Updated: A Time to Make History

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