The buzz maybe hasn’t quite reached fever pitch, but it should be.
Pay attention to what Butte Central has been doing on the Class A high school football fields.
Chances are the Maroons won’t get ranked this year, with just two weeks left in the regular season, but they started out in a mightily deep hole, dug partially by themselves. They’ve bravely scaled steep walls to find level ground again, playing some nice football as the process.
The BC squad was known to be young and some struggles were to be expected. However, it was a team that had absorbed some experience in the most difficult way, as largely sophomores and freshmen playing a varsity, upperclassman schedule in 2011. So, benefits from such an experience were also expected.
Consequently, the opening-game loss to Belgrade was somewhat of a disappointment. Please make it clear, too, that the result was the disappointment, not the team itself.
A decisive thrashing of Havre the next weekend, therefore, was probably as surprising, the Blue Ponies being usual contenders on the Central A Conference scene, heir apparent to the favorites’ role with the move of the Maroons out of the league and returned to the Southwestern A last year.
The fears of the faithful were then realized the following two weekends when BC lost to powerhouse Billings Central in the Bishops’ Bowl and then to state contender on back-to-back weekends.
The slate was daunting, for sure, but a 1-3 start is rare for a Butte Central football program. Even rarer is the 1-4 start. Such is what it turned out to be, too, after Anaconda scored four straight fourth quarter touchdown on the Bulldog Memorial Stadium grass for a 28-27 upset of the Maroons.
It was a blow only the pluckiest, most resilient brand of ballplayer and team could from which recover. After all, Anaconda was not a preseason consideration in any polls for contention in the Southwestern A race while defending state champ Dillon still lurked on the Maroon sked. So did Stevensville and Hamilton, both of which were figured to battle with BC for the two spots behind Dillon in the league standings. The top three squads in each Class A conference advance to the state postseason playoffs.
Currently, Anaconda owns a 3-0 Southwestern A mark, sharing the top rung with Dillon. The two play Friday for league leadership.
Some soul -searching had to have been done in the Butte Central camp and some good young men took looks deep within.
They’ve responded to pressure. The Maroons went to Stevensville as the probable underdogs and thrashed the Yellowjackets, executing step one in rejoining the state Class A race. Then Hamilton visited last weekend geared to shut down the conference’s top passing offense, the one belonging to BC.
Butte Central staff figured that might happen and worked a little harder on its running game.
An icy hard- blowing wind actually cemented the switch and the Maroons found a Bronc defense bent on defending against the pass susceptible to rushes up the middle.
BC quarterback Brady Tippett both ran and passed for more than 100 yards, scoring four touchdowns and passing for another in a 52-29 victory, a rather high-scoring affair considering the conditions. The wind not only messed with air attacks but pretty much ruined both teams’ kicking games.
Tippett’s keepers were augmented by the efforts of running backs Wyatt Kingston and Joe Joyce as Butte Central totaled more than 400 yards in offense. Obviously, the line did its part. While Hamilton was pretty good against the Butte Central pass, enough completions were linked to keep the Broncs from overstuffing on the run.
Maroon tight end Connor McGree caught seven passes and was fierce on defense, leading a pass rush that upset another pretty good air game, the one belonging to Hamilton. The Broncs were pushed into trying to muster it, too, having to play from behind on the road. The development fell into the BC defense’s hands, too, and quite literally. Butte Central defenders picked off four Hamilton passes.
Not so suddenly, but determinedly, the Maroons are back at ground level and can clinch a playoff spot on Friday by beating Corvallis. The game will be in Corvallis and the Blue Devils are winless.
The BC boys will do well to remember to pay no attention to Corvallis’ record. Butte Central, too, looked to be struggling only a couple of weeks ago. The Blue Devils will be in spoiler mode and likely especially ready to try to relish that role against the Maroons.