre High,” Purcell said. “It was a very special time in my career. A career that started in Oregon, then to Eureka, and then to Havre where I met so many great people, made so many friends that I have to this day. It was just a special time for us.”

Having Purcell as the head coach of the Blue Ponies was special, too, as Havre enjoyed the ultimate success during his tenure.

Of course, Purcell and success have gone hand-in-hand wherever he’s been.

After leaving Havre for Bozeman, Purcell led the Hawks to soaring heights, including three state titles and four AA championship game appearances. From there, Purcell went to hone his craft at the collegiate level, spending several years as an assistant coach at the University of Idaho.

Then came last December, and it was finally time for Purcell to truly go home.

As a former standout at Carroll College, it was only fitting that Purcell replace the legendary Mike Van Diest as the head man at Carroll, a job he accepted last winter.

At the time, Purcell called it his dream, and now, two months into his first season in charge of reviving the proud Carroll program, he is still as excited and enthusiastic as the day he was introduced as Carroll’s head coach.

“It’s been fun; it’s exciting,” Purcell, who has the Saints at 4-3 in the Frontier Conference, said. “I think we’ve improved every week, and that’s what we need to do, just keep getting better. But I’m proud of where we are right now. I think everyone is excited about our program, about these kids and about what we’re doing and where we’re going.”

There was no question Carroll fans would be excited about Purcell coming home. And in an ironic twist of fate, Purcell going home to Carroll also meant another homecoming of sorts. With the Saints and Lights playing each other twice per season, Purcell would finally end up back on the sidelines of Blue Pony Stadium, albeit the side of the stadium he’s never stepped on before.

And that first foray back into Blue Pony Stadium, the one that was 15 years in the making, that will happen Saturday night when the former Blue Pony head coach takes on the Lights for the first time in his career.

“For sure, Blue Pony Country will always feel a little like home,” Purcell said. “I love the people there; I love the town. My daughter was born up there. It’s a special town to me for a lot of reasons.

“And,” he added, “there’s always going to be a little Blue Pony in my heart.”


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