By Bill Foley
You can’t fault the Butte High boys’ soccer team for feeling exhausted Tuesday night.
The Bulldogs closed a brutal stretch with a 9-0 loss to perennial title contender Bozeman Tuesday afternoon at the Jeremy Bullock Complex.
The loss came in the third Eastern AA match for the Bulldogs in a span of five days. All three losses came to contenders.
“If they’re not going to be the state champions, they’re going to be playing for it,” Butte High coach Erik Roth said of the Hawks, who are coached by Butte High graduate Hunter Terry. “They’re good. Kudos to them. They’re well coach, well organized and they play the game right.”
The Bulldogs fought the entire match, but Butte High was outmatched in numbers and experienced by the Hawks.
Senior forward Jack Benston registered a hat trick to lead the Hawks, who improved to 4-1-1. Butte High fell to 0-5.
Nobody epitomized the effort left by the Butte High team that junior goalkeeper Logan Roepe, who was under attack most of the 80 minutes.
Roepe, who at one time took a boot to the face but stayed in the game, made some impressive saves, even though he was clearly hurting from hitting the ground repeatedly.
“He just comes back up,” Roth said. “He comes out of here bloody and battered. We get 100 percent out of him every play. That’s a kid that I’d go to war with.”
The coach also praised his senior captains, Justin McNabb, Russell Park and Trevyn Roth. They helped keep the game scoreless until Benston found the back of the net off a Ben Taylor assist 13 minutes into the match.
“For the first 12 minutes of the game I was pretty proud of them,” coach Roth said. “We were able to connect. We able to keep possession.”
Then Bozeman adjusted to the Bulldog plan and went on the attack.
“That’s the tale of great coaches,” Roth said. “They’re able to adjust. Hunter figured out really fast what we wanted to do and who are horses were. Then every time one of them touched the ball, they had two or three guys on them immediately.”
Benston scored on a penalty kick five minutes later. Goals by Aspen Klein and Bergen Hill made it a 4-0 game at halftime.
One minute into the second half, Ted Scott scored off a Zach Springer assist to make it 5-0. Taylor, Scott, Benston and Sam Byerly also scored goals in the second half.
Terry appeared to call off the dogs, so to speak, and Bozeman’s attack let up over the final 16 minutes of the game.
“They came in with a plan, and their plan was better than our plan,” coach Roth said.
The Bulldogs lost at Billings Skyview on Friday and at Billings West on Saturday. Butte High only had one practice to prepare for the Hawks.
“We tried to make adjustments and it just bit us in the butt because we didn’t have enough practice time,” Roth said.
The road doesn’t get a whole lot easier for the Bulldogs, who travel to Billings Senior on Saturday. They will, however, at least get three practices to prepare.
“We just have to fight,” Roth said. “We have to continue to move forward.”
Bozeman 4 5 — 9
Butte High 0 0 — 0
BOZ — Jack Benston (Ben Taylor), 13th minute
BOZ — Benston (PK), 18th minute
BOZ — Aspen Klein, 32nd minute
BOZ — Bergen Hill, 37th minute
BOZ — Ted Scott (Zach Springer), 41st minute
BOZ — Taylor, 50th minute
BOZ — Scott, 53rd minute
BOZ — Bentson (Klein), 5th minute
BOZ — Sam Byerly (Benston), 64th minute