Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Bulldogs lose opener by a single point

13 – 14 loss presents real character–building opportunity
The 2015 Bulldogs face a tough challenge of proving they can play competitive football in the Eastern A. Only two wins in two seasons has been tough on the Bulldogs and their faithful fans. This season, the faithful are looking for more and based on the Bulldogs performance in their season opener, it’s a reasonable expectation.
Facing one, if not the premier quarterback in Montana Class A football, Dane Warp of the Havre Blue Ponies, the Hardin defense was not cowered, sacking Warp six times, hurrying his release five times, deflecting two of his passes and intercepting him once.
Coach Flamm summed the game up saying, “It was a good game. Both teams had lots of chances to do things, but both defenses ended up coming up big.”
In the fourth quarter, Hardin had chances to win this one, but could not complete the job. Time will tell whether this loss builds character or frustration. However, knowing the character of the coaching staff and the quality of the athletes, the Bulldog faithful can probably bet on character.
Hardin scored on their second possession after a long run by Connor Murdock, who ended the night with 200 yards on 23 carries and scored both Bulldog touchdowns. He broke a 60-yard run late in the fourth quarter that gave Hardin a first and goal at the seven, but all was lost due to a block in the back call.
All the scoring took place in the first half, with Hardin taking an early 7-0 lead. 
“We just traded touchdowns on the next four possessions,” Flamm explained. “We scored in the first quarter, then they scored right at the beginning of the second quarter, then we scored but missed the extra point, then they came back and scored, then there wasn’t another score the rest of the game.”
When asked if the Blue Pony defense stepped up or the Bulldog offense got tired, Flamm responded diplomatically saying, “Kind of a little of each. Both teams had opportunities to score, but made mistakes.  We were running all over them, but couldn’t sustain a drive due to fumbles and bad snaps. Bunch of snaps low, high and in the hand but we fumbled it, then the play is thrown off.”
Flamm was pleased with the Bulldog defense saying, “They played really good defense, but when we needed the play on third down, we would give up a first down too many times. That was our Achilles heel, however, it didn’t lead to scores – just longer drives for them. I thought defense might be our weak spot because I didn’t know where we were physically. We have some kids on the front that did outstanding jobs. Trevin Baumann, first time playing football, was splitting gaps and getting after the quarterback the whole game. With a kid like Warp at quarterback, you hold your breath on every play because he’s so good. He is so shifty. His two touchdowns tied the record for most touchdowns in a career and he will probably set the record for most completion yards in a career this next weekend against Miles City.
“The kids did a great job. They tried to run the ball and didn’t get more than 80 yards on the ground. We had control of the front – that was something, I didn’t know if we could do that. I knew we’re fast, I just didn’t know we were as strong up front as we are.”
For the second half, Havre started lining up their defense to stop the run. 
“We didn’t throw the ball very well at all,” said Flamm.  “We needed to keep pounding them and averaged almost seven yards a carry, but had drive killers – like the ball going off the quarterback’s hands and he is chasing down the ball 10 yards behind him. We could have gone for it on fourth down, but when we are facing a fourth and 15, you can’t do that anymore. 
“Second half, with about three minutes left to play, Connor busted off a 60-yard run to the seven, but we hit a guy in the back so it ended up being a first down at mid-field rather than first and goal at the seven. We stalled out on that one too.”
Havre got the ball back at their 40 and the Bulldogs stopped them. The Blue Ponies tried a punt and the ball was snapped over the head of the punter. Hardin chased it down and recovered the ball on Blue Pony No. 25 with about 90 seconds to play. 
“All four plays, we couldn’t do anything. We had a chance to win but couldn’t get it done,” lamented Flamm.
“It was a heck of a game with a lot of emotional swings,” he said. The Blue Ponies also had a drive in the fourth. “They did a roll out and the ball got tipped, and Clarence Little Wolf intercepted it and brought it out to the 20, and we dodged a bullet there. There was a lot of that for both sides.”
Hardin’s offense and defense were led by Murdock. On offense, he had 23 carries for 200 yards and one reception for five with two touchdowns; on defense, he had nine tackles with two sacks and two tackles for loss.
Cody Small, from his outside linebacker spot, lead in tackles with 13, one sack, one hurry and one tackle for loss. Devin Spotted Horse had eight tackles, Kodi Edwards and Kennan Hooker both had six and one pass deflection. Little Wolf and Baumann ended the night with five tackles each.
As for the passing game, Flamm explained, “We have great wide receivers that can block, now we need to find some who can catch.”
Friday night is the Bulldog’s first home game with Butte Central. Flamm shared his view saying, “I assume they’re pretty solid. We’ll see how they match up against our size and speed.”