Like in a tsunami, the big wave followed the shake.
A phenomena, it seemed, resulted during Butte High’s 45-13 leveling of Billings West in a high school football game Friday night at Vigilante Stadium. The crowd grew. And it grew.
It was the Bulldogs’ homecoming game, so a larger-than-usual attendance was anticipated. However, this one just kept getting bigger and bigger.
Few games, especially blowout contests, see a larger crowd at game’s end than at game’s start. Friday night was the exception. First glance, just after kickoff, estimated about 2,000 cheering folks taking up the seats at the new and beautiful Naranche Stadium on the Butte High campus. With seven victories in eight starts at the renovated venue, the new Naranche’s legend might begin to grow, perhaps gaining a reputation the rival the claims of rusty nails and jagged glass imbedded in the tailings sands of the prior Naranche.
By halftime, Butte High had built a 28-0 lead over a program it hadn’t defeated since the undefeated Bulldog team of 1991, a squad that sent 18 athletes on to college sports, topped the Golden Bears. While Butte High’s football fortunes have not been as rich in recent times as in its gloried past, Billings West, under the direction of Butte native and old Naranche Stadium veteran Paul Klaboe, has flourished. Around the state, the Golden Bears were probably determined to be the prohibitive favorites going into the Class AA clash.
So when a very well-prepared Butte High squad capitalized on its own prowess and Billings West mistakes for a 28-0 halftime bulge on this summery warm evening, word apparently traveled at sound barrier-fracturing speed. People came.
They arrived in, well, passable droves. Not only were the seats filled, but standing room was disappearing.
As the game clock ticked down toward the end and the Bulldogs were winning decidedly, students pushed at the field gates, waiting for their schoolmates on the field to finish a job well done.
A sideline thought was that the students left their seats. If so, some vacancies would’ve been spotted, readily, right?
The seats were full.
Either they were still occupied, or occupied again if the kids had left any open. Maybe, 4,000 were on hand to witness the end of the thrashing this year’s Bulldogs dealt this year’s Golden Bears. And they still kept coming — egged on by social media, twitter reports and the radio broadcast, too, alerted to the fact the Bulldogs were about to win big against a very high-quality opponent. The stadium, too, with its midtown location was quickly accessible to the late-comers who simply could not stay away any longer, They wanted to see this.
So they came.
For Butte residents, it was a fun night. Smiles not only gleamed through descending darkness, but cut the heavy wildfire smoke, too, that was enveloping the Uptown.
The kids gave their following a lot to cheer about, a lot to enjoy and mostly gave their all. As principal John Metz agreed, the players all looked like they really wanted to play. This was one of those nights when all of those Bulldogs seemed pretty good at football, too. Metz was quick to point out that head coach Arie Grey is doing “a great job.” Indeed, he is, along with his enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff. Coaches of this age group, though, seldom accept that kind of praise. They pass credit for wins to the players and absorb all blame for defeat. Remember then, the coaches certainly did their parts in achieving the success of this event, too.
So when the game did end, Billings West looking grateful for that occurrence, the gates to the sidewalk and its brigades opened. Fans, 99 percent of them Butte High students, rushed the field, rushed to the players and congratulated the Bulldogs on this memorable moment.
They celebrated. They celebrated homecoming. They celebrated victory.
The night was special.