By Derek Hendrickson
DILLON — The Dillon Beavers used several explosive plays for long touchdowns to defeat the Butte Central Maroons in the first round of the Class A Playoffs Saturday afternoon, 53-13.
In a game that was a stark contrast to the grinder played on the same field last month, won by Dillon 13-6, this one saw the Beavers get a handful of big plays that were aided by some poor tackling by the Maroons.
“We know they’re very good,” longtime Maroon head coach Don Peoples Jr. said after the game. “They came out and made big plays. We came out and took the lead early and then they hit three huge plays in a row and we found ourselves down very quickly. We had multiple missed tackles today, so that hurt us, we didn’t tackle very well.”
Central jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first when Clay Fisher got behind the Beaver secondary for a 36-yard touchdown catch from Thomas McGree. The play came on third and 7 was the first lead the Maroons had against Dillon on the season.
“We saw that Dillon was aggressive all year with their safeties and their linebackers, Peoples answered when asked about the first score. “We felt like we could play action and get over the top and we did. We had a couple times later in the first half where we had receivers wide open.”
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It would only last two plays as Dillon would return the kick off to its 47 before senior quarterback Coby King found Gabe Kirkley for a wide open 53 yard pitch and catch to tie the score.
The game headed to the second quarter tied at 7, and it was all Dillon from there.
The Beavers forced a punt on Central’s next series and then King kept it for a 60-yard romp after he converted a third down two plays prior. The score occurred on the first play of the second quarter and set the tone for the middle two frames that were dominated by Dillon.
Central got behind the sticks on their next drive due to a holding call and the ensuing punt was returned 65 yards for a touchdown by Brent Tezak, who was injured during the first battle between the two teams.
Central again had to punt after three plays but looked to have Dillon pinned at their own nine after an excellent boot by Ryan Moodry.
Kirkley struck again on the next play when he took a bubble screen and broke out of a couple tackles and sprinted 91 yards to make it 25-7.
“We had people in position to make plays, we just didn’t tackle well,” Peoples lamented. “All day long, all those long plays we had people there at the line of scrimmage and sometimes in the backfield. Give Dillon credit.”
The Maroons lone bright spot in the quarter was Aidan Petritz getting his seventh interception of the season, and ninth total turnover in what will almost be an all-state season for the junior who elected not to play last year.
“Aiden had a great year for us, I think it’s got to be up there for tops in school history, so just exciting to have him back,” Peoples said of his junior cornerback.
The second half started no better as senior bulldozing running back Graden Gleenslade busted through several would be tackles in route to a 68-yard touchdown on the first play of the third quarter.
Dillon then got the ball back at the BC 25 after a side of the foot punt and scored on a 22 yard run from Anders Westman.
Greenslade would again rip off a big gain when Dillon got the ball back late in the third, shedding tacklers on a 50 yard screen pass that set up a Kirkley 22 yard touchdown catch. The score made it 46-7 Dillon late in the third and set the running clock in motion.
Kirkley ended the game with four catches for an eye popping 179 yards, almost 45 yards per grab, and three going for touchdowns.
The Maroons would briefly get the clock stopping again when Cade Holter found Matt Simkins for a short touchdown toss in the fourth. Holter returned to his quarterback position late in the second quarter when McGree hurt his elbow and struggled to get much on his throws.
Central also saw Jared Simkins leave the game with a potential broken wrist that will likely keep him out of early basketball action.
“We had some injury things happen to use that created a little bit of confusion for us,” Peoples said. “Thomas hurt his elbow and we switched Cade back, I think Jared broke his wrist, so we had some difficult things happen, but I’m proud of the kids. They fought hard, I just think today we had to play much better than we did against a great team and we didn’t get it done.”
Dillon got a late interception that set up a 1-yard score by Zane Johnson to close out the game.
Central ends the season 5-4 with yet another playoff run. They’ve made the playoffs now in 16 of 18 seasons since the turn of the century.
Moodry led the Maroons with 79 yards on 23 carries as Dillon packed the box to limit him. Fisher saw several snaps from the wildcat formation and ran for 52 yards on 11 totes as well as leading the team with 51 yards receiving on four catches.
“We really wanted to get the ball to Fish and he had a great day I thought,” Peoples responded when asked about the wildcat. “He ran the ball hard, I thought Ryan Moodry did too, we just wanted to get Fisher on the edge. I thought he had his best game, Fisher did.”
The Beavers will continue their 8-1 season with an 8-hour trek to Sidney, which won the Eastern Conference and had a bye this weekend.
Sidney’s lone loss came a couple weeks ago at Miles City, a 34-0 defeat. The Beavers were the last undefeated team in Class A until losing a nail-biter last weekend against Hamilton 32-28 that went back and forth but ultimately gave the Broncs the top seed in the Southwestern A and a bye of their own.
None of the Eastern teams have played against a Western team yet this season, which will finally happen with all of the matchups being between the two sides of the state.
The game was the last in Maroon for 10 seniors. Allen Boyle, Patrick Harrington, Dylan Shea, Ryan Moodry, Hunter Hartwick, Seamus Anderson, Zeb Antonioli, Saxon Walton, Johnny Williams and Gage Young all had an emotional farewell after the game.
“I’m proud of our seniors for our efforts,” Peoples said about his outgoing class before talking about the future of Maroon football. “When you have all those sophomores out there it’s exciting for the future. Our youth hurt us today, I think in the playoff arena it was tough, but those kids will learn from that and the beauty of it is they will grow and be better for that.”
Butte Central 7 0 0 6 — 13
Dillon 7 18 21 7 — 53
BC — Fisher 36 yard reception from McGree (Moodry kick) 5:02 7-0 Drive 8 plays 63 yards 4:04
DIL — Kirkley 53 yard reception from King (Kirkley kick) 4:40, 7-7. Drive-1 play 53 yards, :11.
DIL — King 60 yard run, (kick failed) 11:46, 13-7. Drive-5 plays 81 yards, 1:46
DIL — Tezak 65 yard punt return (pass failed) 19-7
DIL — Kirkley 91 yard reception from King (kick failed) 8:35, 25-7. Drive-1 play 91 yards, :18.
DIL — Greenslade 68 yard run, (Kirkley kick) 11:33, 32-7. Drive-1 plays 68 yards, :19.
DIL — Westman 22 yard run, (Kirkley kick) 9:08, 39-7. Drive-3 plays 25 yards, :42.
DIL — Kirkley 26 yard reception from King, (Kirkley kick) 4:21, 46-7. Drive-7 plays 80 yards, 3:06.
BC — M Simkins 3 yard reception from Holter (pass failed) 8:57 46-13 Drive 11 plays 61 yards 6:40
DIL — Johnson 1 yard run, (Kirkley kick) 5:03, 53-13. Drive-3 plays 15 yards, 1:10.
RUSHING — BC (46-183), Moodry 23-79, Fisher 11-52, Holter 7-52, McGree 5-0. Dillon (18-194), Greenslade 5-78, King 4-73, Johnson 3-26, Westman 5-15, Fitzgerald 1-2.
PASSING — BC, McGree 7-14-84 yards, Holter 1-7-3 yards. Dillon, King 6-9-235 yards, Cross 1-1-9 yards.
RECEIVING — BC, Fisher 4-51, Holter 2-28, M Simkins 2-8. Dillon, Kirkley 4-179, Greenslade 1-50, Ferris 1-11, Westman 1-4.