By Derek Hendrickson
The Butte Central Maroon football team put up a valiant effort but short two of its best players were unable to keep up with a loaded Hamilton Bronc offense, losing 40-19 Friday night at Bob Green Field.
Central head coach Don Peoples Jr. talked about being shorthanded after the game, saying “I thought our kids played really hard, we are missing two great two-way players tonight. They are really good defensive players too. We were a bit undermanned tonight, but I’m proud of our effort.”
Much like last week in Frenchtown a competitive first half changed quickly against Hamilton as the Broncs hit on three long touchdown plays and quickly turned a 20-7 halftime score into a 40-7 lead.
Despite things not going their way the Maroons never stopped fighting. They held on a two-point conversion that would’ve started the running clock and put up two more touchdowns to build some momentum heading into their game at Stevensville next week.
The Maroons also forced turnovers on a couple of late drives, including one as Bauder was about to score that was recovered by Jared Simkins in the end zone for a touchback.
The Broncs returned several of their key offensive starters from last season that saw them eliminate the Maroons in a first-round playoff game.
Senior running back Bridger Bauder was a workhorse all night, piling up 269 yards on 24 carries. In the first half Bauder was somewhat contained, toting the rock 19 times for 164 yards but showed his big play ability on an 85 yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
The other big plays were connections between sophomore quarterback Carson Rostad and senior wideout Tyler Chouinard. The pair combined for 51 and 78 yard touchdowns, both in the third quarter as well, that helped put the game away and move the Broncs to 3-0 in conference play and 6-1 overall.
“Hamilton is a good team, let’s give them a ton of credit,” Peoples said about Friday night’s opponent. “They have the most skill players that we’ve seen all season.”
Central was able to dodge several long attempts in the first half from Rostad, holding him to to just 5 of 15 passing and 112 yards. After the break he was lethal, going four for six, all receptions by Chouinard, for 174 yards and the two scores. The pair also hit for a late touchdown pass in the first half.
Ryan Moodry did all he could to match the Hamilton rushing game. Moodry carried the ball an amazing 38 times for 151 yards, dragging tacklers with him all night long as the Broncs knew he would be the focal point but still struggled to stop him.
“He was a warrior,” Peoples said about his senior back. “I was really proud of the way Ryan Moodry ran the ball tonight, he ran hard.”
Moodry also converted a fake punt by passing to fellow senior Dylan Shea for 11 yards to keep a drive alive late in the first half.
Central saw sophomore Thomas McGree make his first start at quarterback, filling in for Cade Holter. McGree showed flashes and was able to move the ball consistently, finishing 15-29 passing but was 12 of 18 in the second half.
“I’m proud of Thomas McGree,” Peoples said about his signal caller. “I thought he did some really good things out there tonight.”
The Maroons also were missing running back/linebacker Clay Fisher and his speed was definitely something that no one else could make up for on either side of the ball. Both injured players have concussions and uncertain return schedules.
Matt Simkins had a big game with the chance to contribute more. He caught ten passes on the night, eight in the second half, for a total of 151 yards as the Broncs were unable to keep with his crossing routes off play fakes to Moodry.
Hamilton got off to a quick start, holding the Maroons to a three and out on three Moodry runs that totaled 7 yards. The Broncs took their first possession and went 59 yards in a 6 plays, with hitting Cameron Rothie twice, initially for 37 yards then ending the drive with an 11 yard touchdown and a quick 7-0 lead.
The Maroons responded with a 12 play grinder of a drive, eating up over four minutes of time on the scoreboard. Moodry busted off runs of 19 and 12 before finally punching it in from 2 yards out and tying the game.
Bauder was the key cog on Hamilton’s next drive, carrying it on six of the eight plays and accounting for 53 of the 56 yards before busting through for a four yard score, making it 13-7 late in the first.
The game turned into a defensive battle for much of the rest of the half. Of the next six drives five would end in punts. Moodry scooped up a fumble on the other drive.
Finally Bauder got going again, gouging the Maroon defense for big chunks of 11, 15, 14 and finally a 30 yard touchdown shortly before the half, putting the Broncs up 20-7.
The second half got off to a rough start as Hamilton got a nice kick return to their own 49 and on the next play the deep pass finally was on the money for 51 yards and a touchdown.
Central was able to put together what appeared to be a response that would keep them in the game as McGree kept the ball for runs of 28 and 24 yards but Rostad got an interception in the red zone.
With the ball at their own 15 Hamilton looked to have Bauder get them some field position. He took the whole field on his first run and what had been a close game was suddenly 34-7 less than five minutes into the third. It was also the third touchdown in less than 8 minutes of game time going back to the second quarter, busting open what had been a 13-7 game late in the first half.
The Maroons again would put together a nice string of plays as Moodry gained 11 and Simkins had catches of 14 and 11 but Rostad pounced on a fumble at the Bronc 25, stifling yet another promising drive by Central.
Two plays later the Broncs were on the verge of a three-and-out facing 3rd and 7. Rostad lobbed a pass to Chouinard, who out jumped the Maroon defender and then was able to race untouched 78 yards to the end zone making it 40-7.
“They came out and went deep and got us over the top,” Peoples said when asked about the third quarter Bronc offensive explosion. “It’s one of those things when you’re playing seven sophomores some things are going to happen out there but I’m proud of those sophomores too. We are getting some great efforts out of them.”
Central held on the two point attempt and then were able to finish off their next drive as Simkins caught two more passes, McGree ran for a first down and Moodry added four carries, including the final two yard push.
The Maroons went for an onside kick with 46 seconds left in the third but Hamilton was able to secure it. They took the strong starting filed position and looked primed to get another crack at the running clock.
Bauder was on the move inside the five heading in for an apparent score when the Maroons forced a fumble the Jared Simkins recovered in the end zone and the Broncs were denied.
Peoples was asked about his message to the team after the game, saying “I told them I was proud of them for not quitting and playing hard. It would’ve been really easy to just walk off the field and let the score get really out of hand. Keep battling, we had a couple of other opportunities to score.”
The Maroons went on another long drive, 12 more plays but eventually turned it over on downs on the Hamilton 32.
The teams would trade possessions on punts and turnovers. The Broncs had the best chance to score when Declan O’Brien got a pick and returned the ball the six but a snap over the quarterback’s head cost Hamilton 26 yards and then another mishandle was nabbed by Egan Lester to end the threat.
Central put together one last drive as Simkins caught a pass for 34, McGree ran for 12, Patrick Harrington made a catch for 5 and Allen Boyle capped the drive with a seven yard reception in the end zone for final points with 37 seconds left.
The Maroons still control their own destiny for the final wild card spot in the West as two wins in their final two games would put them at 5-3. Central has had a strong recent history against both of their final two opponents and would likely be getting healthy just in time for the opening round of the playoffs.
“We’re going to load up and get on the road next weekend and be ready to play a great football game,” Peoples said when asked about moving forward. “If we win the last two games we will make the playoffs, that’s going to be our mission.”
Hamilton and Dillon will likely decide the conference championship as both are now 3-0 after the Beavers knocked Frenchtown from the undefeated ranks Friday night, 32-15. Hamilton has remaining games against both of those two teams and will finish somewhere in the top three in the Southwestern A with the win tonight, guaranteeing them a playoff spot.
Hamilton 13 7 20 0 — 40
Butte Central 7 0 6 6 — 19
HAMILTON — Rothie 17 yard reception from Rostad (Lewis kick) 9:10, 7-0. Drive-6 plays 59 yards 1:06, key play-37 yard pass to Rothie on 3rd and 10.
BC — Moodry 2 yard run (Moodry kick) 4:41, 7-7. Drive 12 plays 68 yards 4:21, key play-Simkins 9 yard reception on 3rd and 8.
HAMILTON — Bauder 4 yard run (kick failed) 2:25, 13-7. Drive-8 plays 56 yards 2:08, key play-Bauder 16 yard run to 2 yard line.
HAMILTON — Chouinard 30 yard reception from Rostad (Lewis kick) 2:43, 20-7. Drive 7 plays 90 yards, 1:52. key play-Bauder 20 yard run from Hamilton’s own 10.
HAMILTON — Chouinard 51 yard reception from Rostad (kick failed) 11:44, 26-7. Drive 1 play 51 yards, :09. key play-touchdown.
HAMILTON — Bauder 85 yard run (Baker kick) 7:05, 33-7. Drive-1 play 85 yards :12, key play-touchdown
HAMILTON — Chouinard 78 yard reception from Rostad (pass failed) 3:48, 40-7. Drive 3 plays 81 yards, :37. key play-touchdown
BC — Moodry 2 yard run (kick failed) :46, 40-13. Drive 8 plays 64 yards 2:55, key play-Simkins 19 yard reception on first play of drive.
BC — Boyle 7 yard reception from McGree (kick failed) :37, 40-19. Drive 4 plays 58 yards :48, key play-Simkins 34 yard reception on first play of drive.
RUSHING — Hamilton (32-267), Bauder 24-269, O’Brien 1-11, Rostad 3-3, Lewis 1-0, Duce 3-(-17). BC (48-231), Moodry 38-151, McGree 9-81, N. Boyle 1-(-1)
PASSING — Hamilton, Rostad 9-21-0-286. BC, McGree 15-29-0-182, Moodry 1-1-0-11.
RECEIVING — Hamilton, Chouinard 5-204, Rothie 2-54, Bauder 1-25, Lewis 1-3, BC, M. Simkins 10-151, Moodry 2-13, Shea 1-11, A. Boyle 1-7, J. Simkins 1-6, Harrington 1-5.