By Bruce Sayler
Butte Central will be looking to bounce back from its only loss this high school football season with a second straight long road trip this week.
The Maroons will be finishing the non-conference part of their schedule whey they go up against Libby Friday night. The kickoff is scheduled for 7 o’clock on the Loggers’ home field. (Radio: KOPR, 94.1 FM, online or on the KOPR app)
The BC team dropped a 28-27 heart-breaker at Whitefish last Friday, and this week’s contest is the third straight against a Northwestern A Conference opponent for Southwestern Conference member Butte Central.
Libby is 1-2 this young season. It began the season with a 35-6 win over Bonners Ferry, Idaho. The Loggers fell 30-19 to Frenchtown last week after a 42-31 defeat at the hands of Corvallis. This week’s game will match two of the state’s longest-serving head football coaches — Don Peoples Jr. of Butte Central and Neil Fuller of Libby.
Peoples stressed that the game looms large in the race for the playoffs as six spots will go to western Class A teams, with the No. 1s in each the Northwestern and Southwestern being the only sure recipients. The other four will be determined by power points awarded in these Northwestern-Southwestern competitions.
A dangerous, big-play passing threat of quarterback Jay Beagle and receiver Jeff Offenbecher can ignite the Loggers if an opposing defense isn’t on watch. J.J. Davis is another weapon in the Libby air arsenal. Ethan Beck leads the running attack and 6-1, 200-pound senior Ethan Borden is valuable to the team as a blocker and defensive end.
“They threw the ball against Corvallis and were more run-oriented against Frenchtown,” Peoples said. “We didn’t see any tape of their game with Bonners Ferry. But, they’ve scored 50 points in their last two games.”
The Maroons’ game against Whitefish saw senior quarterback Cade Holter run for three short-yardage touchdowns and connect with Luke Jensen on a 35-yard scoring pass. Senior running back Clay Fisher ran for 116 yards on 22 carries and caught two passes for 37 yards, including a 31-yarder that set up a TD. Holter completed passes to five different receivers while rolling up 174 yards through the air. Junior Thomas McGree caught three balls for 25 yards.
The Maroons will be without McGree this week as he left the fray with Whitefish with a concussion and is sitting out the Libby game. Holter will move to linebacker from safety to take McGree’s defensive position, Peoples said, with Guido Ossello inserted at safety. On offense, Egan Lester and Braden Harrington will both see duty in McGree’s running back/receiver role.
“It’s hard to replace (McGree),” Peoples said. “He’s one of our best players, but health is most important.”
Peoples said Butte Central put in a good week of football practice.
“We were disappointed with last week’s outcome,” he said. “We didn’t play hard enough to be successful. The kids responded well this week, though, and I think we’ll be a lot better (Friday night).
“I don’t think there were any phases we played well, last week, but defensively, we need to be a lot better.”
The Maroons are expected to line up on offense with Tyler Duhame at center, Seth Gardner and Ian Harrington at the guards, Bryan Holland and Aaron Richards at the tackles, Matt Simkins and Harrington both seeing time at tight end, Luke Jensen, Trevor Neumann and Ossello rotating at wide receiver, Fisher at running back with Harrington and Lester splitting duty at the other RB spot, and Holter at quarterback. David Grannell is the kicker.
On defense, Gardner and Richards are expected to be the tackles with Harrington and Simkins at the ends, Fisher, Holter, Holland and Williams at the linebackers, Aidan Petritz and Neumann at the corners and Ossello at safety. Harrington punts.
“We feel the kids will be all right after the way they practiced this week,” Peoples said. “Hopefully, our response will be to come back with a vengeance.”