It was the fall of 1972. Richard Nixon won a second term as President. The Miami Dolphins were on the road to a perfect 17-0 season.
Locally, the highlight occurred on November 11, 1972, when the Butte Central Maroons beat the Wolf Point Wolves 47-26 to capture the Class A state football title at Naranche Stadium.
For the first time in 40 years, the fabled old ballpark with a renovated new look on South Main Street will host a state championship game.
This time it will feature the high-octane offense of Butte High battling arch-rival Bozeman for the top spot in the Class AA ranks.
It is hard to believe since that 1972 Maroons’ win that the Mining City has only hosted the state football championship five times in the last 40 years.
The Butte Bulldogs won the state crown here in 1977 beating Havre 28-6 and in 1991 whipping Missoula Hellgate 35-6. Yet, the Bulldogs have also lost state title games to Great Falls in 1974 by a count of 23-0 and they fell to Helena Capital 14-12 in 1987. The other state title game here in the past 40 years took place in 1981 when the Maroons got edged by Miles City 12-7.
The lack of title games in Butte in recent decades is much different from the early days of high school football in Montana. During the first sixteen years of the 20th century, Butte High won the state football title thirteen times. They won eleven title games at home with their lone appearance on the road in 1913 resulting in a hard-fought 7-6 victory over Billings Senior. The 1914 undefeated Butte club was declared the state champions when Billings refused to play the Bulldogs.
A second glorious stretch for Butte High began in 1924 when the Bulldogs polished off Miles City 34-0 in the title match played at Clarks’ Park here in Butte. During the next fourteen years, the Butte Bulldogs were in the state finals eight times, winning six of those games. Butte was the host of six of those championship contests and only once during that stretch did the Bulldogs lose a title game at home when they got beat by Miles City 20-6 in 1928.
The final win in that glorious time frame took place in 1937. Butte High shut out Billings Senior in the finals 19-0 in a game played at Clarks’ Park. Two stars in the title contest were Evan Roberts who tallied a pair of touchdowns and Eso Naranche who booted a pair of field goals. It would be that same Eso Naranche who would have the stadium named in his honor after losing his life fighting for his country in 1943 during World War II.
Since then, Butte High has won three state titles without playing in a championship game in 1960, 1961 and 1964, but it is mind boggling as a historian to look back and realize that Butte High has only won two state championship football games outright at home since Naranche’s heroic efforts in 1937. That is a time stretch of 75 years. The two times when Butte High lifted the trophy high at home were 1977 and 1991 with the 1941 club battling to a 7-7 tie with Billings Senior at Naranche Stadium.
So from a historical perspective for Butte to host a title game for the first time in 21 years is huge. If the Bulldogs can win it all on Friday night it would be as big as the large hole on the east side of the town called the Berkeley Pit.
Butte High state title game appearances
1900 Butte High 16 Fort Shaw 0
1901 Butte High 6 Fort Shaw 0
1903 Butte High 5 Fort Shaw 0
1904 Butte High 12 Great Falls 6
1905 Butte High 24 Missoula 5
1907 Butte High 27 Billings 0
1908 Butte High 49 Miles City 0
1910 Butte High 12 Great Falls 0
1911 Butte High 5 Great Falls 5
1913 Butte High 7 Billings 6
1914 state champions no title game played
1915 Butte High 55 Great Falls 0
1916 Butte High 54 Billings 0
1924 Butte High 34 Miles City 0
1927 Butte High 44 Billings 7
1928 Miles City 20 Butte High 6
1929 Butte High 6 Miles City 0
1930 Butte High 19 Miles City 12
1931 Butte High 19 Miles City 0
1935 Butte High 2 Great Falls 0
1936 Great Falls 25 Butte High 6
1937 Butte High 19 Billings 0
1940 Butte High 19 Billings 0
1941 Butte High 7 Billings 7
1945 Missoula 25 Butte High 13
1947 Billings 21 Butte High 19
1949 Great Falls 18 Butte High 6
1950 Kalispell 55 Butte High 21
1951 Butte High 7 Kalispell 7
1953 Missoula 14 Butte High 0
1959 Kalispell 39 Butte High 0
1960 state champions no title game played
1961 state champions no title game played
1964 state champions no title game played
1967 Butte High 14 Great Falls 0
1968 Butte High 33 Great Falls 13
1974 Great Falls 23 Butte High 0
1975 CM Russell 41 Butte High 7
1977 Butte High 28 Havre 6
1981 Butte High 14 CM Russell 6
1986 CM Russell 41 Butte High 15
1987 Capital High 14 Butte High 12
1991 Butte High 35 Hellgate High 6