By Derek Hendrickson
HAMILTON — The Hamilton Broncs used a 33-point scoring run that spanned over two quarters to overtake the Butte Central Maroons 39-22 in Class A playoff football game Saturday afternoon.
The Broncs will travel to Belgrade for the quarterfinals next week.
The key sequence of the game came with the Maroons leading 14-6 and pounding on the door to go up more. Ryan Moodry had just taken a well disguised screen pass from Tanner Kump for 42 yards to set up a goal-to-go situation.
On second and 8, Central mishandled a pitch on an option run and senior defensive lineman Riley Presswood emerged from the scrum with the ball to end the drive.
The Maroons struggled all season with letting one miscue or bad bounce lead to several more. In this situation Central wasn’t able to recover the fumble and never were able to recapture the momentum they started the game with.
Central fought on the ensuing drive, forcing the Broncs to earn every yard. Hamilton was aided by two pass interference calls that got them almost half the 71 yards they would drive.
Finally on fourth and 2 from the 7, freshman quarterback Caron Rostad hit the conference’s leading rusher, Manny Rivera, with a pass at the goal line for the touchdown and Cameron Rothie caught the ensuing 2-point conversion to tie the game at 14.
The Maroons hung tough for the rest of the first half, as the Bronc touchdown came with almost 8 minutes remaining the second quarter. They traded punts before getting into the locker room tied at 14.
The second half started much like the did fourth quarter did two weeks ago and a close game that was up for grabs quickly turned into a feeling of what might have been for the Maroons.
Junior Bridger Bauder was a thorn in the side of the Maroons all game long. In the first half he ran six times for 103 yards after not getting a single carry two weeks ago in the Broncs 48-29 win that gave them home field in this contest.
On the first drive of the third Bauder made a catch in traffic and ran away from the Maroon secondary to give Hamilton a lead they would never relinquish at 20-14. The Maroons were able to block the point after kick as Cade Holter darted through the line to energize the large Central crowd that made the trip to the Bitterroot.
Central had a little something going on its next possession but after gaining two first downs Hamilton’s defense forced a punt.
Moodry got off a great kick that was caught inside the twenty and appeared to have great coverage but Ty Chouinard got loose for a big return. Many of the Maroons felt like a block in the back was missed on the play which would’ve pinned Hamilton inside its own ten but the play stood.
“We didn’t get any breaks today, a couple calls didn’t go our way, but I guess that’s part of football. But it seemed like that made life difficult today,” BC coach Don Peoples Jr. said, not specifically about the play in question but the Maroons were flagged for 80 yards in penalties, several seeming to come on crucial plays or, as in this case, not come.
The Broncs only needed two plays to take advantage of their good fortune as Rivera finally busted a long run against the Central defense that held him in check for 6 quarters. His 28-yard ramble set up Rothie’s 19-yard catch on the next play and just like that it was a 2 score game at 26-14.
Two straight penalties on the 2-point try helped Central again avoid any more points being put on the board but the wind had clearly gone out of the Maroon sails at that point.
The teams traded punts again and the Maroons again appeared to be driving when Rivera made a diving interception to thwart another Central rally attempt.
On the next play Kump took one of the numerous vicious hits he would endure on the day as he never stopped standing in and trying to deliver the ball to his receivers.
Two plays later the Broncs again hit the home run, this time a 47 yard pitch and catch between Rostad and Rothie to cap an 18 point quarter from the Maroons would not recover.
The Maroons were unable to get anything going on two early drives, both times going three and out before punting from deep in their own territory.
Hamilton finally put the game out of reach as Rivera again got loose, accounting for 29 yards and the touchdown sandwiched around a Bauder 20 yard reception to make it 39-14 midway through the fourth.
Central’s effort and heart was never in question, and in a fitting end to the careers of several of the seniors their final drive ended as many others had over the past couple years — with a touchdown.
Senior fingerprints were all over the final drive as Blake Burton caught two passes for 33 yards and ran for four more, Nate McGree brought in two catches for 10, Ryan Ashby hauled in a couple more for 26 and Sam Johnston ended the drive with a fade route for 13 yards and the score. Kump went 7 for 10 on the drive and threw for 86 of the 90 yards.
The 2-point conversation was a reverse that was flipped back to Holter, who found Kump all alone in the end zone, and the quarterback who threw for so many points caught the final 2 of the Central season.
“I’m proud of our seniors for all of their great contributions, they’re great kids,” Peoples said when asked to talk about his senior players. “They played as hard as they could. Guys like Paul Thomas LaFleur, Blake, Nate and Tanner had to overcome injuries. Ryan Richards had pneumonia all week and was told Thursday that he couldn’t play but he wasn’t going to be denied. That’s just a testament to how those guys have been and how much they’ve given to our program.
Central overcame a shaky start with what was probably their best 6 minute stretch of the season against playoff competition.
Hamilton’s second possession started at their own 29 but only three plays were needed to travel 71 yards. Bauder took the first two runs for a total of 45 yards in a wrinkle that caught the Maroons off guard in the first half.
Central was loading up the box to contain the inside run game that Hamilton has deployed most of the season with Rivera but six times in the first half Bauder got the edge and gouged the Maroons.
The set up the first touchdown pass to Rothie, this one from 26 yards out. The point after attempt clanged off the left upright and it was 6-0 Broncs with 4:56 left in the first quarter.
That was when the Maroons went to work. Their first scoring drive was lighting fast, only taking two plays as McGree hauled in a 19 yard pass and then a pitch to Burton was good for 47 yards and the score. Moodry’s kick made it 7-6.
The teams exchanged punts as both quickly went three and out. Hamilton’s next possession didn’t even last that long as on the first play Clay Fisher, as he did in both games at Hamilton, darted into the backfield and forced a fumble that Holter dove on setting up the Maroons with a short field at the Bronc 25.
Peoples was asked about Fisher, who has a burst similar to Kyle Harrington showed off as a sophomore, and the rest of the Maroons who will be back next year.
“We have a chance to keep this program rolling,” he said, referring towards the returning team as a whole. “We just have to have a really committed offseason program where we don’t take time off, they’ve got to get in the weight room and go hard until next season. I know a lot of them are multisport kids but it’s going to help them if they go a hundred miles an hour towards that and I think they will.”
The next play might have been one of Kump’s best as a Maroon. He dropped back to pass and was instantly pressured. As he eluded a Hamilton defender his facemask was grabbed and twisted to the side. He somehow slipped out of it and found Moodry open in the flat. Moodry’s hard running ended in the end zone and Central was rolling up 14-6 with just 54 seconds left in the first quarter.
Hamilton was clearly shaken by the turn of events. They again were facing a fired up Maroons defense that forced a quick third and twelve. Rostad was pressured and threw the ball into traffic. Ashby outfought Bauder for the interception and giving Central the ball at their own 40.
The second play of the quarter was another near miss for the Maroons. Burton would’ve had his second 47 yard touchdown but a holding call wiped it out. Central almost was able to make up for it when Kump found Moodry on the 42-yard screen that was brilliantly executed but the fateful fumble occurred two plays later.
Hamilton will advance to the quarterfinals with what should be a close and winnable game at Belgrade. Central was beating the Panthers 18-14 in the third quarter before the type of wheels falling off run led to a 35-18 loss.
Rostad threw for five touchdowns in the game. Rothie caught five passes for 113 yards, three going for scores and he is just a sophomore.
A major difference in the game was the Broncs defense holding the Maroons under 100 yards rushing after Central rolled for over 250 in the game two weeks ago. Hamilton’s run game was much more effective as they piled up 252 yards on the ground to go with another 212 in the air as the Maroons clearly missed the impact of Richards on the defensive interior as he struggled with his breathing Saturday afternoon.
Central will begin the prep for next season with their off season weight programs and many of the athletes will switch to basketball under the tutelage of Brodie Kelly. The Maroons finish the season 4-6 and fell in their final four games. Their playoff appearance marks the fifth consecutive year they have qualified for the postseason and 15th time in the past 16 years.
“I think we came out and played hard the entire game but their size wore us down physically a little bit,” Peoples said about the imposing Broncs. “I hope that will be a motivation for our younger kids to get out there and work on our culture of working hard in the off season.”
Butte Central 14 0 0 8 — 22
Hamilton 6 8 18 7 — 39
HAM — Rothie 26 pass from Rostad (kick failed)
BC — Burton 47 run (Moodry kick)
BC — Moodry 25 pass from Kump (Moodry kick) 14-6
HAM — Rivera 7 pass from Rostad (Rothie pass from Rostad )
HAM — Bauder 43 pass from Rostad (kick blocked by Holter)
HAM —Rothie 19 pass from Rostad (two point failed)
HAM — Rothie 19 pass from Rostad (kick failed)
HAM —Rivera 1 run (Bauder kick)
BC — Johnston 13 pass from Kump (Kump pass from Holter)
RUSHING — Butte Central (27-90), Burton 14-92, McGree 3-5, Moodry 1-1, Kump 9-(-8). Hamilton (42-265), Rivera 24-123, Bauder 8-119, Rostad 6-12, Behner 4-11.
PASSING — Butte Central, Kump 17-34-1-220, Holter 1-1-0-18. Hamilton, Rostad 13-27-1-212.
RECEIVING —Butte Central, Moodry 3-70, Johnston 4-45, Burton 4-43, McGree 4-36, Ashby 2-26. Hamilton, Rothie 5-113, Bauder 2-63, Chouinard 3-30, Rivera 2-3, Barnes 1-3.