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Friday Night Lights: Tonight belongs to them

The 2020 Havre High football journey is just beginning but, under the new normal, the Blue Ponies will honor their seniors tonight against Laurel


Last updated 9/11/2020 at 8:04am

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Nine Blue Pony seniors will play their first home football game of 2020 tonight when Havre opens its season against the Laurel Locomotives. But, with COVID-19 changing the way schools and sports teams are doing a lot of things these days, the first HHS home game of the season will also be senior night at Blue Pony Stadium.

Senior night ... normally this special evening is celebrated at the last home game of the season, but due to the looming COVID-19 concern, the Havre High football team will be acknowledging the 2020 senior class at its home and season-opener against the Laurel Locomotives tonight at Blue Pony Stadium, making sure that these seniors get their night of glory with the chance given.

The seniors on the 2020 roster include Kellen Detrick, Eli Cloninger, Evan Butcher, Carson Lunak, Colby Lammers, Joey Byrd, Brock Nystrom, Ethan Carlson and Bradyn Winchell. These seniors have been on quite the journey since their freshman season and needless to say, the bond they share is one to behold.

And Havre head coach Ryan Gatch is proud to see this group of seniors take the field in 2020, as well as to be coaching them.

"The seniors we got are a fantastic group of young men," Gatch said. "These guys are about buying in, committing to something bigger than them and this is one of the largest groups we've had. That's really exciting for us because once we get them into our program, they're staying. They've played a lot of football for us. I'm excited about our seniors. I can't think of any greater group of dudes to go into battle with tonight than this group. Last year we had a great group, this year we got a great group and we just keep getting better and better. When your seniors are your best players and team leaders, then you got something special."

Tonight will see a limited fan attendance due to the two ticket per rostered player restriction that has been set, but the seniors will be glad to be able to get out on the field and go to work. It has been the moment this senior class has been waiting for. When those lights go up, this group of talented players will be ready to do their part.

Senior night is a big night and Detrick is looking forward to bringing his A-game alongside his teammates tonight.

It'll be good," Detrick said. "It'll be emotional and will be different having it for our first game, but we'll go in there, get a win, get it done and keep it going."

Each senior has made an impact on the Blue Pony program. Detrick has been a potent defensive lineman, earning all-state honors before, as well as just being an excellent player for team morale. Byrd was a major part of the safety core that helped secure a playoff appearance for the Ponies in 2019. Lunak and Carlson have been a consistent part of the line to help Havre make some magic, too.

Nystrom and Winchell will be key components of the offensive attack this year. Nystrom will aim to be a weapon for the offense at the receiving position, while Winchell has plans to use his legs to get the Ponies down the field. Fellow seniors Cloninger, Lammers and Butcher will be making the most of their abilities, as well, whether it be on the field or keeping up the energy from the sidelines.

Despite COVID-19 making the fall season look bleak, things have lined up for the Ponies to play in 2020, leading Cloninger and Butcher to be thankful for the opportunity to make the most of this game and season.

"It's a blessing to actually be playing," Cloninger said. "I wish we could do more than we're able to at the moment, but we got to be grateful for this."

"It's great to know I can watch my team play," Butcher said. "I know there is some places you can't play, so I'm grateful and I'm sure everybody else is grateful. I don't how long this season will last, but any game out here is our senior season, so any game and anytime I get to watch these guys that I've been with for four years get to play is really nice."

Since they were freshmen, these seniors have made the most of every opportunity. They were a part of the 2019 drive to the quarterfinals of the Class A playoffs, a double-home victory against long-time rivals in the Lewistown Eagles and many other incredible wins over teams over the years. Those moments are shared fondly between this group of young men.

These seniors have been on quite the journey over the years, with many different perspectives and moments cherished by each. Lunak and Lammers shared their experiences as time has passed since they first joined the Havre High squad.

"I started my seventh-grade year," Lunak said. "You don't really get into strength until high school, so I got bigger and got to work on the line. I started last year. I've just been working to get better, stronger and faster.

"I've been trying to lose a lot of weight to this point and start o-line as a senior," Lammers said. "Definitely my favorite things. I'm excited to play and I think it's definitely going to be a good season for these guys. I want to win, basically."

After all these years, nothing has come between this group of seniors. Win or lose, they all have been there to support and keep one another at their best. It takes a special group of teammates to make that happen, but it is no challenge for the 2020 squad, which is something that Byrd and Nystrom are grateful for.

"Those guys are my brothers," Byrd said. "We got out there and get the job done. We come out, win or lose, ready for the next week. I love these dudes and playing alongside them, I couldn't ask for anything more.

"It's definitely a journey," Nystrom said. "They're a lot more than a team to me and most of them are my good friends. I share a lot of good memories with them. To be able to go out on the field and have fun with them, it's awesome."

These young, talented student-athletes will be ready to make the most of the season, starting with tonight, as Laurel will be at Blue Pony Stadium tonight, with Carlson and Winchell getting in a good mindset to prepare for the Locomotives, who are a top-team and an Eastern A powerhouse.

"It's a simple mindset; we're there to win," Carlson said. "We're going to take it one week at a time, win a game, next week win a game until it leads to a championship.

"I really just want to go out there and have fun because you never know when it'll be our last game to play," Winchell said. "I really love these guys and it's been great playing with them."

Tonight will not only be the season and home-opener for these seniors, but they will get to celebrate their accomplishments, play their best game possible and start off the 2020 season on a good note. Get ready Blue Pony fans because these seniors will be giving it their all every chance they get.


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