By Bruce Sayler
Head coach Don Peoples Jr. said the extra week of practice didn’t hurt.
While many of Montana’s high school football teams began their seasons last week, Butte Central was one of the ones that delayed its start a week.
“The extra week of practice has been good for us,” Peoples, entering his 29th year at the Maroons’ helm, said. “We’re ready to play more than we were last week.’
BC will launch its season on Friday with a 7 p.m. Class A non-conference game at Ronan. (Radio: KOPR 94, 94.1 FM or online)
Butte Central will be blending a mix of experienced juniors and seniors with some newcomers to the lineup and a strong sophomore cast. Captains are third-year starters Ryan Moodry (running back and linebacker) and Dylan Shea (center and linebacker). The roster is up to 32 players, Peoples said.
“A good number of players will again be playing dual roles for us,” the coach said. “We have a lot of starters who have been in the fire before. The first-year starters will grow with the team each game.”
The returnees on offense include junior quarterback Cade Holter, Moodry, Shea, senior receiver Allan Boyle, senior guard Zeb Antoniol and sophomore tackle Aaron Richards. Junior guard Seth Gardner also saw a lot of time on the line. Holter mostly backed up at QB last season, but played receiver and did start the first couple of games at QB while Tanner Kump, since graduated, was healing from an injury.
New starters on offense this year are sophomore wide receiver Thomas McGree, who also backs up at quarterback, sophomore tight end Matt Simkins and senior Hunter Hartwick at tackle. It is Hartwick’s third position on offense in three years, having backed up at quarterback and running back in prior years.
Others expected to see much action on offense are junior running back Clay Fisher, sophomore receiver Trevor Neumann, junior receiver Braden Harrington, junior receiver Aiden Petritz, sophomore tight end Jared Simkins, and senior linemen Saxon Walton and Johnny Williams.
Defensively, returning starters are Moodry and Shea at inside linebacker, and Richards and Antonioli at tackle. Also, Fisher and Hartwick return to the unit, but in new positions — Fisher moving from the secondary to outside linebacker, and Hartwick from linebacker to defensive end. Other starters are listed as Matt Simkins at end, Petritz and Boyle at the corners, McGree at strong safety and Holter at free safety. Holter also had starting-level experience in the secondary last season.
Moodry will kick and punt, also, and was voted All-State honors at linebacker, and all-conference recognition at fullback and linebacker last fall.
Ronan is making its return to Class A this year after spending the past few seasons in Class B where it reached the state quarterfinals. The Chiefs then lost to Whitehall, which fell in the semifinals to eventual state Class B champion Eureka.
“We’ve seen a lot about Ronan on film,” Peoples said. “They played pretty good football and have a lot of kids back. We’re expecting them to be a good team and polls are picking them to be one of the top teams in the Northwestern A.”
The coach said this will be the Maroons’ first trip to Ronan since 2010, the year the Chiefs first installed artificial turf.
Matt Detwiler is the head coach of the Chiefs, and All-Stater Happy Cheff, a defensive back and receiver, leads the returnees from last year’s state B playoffs team.
“They throw the ball well and run the ball hard,” Peoples said. “They line up in the shotgun on offense and go with a 34 or 42 defense, mixing it up.
“They’re a spirited bunch that plays very hard. They’re fired up and excited to get back in Class A.”
Peoples said the Maroons are excited to get on the field to play somebody other than themselves.
“The kids are anxious to go out and see what kind of team we have this year,” he said.
Peoples’ staff is a mix of the returnees and the new, too, as his brother, Doug, is back as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach; Tom Peterson back as the defensive coordinator; Scott Mansanti returns as defensive backs coach, Clay McQuary as wide receivers coach, Robin Moodry as running backs coach, and Jake Simkins as linebackers coach. New to the staff are Paul Richardson helping with the offensive line, and Fr. Kirby Longo coaching receivers and the secondary and McQueary and Mansanti.
Don Peoples Jr. said Richardson previously coached at Gonzaga Prep in Spokane and at Bellermine High in Tacoma before moving to Butte.
“And, I think it’s great to have a priest on the staff, too,” he said about Fr. Longo.
Butte Central starters follow:
Offense — Center — Dylann Shea, 5-10, 170, 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 — Thomas McGree, 5-11, 170, sophomore; Trevor Neumann, 5-10, 155, sophomore; and Allan Boyle, 5-11, 165, senior; Running back — Ryan Moodry, 5-10, 190, senior; and Quarterback — Cade Holter, 6-0, 175, junior.
Defense — Tackles — Aaron Richards 6-4, 250, sophomore, and Zeb Antonioli, 6-3, 285, senior; Ends — Hunter Hartwick, 5-10, 180, senior, and Matt Simkins, 6-5, 185, sophomore; Linebackers — Ryan Moodry, 5-10, 190, senior; Dylan Shea, 5-10, 170, senior, and Clay Fisher, 5-9, 165, junior; Cornerbacks — Aidan Petritz, 6-0, 170, junior, and Allan Boyle, 5-11, 165, senior; Strong Safety — Thomas McGree, 5-11, 170, sophomore; and Free Safety — Cade Holter, 6-0, 175, junior.