Talk about a punch in the gut.
Dallas Cook and Tyler Earls hooked up for a 95-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 13. The Bulldogs rushed from the shadow of their own west end zone to the far east of Naranche Stadium to celebrate the big score, and the team was a Jake Dennehy extra point from taking the lead on Great Falls Russell.
The Bulldog players, coaches and most of their fans, though, didn’t see the flag for illegal motion. The play, as great as it was, didn’t count.
“It was kind of downer,” Cook, a 6-foot-4, 210-ound junior quarterback, said. “The wind just got knocked out of us.”
It wasn’t a downer for long. Eight players later, the Bulldogs were back in the end zone.
A 6-yard touchdown run and a Dennehy kick put the Bulldogs up 14-13. It was all Butte High the rest of the way as Butte High rolled to a 41-20 win over the Rustlers in front of a crowd of about 2,500 Friday night.
“That’s huge. We’ve come so far to be able to handle that adversity,” Butte High coach Arie Grey said of scoring on the drive that saw a 95-yard play wiped out. “That’s a big blow. I mean 95 yards. We all ran down there and celebrated. We came back and were able to go down and drive again. The guys are stepping up and making plays and doing things that are really good.”
The play after the big penalty, Cook made a nice scramble to avoid a safety on second down. On third-and-nine from the four, Dalton Daum made an acrobatic catch — despite drawing a flag for pass interference against CMR — for a 26-yard gain to the 30.
“I don’t know. I just went up to catch it and I felt it hit my hands,” the sophomore Daum said. “I fell to the ground. I looked down and the ball was in my lap.”
Jake Eisenbarth busted a couple of tackles for a 39 yard run before Cook scored on a draw on third-and-goal.
“We handled adversity really good,” Daum said. “We had our backs against the end zone and we put a drive together — a big drive.”
The touchdown was the first of four Cook had a hand in. He ran for two touchdowns and passed for two more. In all, he completed 9 of 18 passes for 260 yards. He also ran the ball eight times for 104 yards.
The Bulldog defense, which was beat up early bruising running back Hunter Thomsen forced a 3-and-out after the go-ahead score, and the Bulldogs were in the end zone again four plays later.
One play after Cook hit Earles with a dart over the middle, Bo Taylor scored on a 1-yard plunge to make it 21-13, sending Butte High into halftime on a high.
Cook scored on Butte High’s first play of the second-half — after a nice defensive stand — to make it 27-13. The quarterback went 61 yards on a draw play after the Bulldog offense spread out the CMR defense with its receivers.
Butte extended the lead to 35-13 when speedy senior Kaedon Caprara turned a short pass into a 40 yard touchdown.
The Rustlers cut the lead to 34-20 with a 49-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jayse McLean, who ran for 117 yards and passed for 85, with 2:35 left in the third quarter.
Caprara, though, put the game away with 8:50 left in the fourth, turning on the burners for a 71-yard touchdown reception.
“We’ve got a really explosive offense,” Daum said. “I feel like we’ve got one of the best in the state. Our quarterback is a playmaker. All of our receivers are playmakers. We’ve got a big returning line and two solid running backs. Our defense really stepped up tonight, too.”
The 41 points were the most ever scored by the Bulldogs in 42 games against CMR, according to sports historian and buttesports.com contributor Pat Kearney.
The previous high point total came in a 40-36 win in 1968, a year Butte High went on to win the state title.
“Offensively, we knew we had some guys who were good with the ball in space,” Grey said. “You look at Dalton, you look at Kaedon, you look at Earles. We got some guys who can do things.”
Behind an offensive line made up of Zach Erickson, Drew Schlleman, Dustin LaMiaux, Anthony Moritz and Nick Butorovich, Eisenbarth ran for 89 yards on 13 carries.
Caprara caught three passes for 143 yards, while Daum hauled in three passes for 73 yards.
Thomsen, a 5-11, 180-pound senior, ran for 204 yards on 29 carries. He did a lot of that damage early.
“They are one of the most physical teams you’re going to see,” Grey said of the Rustlers. “They kind of ran up on is, were hitting it hard. We were able kind of with stain and handle it. I’m really proud of the way the defense settled in.”
Senior defensive back Jarret Rowling led the Bulldogs with 11 tackles, while senior linebacker Jake Dennehy recorded 10.
Dennehy left the game with an injury late. He said he dislocated his shoulder twice in the game, but won’t miss any time.
Blake Kraus added nine tackles for Butte High. He was followed by Taylor with eight, Daniel Klopefel with seven and Zach Bunney and Tanner Tregidga with six.
Taylor and Nick Williams both tallied a sack, while Rowling, Dennehy and Andre Vialpondo were each credited with a pass break up.
Still, the night looked like it belonged to the Rustlers early.
CMR took a 7-0 lead when Josh Horner caught a 40-yard TD strike from McLean to cap the Rustlers’ first possession.
The lead didn’t last long, though, as Daum returned the kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 7.
A 4-yard run by Eric Dawson put the Ruslters on top again with 4:26 left in the first quarter. The extra-point run failed, but the Rustlers led for more than a quarter.
Then the Bulldogs overcame their own penalties to take back the night.
“It’s big,” said Cook, who was sporting the “Honey Badger” hairdo. “It gives us confidence to do anything. Our confidence is sky-high right now. It can’t be much better.”
The Bulldogs play at Billings Skyview next Friday. They’ll be back in Naranche Sept. 7 when they take on Missoula Hellgate on Silver B’s Night.
“We’ve got to get back to work,” Grey said. “We can enjoy this until midnight, then it’s time to start focusing on Skyview.”
CMR 13 0 7 0 — 20
Butte 7 14 13 7 — 41
CMR — Josh Horner 40 pass from Jayse McLean (Tanner Olson kick), 8:14
Butte — Dalton Daum 99 kickoff return (Jake Dennehy kick), 7:57
CMR — Eric Dawson 4 run (run failed), 4:26
Butte — Dallas Cook 6 run (Dennehy kick), 3:07
Butte — Bo Taylor 1 run (Dennehy kick), :45
Butte — Cook 61 run (kick failed), 8:14
Butte — Kaedon Caprara 40 pass from Cook (Dennehy kick), 4:54
CMR — McLean 49 run (Olsen kick), 2:35
Butte — Caprara 71 pass from Cook (Dennehy kick), 8:50
First downs 20 15
Rushes-yards 51-353 32-202
Pass yards 92 260
Comp-att-int 10-14-0 9-18-0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-0
Penalties-yards 11-90 2-7
RUSHING — CMR: Hunter Thomsen 29-204, Jayse McLean 17-117, Eric Dawson 3-29, Josh Horner 2-3. Butte: Dallas Cook 8-104, Jake Eisenbarth 13-89, Zach Bunney 5-9, Bo Taylor 4-4, team 2-(-4).
PASSING — CMR: Jayse McLean 1-12-0-85, Eric Dawson 1-2-0-7. Butte: Dallas Cook 9-18-0-260.
RECEIVING — CMR: Josh Horner 2-43, Eric Dawson 2-23, Dawkwon Carter 2-13, Alex Ingram 1-7, Erik Willis 1-4, San McDonough 1-2. Butte: Kaeden Caprara 3-143, Dalton Daum 3-73, Zach Bunney 1-18, Tyler Earles 1-16, Bryce Armstrong 1-10.