Final drive comes up short in stunning 21-20 loss for Cowboys

Cowboy receiver Alec Haughian hauls in a pass despite the defense of Havre's Thomas Gruber during their playoff game on Saturday in Havre. The Cowboys lost a tough 21-20 decision against the Blue Ponies to end their season. (Photo courtesy of Lindsay Brown of Havre Daily News)

Cowboy runningback Evan Haughian runs through a Havre tackler during their playoff game on Saturday afternoon in Havre. (Photo courtesy of Lindsay Brown of Havre Daily News)

The final drive for the Custer County District High School football team pretty well encapsulated how the game went on Saturday afternoon in Havre.

There were costly penalties, big plays and a little controversy, but ultimately the Cowboys came up just short.

The Cowboys fell to Havre 21-20 in the first round of the Class A playoffs to end their season at 5-4-1.

“It was a real tough loss,” Cowboys head coach Dan Stanton said. “It was one of those games that it came down to certain plays and situations. We had high expectations for the game. I just feel bad for the kids and the seniors.”

With their season on the line, and trailing 21-20, the Cowboy defense forced a Havre punt with 4:07 left to play in the fourth quarter. That punt sailed just two yards and the Cowboys took over at their own 47-yard line.

After moving the ball into Havre territory, Cowboy quarterback Ben Herzog was tackled awkwardly and came off the field with an apparent knee injury. Alec Haughian took over at quarterback and on third down was stopped for a one-yard gain. But a holding penalty was called on the Cowboys, backing them up to the Havre 43 and forcing a third-and-14 situation. 

Haughian’s pass was incomplete and brought up fourth down. Herzog limped back on the field for the big play and hooked up with Haughian for a 17-yard gain to give the Cowboys a huge first down at the Havre 26.

Another holding penalty was called on the Cowboys on first down, pushing them back to the Havre 40 and setting up first-and-24. Herzog was sacked for a seven-yard loss and his second-down pass to Alec Haughian went for -3 yards.

Facing third-and-34, Herzog connected with Evan Haughian out of the backfield for a 13-yard gain and set up a monumental fourth-and-21.

Herzog’s pass missed Alec Haughian, mostly because Haughian was being held and the Blue Ponies were whistled for a pass interference. The 15-yard penalty set the Cowboys up for fourth-and-six at the Havre 23, and again Herzog came through with a big 15-yard pass to Alec Haughian for the first down at the eight-yard line.

With no timeouts, the Cowboys hustled to the line and Herzog spiked the ball with 20 seconds to play in the fourth to stop the clock. His second-down pass was incomplete, and then the Cowboys were whistled for a false start to set the third-down play at the 13.

On third down, Herzog was flushed to the right and was stopped for a small loss.

With the clock running, at 13 seconds, the Cowboys again hurried to the line for a fourth-down play.

The umpire initially set the ball on the wrong yard line, and by the time the ball was placed on the correct yard line, the clock ran out and the Cowboys’ season was over.

“We had a good tempo going on that final drive,” Stanton said. “We always have confidence in what we do. I thought we had a good opportunity to score.”

The way the game started, it looked as if the Cowboys were going to run away with the win and advance to the quarterfinals.

On the opening kick, Cowboy Draven Winkley knocked the ball out of the Havre returner’s hands, and Wyatt Lesh recovered to give the Cowboys the ball at the Havre 30-yard line.

Eleven plays later, Herzog connected with Brett Keith for a 31-yard score to get the Cowboys on the board.

On Havre’s second play from scrimmage, Evan Haughian stepped in front of a Dane Warp pass and intercepted it, giving the Cowboys the ball again at their own 25-yard line. They went 75 yards in 14 plays that culminated in a 25-yard strike from Herzog to Alec Haughian on fourth down.

Havre cut the score with a touchdown early in the second quarter, but just before halftime the Cowboys moved the ball 44 yards on consecutive pass plays to Keith and Alec Haughian. Herzog punched it in from three yards out to give the Cowboys a 20-7 lead going into halftime.

But in the second half, the Cowboy offense sputtered. Up until their final drive, the Cowboys picked up just four first downs and punted five times.

“We were able to get some good yardage, just were put in bad situations with some of the penalties,” Stanton said. “Defensively we just gave up a couple plays that put them in scoring position.”

The Cowboys, like most teams Havre has played, had a hard time slowing down Warp and the passing game. Warp, a sophomore, finished with 319 yards passing in the game. Freshmen running back Parker Filius also proved to be hard to contain, with 199 combined yards.

The Cowboys controlled the clock, holding the ball for nearly 12 minutes longer than Havre and running 87 offensive plays. They gained 359 yards of total offense, but they were undone by 12 penalties that cost the Cowboys 122 yards.

Herzog ended his career with 175 yards passing and 91 yards rushing. Herzog, along with linemen Cody Wacker and Colton Pederson, were the lone seniors for the Cowboys this season.

Havre 21, Miles City 20

Miles City 14 6 0 0 - 20

Havre 0 7 7 7 - 21


1st Qtr- Brett Keith, MC, 31 yard reception from Ben Herzog, (Robert Hofer kick), 7:59; Alec Haughian, MC, 25 yard reception from Herzog, (Hofer kick), 1:42.

2nd Qtr- Parker Filius, Hav, 1 yard run, (Gunnar Aageson kick), 10:50; Herzog, MC, 3 yard run, (kick failed), :59.

3rd Qtr- Kody Pribyl, Hav, 1 yard run, (Aageson kick), 6:09.

4th Qtr- Tristan Manuel, Hav, 10 yard reception from Dane Warp, (Aageson kick), 8:17.

Team Statistics

Miles City Havre

(5-4-1) (5-4-1)

1st Downs 18 21

3rd Conv. 6-19 4-13

4th Conv. 5-5 0-2

Total Offense 359 433

Plays 87 63

YPP 4.1 6.9

Rushing 184 114

Att 56 31

YPA 3.3 3.7

Passing 175 319

Comp-Att 13-31 22-32

YPA 5.6 10.0

Return 4-28 5-54

Avg 7.0 10.8

Punts 6-175 1-2

Avg 29.2 2.0

Penalties 12-122 10-100

TO’s Forced 5 1

Points off 14 0

Possession 29:33 18:27

Individual Statistics

Miles City

Rushing- Ben Herzog 34-91, TD; Evan Haughian 15-71; Alec Haughian 7-22.

Passing- Ben Herzog 13-30-175-2-1; Alec Haughian 0-1-0-0-0.

Receiving- Alec Haughian 9-114, TD; Brett Keith 2-38, TD; Evan Haughian 1-13.

Return- Alec Haughian 1-11; Evan Haughian 2-10; Beau Peaslee 1-7.


Rushing- Parker Filius 16-108, TD; Tristan Manuel 4-29; Kody Pribyl 4-8, TD; Thomas Gruber 1-(-13), Dane Warp 6-(-18).

Passing- Dane Warp 22-32-319-1-3.

Receiving- Thomas Gruber 7-115; Parker Filius 9-91; Tristan Manuel 4-60, TD; Kody Pribyl 1-31; Nate Rismon 1-22.

Return- Nate Rismon 2-32; Gunnar Aageson 1-12; Trevor Jensen 1-5; Thomas Gruber 1-5.