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Blue Ponies face tough road test at Billings Central

Coming off a dominant home victory over Hardin to open the season, the Havre High football team will have a road test tonight against the Billings Central Rams. As the Blue Ponies head into enemy territory, HHS head coach Jake Eldridge expects a battle.

"It's going to be a great ballgame. Billings Central is consistently one of the top teams, not only in our conference but in the entire state," Eldridge said. "They're well coached both schematically and fundamentally and they've got some dynamic football players on both sides of the ball."

The Rams are coming off a 2022 season where they went 10-2 and played in the state championship game. In 2023, they are already off to a 1-0 start with a 22-20 win on the road against Glendive this past weekend.

As one of the best programs in Class A football, the Rams will have many players the Ponies will have to account for. On offense, Adam Balkenbush will take snaps at quarterback while Thomas Norman will carry the rock at running back. Norman might also take snaps at quarterback, so the Ponies will have to be on their toes against this offense.

"They play both the quarterback at times and the running back at times so they're pretty dynamic both in the passing game and in the running game," Eldridge said about the duo of Balkenbush and Norman.

The Rams also return several players on defense who will look to give the Havre offense some fits. In the middle of the field, linebackers Xavier Brackenridge and Jack Debourg will look to slow down the Havre rushing attack.

The Ponies head into this game after defeating Hardin, 43-12, to open the season. Havre is looking to build off last year where it went 6-4, but is hoping to avenge a 35-0 loss to the Rams last season. If the Havre offense wants to avoid another shutout this season, it will have to follow the game plan to a tee.

"We have to be disciplined with executing our scheme, fundamentally sound upfront with what we're doing in the run game and how we have to pick up their pressures," Eldridge said. "Quarterbacks have to make the right decisions, get the ball to the playmakers and not take any negative plays."

As Eldridge said, the Havre quarterbacks will have to play well in order for them to defeat the Rams. Last weekend against Hardin, both Ciaran Courtnage and Griffin Terry got snaps at quarterback. Whoever gets the snaps tonight, they will need to rely on playmakers such as Tre Gary and Tate Nelson to move the offense down the field.

Tonight's game will serve as the home opener for the Rams this season. While it will be a road game against a tough opponent, Eldridge expects the Ponies to remain focused in this early-season test.

"It's a long trip. It gives us more time to be around each other but it's a business trip so once we get there, get warmed up and put the pads on, it's just another football game on the field that's the same size anywhere you go," Eldridge said. "We've always traveled really well with our team and our fans, as well, so we expect to see a good showing down there."

The HHS football team will play Billings Central tonight at 6 p.m. at Herb Klindt Field.


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