By Bruce Sayler
Butte Central and Dillon’s first meeting on the football field this year was plenty tough enough. A lot more will be riding on the outcome this time around.
The two fierce regional rivals will play in the first round of the state Class A high school football playoffs with the appointment set for 1 p.m. on Saturday at Dillon’s Vigilante Field. (Radio: KOPR 94.1 FM or online)
The teams tussled it out to a 13-6 result in Dillon’s favor in their game last month.
“It was a hard-fought game,” Butte Central head coach Don Peoples Jr. said. “We made some mistakes on special teams and we didn’t capitalize on some scoring opportunities. Dillon came out of it with a hard-fought win.”
The Maroons take a 5-3 record into the clash while Dillon sports a 7-1 mark. The Beavers lost to Hamilton 32-28 last week, costing them an undefeated season and the regular-season championship of the Southwestern Conference. The Beavers, though, remain in contention to retain their Class A state title won last year.
The Maroons are in the postseason for the sixth straight year and for the 16th time in the last 18 seasons. This century as seen them miss the playoffs in only the 2001 and 2011 seasons.
Dillon has played in the last six state Class A championship games, winning four of them. In this century, the Beavers have played in 11 state championship games and won eight crowns.
The winner of Saturday’s Butte Central-Dillon game will advance to play at Sidney next weekend in the quarterfinals.
“We’re excited,” Peoples said. “With the group of young kids we have this year, they’ve been challenged to earn their way into the playoffs — even though our expectations remained the same.
“They know we have to play our best game on Saturday and not just be satisfied to make the playoffs.”
Peoples is in his 29th year guiding the Maroons while Dillon head coach Rick Nordahl is in his fifth at the helm.
“Everybody all over the state knows Dillon has that winning tradition and a great program,” Peoples said. “We’ve been studying them hard the last four or five years and they’ve probably studied what we do hard as well.
“Dillon and us have had some really tough games down there.”
The one in September was an example. Graden Greenslade, Dillon’s 240-pound senior fullback, scored both of his team’s touchdowns on short-yardage plays. Both were set up by high snaps on punting plays on a wet field.
All of the scoring happened before halftime. The Maroons’ points came on a 24-yard pass play from Cade Holter to senior receiver Allen Boyle.
Holter completed seven of 15 passes for 145 yards in the game and senior running back Ryan Moodry finished with 75 yards on 21 carries. Greenslade gained 64 yards on 13 carries and Dillon quarterback Coby King passed for 53 yards, being held to four completions in 12 throws.
Both QBs in the first meeting missed time later in the season with injuries. King returned to the Beavers lineup late in the regular season while Holter saw duty at receiver in his return last week. He missed two weeks because of a concussion.
“Everybody’s back and we had a good week of practice,” Peoples said. “The kids are anxious and this is a huge challenge — to play, arguably, the best program in Class A. The kids are excited and want to play their best football.”
Peoples said Holter, a junior, is slated for wide receiver time again this week while sophomore Thomas McGree gets the nod at quarterback. McGree played well at the position after Holter was hurt.
“It’s great to have them both out there,” Peoples mentioned.
Moodry leads the running attack, but speedy Clay Fisher brings quickness to the backfield and is also a dangerous receiver. Boyle and Holter will be at wide-outs and sophomore Matt Simkins has come on steadily at tight end.
King handing off to Greenslade amounts to a good slice of the Beavers’ offense, but it is effective. King is also a nifty runner and had played a running back spot prior to this season in the Dillon backfield. When the Beavers aren’t operating their power game, King can throw to Brent Tezak, a game-breaker receiver who missed the September game because of injury.
“Dillon runs the ball hard with Greenslade and the quarterback, King,” Peoples said. “And, King can throw the ball, too, when he’s needed to.”
The Dillon defense is stout. Senior end Clay Allison is a 6-foot-8, 210-pound senior with a condor-like wingspan. He is difficult to run past and his reach disrupts passing attempts. Tezak, Clay Walker and Greenslade are also top performers on defense. Zane Johnson and Gave Kirkley bolster the pass rush.
The Maroons played a strong defensive game against Dillon last month and the Butte Central coaches are seeking a similar performance. Zeb Antonioli and Aaron Richards are strong against the run as tackles while Simkins and versatile Hunter Hartwick hem in from the ends. Antonioli, Richards and Hartwick all start on the offensive line, along with Seth Gardner and Saxon Walton.
Moodry, Fisher and Dylan Shea provide a solid linebacking unit and the secondary has good athleticism with McGree and Holter at the safeties, and Boyle and junior Aidan Petritz at the corners.
Moodry kicks and punts.
Doing what the Maroons didn’t do against Dillon last month will be the key to success, Peoples said. They have to eliminate mistakes, and they have to score points.
“When a team is as well-coached and well-disciplined as Dillon, then little mistakes get magnified 10-fold,” Peoples said. “We have to sustain drives and finish drives.”
The probable Butte Central starters follow:
Offense — Center — Saxon Walton, 6-2, 195, senior. Guards — Zeb Antonioli, 6-3, 285, senior, and Seth Gardner, 6-3, 270, senior. Tackles — Hunter Hartwick, 5-10, 180, senior, and Aaron Richards, 6-4, 250, sophomore. Tight end — Matt Simkins, 6-4, 185, sophomore. Wide receivers — Allen Boyle, 5-11, 165, senior, and Cade Holter, 6-0, 175, junior. Running backs — Ryan Moodry, 5-10, 190, senior, and Clay Fisher, 5-9, 165, junior, or Dylan Shea, 5-10, 170, senior. Quarterback — Thomas McGree, 5-11, 170, sophomore.
Defense — Tackles — Zeb Antonioli, 6-3, 285, senior, and Aaron Richards, 6-4, 250, sophomore. Ends — Hunter Hartwick, 5-10, 180, senior, and Matt Simkins, 6-4, 185, sophomore. Linebackers — Ryan Moodry, 5-10, 190, senior; Clay Fisher, 5-9, 165, junior; and Dylan Shea, 5-10, 170, senior. Cornerbacks — Alle Boyle, 5-11, 165, senior, and Aidan Petritz, 6-0, 170, junior. Safeties — Cade Holter, 6-0, 175, junior, and Thomas McGree, 5-11, 170, sophomore.