Big-play Panthers deny Maroons in opener

By Bruce Sayler

BELGRADE — Zack Spady might be a first-year starter at quarterback but he looked like a seasoned veteran on Friday night — when he wasn’t a blur.

The senior run-first, throw-later triggerman for the Belgrade Panthers ran for one touchdown and threw for three others in a big-play attack that beat Butte Central 35-18 in the non-conference Class A high school football game that began the season for both schools.

Spady completed only five passes, but three of them were game-breaker TD plays measuring 78 yards to Hayden Van Winkle, 59 yards to Trey Mounts and 63 yards to Easton Page. Spady’s running TD was a 1-yard keeper that put Belgrade ahead 14-12 at halftime.

The victory came with Belgrade having to negate a 10-catch performance by BC receiver Sam Johnston.

A lot of it had to do with Spady, who led all rushers by racking up 96 yards on the ground and passing for 218 on the five links.

After Van Winkle’s scoring reception, Butte Central struck for two quick second-period touchdowns. Ryan Moodry tunneled into the end zone from a yard out to cap a short drive for which he was mostly responsible. Moodry grabbed a throw from quarterback Tanner Kump over the middle then dragged at least seven Panther players, and maybe a couple of concessionaires, a vice principal and a bus driver for 25 yards before going down. The hard-nosed play set up the TD blast.

The ensuing kickoff squibbed away from the Belgrade return team and the Maroons’ Ryan Ashby covered the free ball at the Panther 47-yard line. Kump found Nate McGree for a 36-yard pickup moments later to the Belgrade 1. Kump broke around right end on the next play and crossed the goal line. Butte Central had a 12-7 edge.

It was short-lived. A 27-yard run by Jemal Williams and a 31-yard get away by Spady carried the Panthers downfield and Spady tallied on the short keeper with just inside two minutes left in the half.

“Defensively, we gave up some long balls and we didn’t tackle very well,” BC head coach Don Peoples Jr. assessed after the game. “We played hard and that was a good thing. But, we were completely out of gas in the second quarter. I don’t know what happened.”

Butte Central had first possession in the second half and used it to score, mounting a 64-yard drive that ended with Moodry and Kump crowding the ball into the end zone, Moodry getting credit for the carry. Blake Burton, playing despite a bout with sickness, Peoples said, set up the TD with a speed burst of 17 yards to the Panther 5.

Spady then tossed the back-to-back touchdown strikes to Mounts and Page on similar plays.

“They threw that bubble screen to the outside and our guy got sucked in twice,” Peoples said.

Williams’ 20-yard scoring dash in the last quarter ended the scoring.

The Maroons failed to capitalize on chances to take control early. They turned the ball over on downs inside the Belgrade 5-yard line at the end of the first quarter and were unable to keep Belgrade hemmed in to its end of the field. A well-defended first-down pass fell incomplete as the half came to a close with BC on the Belgrade 16.

Butte Central marched to the Belgrade 3-yard line about a third of the way through the fourth quarter only to have Mounts make a great play for the Panthers as he intercepted a pass in the end zone. It snuffed the Maroons’ last chance to climb back into contention. Another BC touchdown, a dash to the end zone by Burton was called back on a penalty.

“We had opportunities,” Peoples said. “We’ll be all right. First, there are some things to work on. We have to clean up our mistakes and get in better shape,”

BC generated 352 yards of offense in the game, led by the passing game’s 282. Kump threw 47 times, completing 23 with Johnston’s 10 receptions for 113 yards leading the way. McGree hauled in five aerials while gaining 87 yards.

“I thought, on offense, we moved the ball very well,” Peoples said.

The natural field grass was long and thick and Peoples said he thought it was dangerous and hard to play on, but quickly added he didn’t want to sound like he was making excuses. No known serious injuries occurred.

“It was about 15 inches,” Peoples said of the lawn. “I’ve never played on a higher surface.”

Kump and Belgrade lineman Kyler Rogers were named the Sportsmanship Award winners of the game.

Defensively, Noah McGee, Hunter Hartwick and Dylan Shea registered sacks for Butte Central while Johnston made two tackles for loss of yardage. Zeb Antionoli also had a tackle for loss, and Moodry, Burton and McGree turned in food defensive performances, too.

The Maroons will open the home portion of their schedule next Friday with a non-conference contest against Browning at Bob Green Field on the Montana Tech campus.

“We’ll be ready next week,” Peoples said.

Butte Central            0          12        6         0 — 18
Belgrade                     7          7          14        7 — 35
First Quarter
BEL — Hayden Van Winkle 78 pass from Zack Spady (Spencer Gordon kick), 7:12. Drive — 80 yards in 2 plays. Key play — Scoring play.
Second Quarter
BC — Ryan Moodry 1 run (kick failed), 6:30. Drive — 35 yards in 4 plays. Key play — Moodry 25 pass from Tanner Kump to Belgrade 15-yard line.
BC — Tanner Kump 1 run (kick failed), 5:51. Drive — 37 yards in 2 plays. Key play — Ryan Ashby recovered kickoff on Belgrade 37-yard line.
BEL — Spady 1 run (Gordon kick), 1:52. Drive — 79 yards in 7 plays. Key play — Spady 31-yard run to Butte Central 25-yard line.
Third Quarter
BC — Moodry 2 run (kick failed), 6:42. Drive — 64 yards in 13 plays. Key play — Blake Burton 17-yard run to Belgrade 5-yard line.
BEL — Trey Mounts 59 pass from Spady (Gordon kick), 5:49. Drive — 58 yards in 2 plays. Key play — Scoring play.
BEL — Easton Page 63 pass from Spady (Gordon kick), 1:53. Drive — 77 yards in 4 plays. Key play — Scoring play.
Fourth Quarter
BEL — Jemal Williams 20 run (Gordon kick), 11:53. Drive — 35 yards in 3 plays. Key play — Scoring play.
BC                   Bel

First downs                             25                    16
Rushes-yards                          29-70               34-242
Passes                                     23-48-1           7-11-0
Passing yards                          282                  218
Return yards                           0                      14
Punts-avg.                               3-28.3              3-14.3
Fumbles-lost                           2-0                   2-1
Penalties-yards                       7-33                 5-43
Individual Statistics
— Butte Central, Blake Burton 11-49, Tanner Kump 4-18, Ryan Moodry 9-14, Nate McGree 2-7, Clay Fisher 1-(-7), Team 2-(-11). Belgrade, Zack Spady 14-96, Jemal Williams 6-58, Ethan Major 4-52, Hayden Van Winkle 8-50, Team 2-(-14).
PASSING — Butte Central, Kump 23-47-1-282, Team 0-1-0-0. Belgrade, Spady 7-11-0-218.
RECEIVING — Butte Central, Sam Johnston 10-113, Moodry 4-62, Burton 4-40, McGree 5-37. Belgrade, Van Winkle 1-78, Easton Page 1-63, Trey Mounts 2-58, Williams 3-19.
Turnovers — Butte Central: Fumble recovery — Ryan Ashby. Belgrade: Interception — Mounts.