Butte High gave up the first 29 points and never really got things going their way in a 35-10 Class AA football loss to Billings West Friday evening at Naranche Stadium.
The Bulldogs fell to 1-5 with the loss, their fifth straight, while the Golden Bears improved to 3-3 after opening with three losses.
West quarterback Bryson Deming threw for 289 yards and a pair of scores, then ran for another, while the Bear defense was responsible for a pick-six and was in when a high long snap resulted in a safety. In all, Butte turned the ball over four times, gave the ball back on downs twice and punted the ball six times.
“We played hard but what hurt us was the little things,” said Butte High head coach Arie Grey. “It seemed like something went wrong in every critical situation for us.”
As has been the case all season, Butte wasn’t able to get things going early. After the Bulldog defense held the Bears to a turnover on downs after 11 plays, the teams traded punts. Starting on the Bear 38 after a 7-yard West punt, the Bulldogs fumbled the ball away.
West got a nice gain on a pass from Deming to Bobby Arnett, who was immediately smacked by Quinn Dennehy, who was charged 15 yards for “targeting.” Deming connected on the next play with Ryan Waples on a 34-yarder over the middle for the Bears’ first points.
West got two more minutes later when a long snap went over punter Nathaniel Ferguson’s head, and he ran it out of the back of the endzone.
Aftter the Butte defense held again, Butte gave the ball back on downs on a fourth-and-2, and West scored on a 29-yard pass from Deming to Chaz Maddock. The Bears scored again five minutes later when Deming sneaked the ball in from 2 yards out, giving West a 22-0 cushion.
Trying to dig out of the hole and score before half, Quincy Bergen stepped in front of a Ty Peterson pass and returned it 45 yards for six points, and with the kick, West led 29-0 at half.
Though Butte turned the ball over on the first play of the second half, the Bulldogs actually played much better in the final 24 minutes than they did in the first 24. Butte’s defense held the Bears to four punts a turnover on downs and a fumble that was recovered by Cian Randall.
Butte’s offense finally produced points late in the third quarter when Ferguson was successful on a 37-yard field goal. The Bulldogs got in range thanks to hard blocking by the line on stout runs by sophomore back Bo Mortensen, who finished the game with 27 carries for 134 yards.
Butte got its only touchdown in the fourth quarter when Peterson sent up a pass to Mason Ruppel. The West defender tipped the ball before it got to the back, but the tip sent it right onto Ruppel’s arms, and he took it 68 yards to the West 4. The next play saw Ruppel finish the job with a veer to the right and paydirt.
West put the final lick on as second-team quarterback Trayson Marker threaded the Butte defense for a 45-yard scoring run.
“Our defense played pretty well,” Grey said. “And we ran the ball well at times. We just really need some things to go our way early.”
Grey also gave a nod to his special teams, which played well all night.
“We played much better in that phase,” he said. “Right now we just need to continue to work and come back with a great attitude.”
Butte receiver Kiley Caprara hauled in nine passes, though he gained only 10 yards, while the Bulldog defense was led by nine tackles by Justin Peterson and seven from Quinn Dennehy. Kaleb Ferriter posted six stops, while five tackles each were recorded by Bruce Gallagher, Jake Moore and Brian LaFond.
In other Class AA action Friday, Helena Capital outlasted Great Falls Russell 23-16, while Helena High blanked Billings Skyview 17-0. Billings Senior remained the only undefeated team with a 40-0 blanking of Great Falls High, as Kalispell Glacier outlasted Missoula Sentinel 42-31. Kalispell Flathead blasted hapless Missoula Hellgate 63-6 and Bozeman thumped Missoula Big Sky 50-12 on Thursday.
Butte High is back in action next Friday when the Bulldogs travel to Kalispell to take on the Flathead Braves. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.