By Bruce Sayler
Butte, MT, A blend of proven performers, former backups ready to step up and fresh faces as brand-new candidates will take the field for Butte Central to open its high school football season Friday night.
Head coach Don Peoples Jr. said Thursday his roster has now grown to 38 players with some recent additions, making this year’s list of team members the longest in likely a decade or so for BC. It will see its first test on Friday with a 7 p.m. kickoff against Ronan on Montana Tech’s Bob Green Field.
“It’s been going pretty well,” Peoples, in his 35th year at the helm, said. “I think we will be competitive and the kids are working hard. It is hard to get ready to play a football game in two weeks, but the other part of it is everybody is in the same boat.”
The Class A game will be against an opponent the Maroons haven’t seen since 2018. Both teams struggled through 1-7 campaigns last year under similar luckless circumstances.
Injuries hampered Butte Central all through the schedule and Ronan came up on the short end of close scores during its season.
“They’re well-coached and their kids play hard,” Peoples said. “They lost some kids from last year, like we did. I’m expecting the game to be really standing.”
The Chiefs return Matt Detwiler as head coach for the eighth year.
Senior quarterback Jack Keeley is back in control of the BC offense where he showed weekly improvement last year until a shoulder injury sidelined him midway through the slate. The other returning starters on offense are 285-pound junior guard Michael Peck, 215-pound senior tackle Tanner Keith and 6-foot-4 senior receiver Zane Moodry. Senior receiver Jake Tauscher saw extensive action last year. Senior lineman Canyon Kibler is still at least a week away from being able to play. He is recovering from an ACL injury, also incurred the middle of last season.
Michael Hand, a 245-pound junior, will start at center with 285-pound Butte High junior transfer Jon Cox manning a guard spot and 195-pound sophomore Colt Hassler on the line at tackle. Sophomore Jack Nagle will be at receiver, and the running backs will be juniors Aiden Ossello and Justus McGee. McGee also saw much time on the field as a sophomore.
Moodry, McGee, Tauscher and Keeley return as starters on defense, too. Moodry and McGee both moved to end spots after playing at linebacker last year. Keeley is back at cornerback and Tauscher at strong safety.
They’re joined on defense by Peck and Keith at the tackles, Hassler, Ossello and sophomore Kourt Donaldson or Nagle at linebacker spots, junior Kiefer McGree at free safety and junior Coy Campbell at cornerback.
Moodry is back as an outstanding punter. Hassler and Nagle are handling the kicking chores.
Keith played football for the first time last year after transferring from Corvallis, and grabbed a starting spot at offensive tackle. Peoples said Keith will be starting both ways this year and came in this year “stronger and more athletic.”
“We have some nice size, but the offensive line is inexperienced,” Peoples said. “But, as the kids get more experience and some games under their belts, they have a chance to be a real solid offensive line.”
Atoning for last year’s tough go on the field has seemed to be a theme to preseason camp this year. Peoples said the Maroons are ready to maybe make and probably leave some marks.
“We’re excited,” he said. “Last year was a bit of a disappointment and some tough breaks. We’re excited to get back on the field.
“We’re taking it one game at a time and we’re going to compete hard.”
Waiting in the wings is a larger group of sophomores and freshmen showing eagerness to get on the field right away while flashing promise for the near future.
“We have to stay healthy, just like everybody does,” Peoples said. “We have a nice group of freshmen and sophomores with some really good athletes among them, too. Our school is really growing and I think there are a lot of new kids in the community, too.”
The immediate results are of keen interest at the moment, however.
“We’re anxious to play and see how we do,” Peoples said. “Everybody looks good playing against their sophomores.”
Probable starters follow:
Center – Michael Hand, junior. Guards – Jon Cox, junior, and Michael Peck, junior. Tackles – Colt Hassler, sophomore, and Tanner Keith, senior. Receivers – Jake Tauscher, senior; Zane Moodry, senior; and Jack Nagle, sophomore. Running backs – Aiden Ossello, junior, and Justus McGee, junior. Quarterback – Jack Keeley, senior. Kicker – Hassler or Nagle.
Tackles – Michael Peck, junior, and Tanner Keith, senior. Ends – Zane Moodry, senior, and Justus McGee, junior. Linebackers – Colt Hassler, sophomore; Aiden Ossello, junior; and Kourt Donaldson, sophomore, or Jack Nagle, sophomore. Cornerbacks – Jack Keeley, senior, and Coy Campbell, junior. Safety – Kiefer McGree, junior, and Jake Tauscher, senior. Punter – Moodry.