By Bruce Sayler
Bozeman High played the matchup game, and height and speed won.
So, did the Hawks. They got away from Butte High 39-15 Friday night in a Class AA nonconference high school football game at historical Naranche Stadium in Uptown Butte.
Quarterback Kellen Harrison tossed three touchdown passes while throwing for 369 yards, completing 23 of 37 passing attempts. Torre Tempel’s interception of a Harrison pass was Bozeman’s only turnover.
The 6-foot, 160-pound Harrison, a senior, plays in the Bozeman secondary on defense and picked off a Butte High pass. His QB touchdown throws of 21 yards to Cordell Holzer, 34 yards to Rocco Lencioni and 44 yards, also to Holzer, did the bulk of the Hawks’ damage. Bozeman rolled up 514 yards in total offense under Harrison’s direction.
Butte High enjoyed a 15-8 lead late in the first half after senior quarterback Bo Demarais completed TD throws of 78 yards to Karson Pumnea and 6 yards to Hudson Luedtke. The Hawks launched a 67-yard drive just before halftime that included 25 yards worth of penalties against Butte High on one play. The infractions moved the ball to the Butte High 27-yard line and Harrison two plays later for the tying TD.
A variety of crossing patterns on offense and quarterback pressure on defense kept the Hawks’ momentum steaming and they were able to control the outcome.
“I thought they were pretty impressive,” Butte High head coach Arie Grey said. “I thought they were good in all three phases. They were super, super physical and we have to grow and get better there.”
Both of Demarais’ TD passes were athletic plays. He scrambled out of the pocket and lurched toward the line of scrimmage before finding Pumnea passing the secondary for Butte High’s early 8-0 lead. The two-point conversion was a Cayde Stajcar pass to Kyler Stenson.
Demarais’ second-quarter TD pass saw Luedtke bounce into the end zone, bat the ball in the air and pull it in while tumbling to the turf battling a defender to keep possession.
“We got to learn about us, tonight,” Grey said. “I think (Bozeman High) is the best team in the East (AA) and it is good for our team to have had these challenges.”
The Bulldogs began the season with a 21-17 road win over highly regarded Eastern AA member Billings West last week before taking on Bozeman High Friday. It was the first Bulldogs-Hawks clash since the 2019 state championship game won by Bozeman.
“You know what’s good about tonight?” Grey asked rhetorically. “It (the loss) doesn’t matter.”
Conference play starts next weekend and Butte High will be home against top-ranked Kalispell Glacier.
The Hawks broke the halftime tie with a 31-yard field goal by Lencioni and three straight unanswered touchdowns followed. A 1-yard TD dive by Austin Baller had put Bozeman High on the board in the second quarter and the Harrison-Holzer hookup knotted the tally before intermission. Lencioni’s field goal was followed by Brady Casagranda’s 3-yard scoring plunge in the third quarter.
Bozeman took a 25-15 advantage into the fourth quarter, then tacked on the TD pass to Lencioni and the second one to Holzer. Both were tougher than looked. Lencioni snared his pass while lunging toward the goal line and Holzer sped and crashed down the sideline, breaking a couple of tackles en route.
“We have to better in the second half,” Grey said. “They made plays and we have to learn from this and get better.”
Casagranda was the Hawks’ top ballcarrier with 69 yards on 15 carries. Lencioni led the receivers with 10 catches for 156 yards. Holzer had 148 yards on six grabs. As a linebacker, Casagranda was the leading tackler with eight stops. Kaden Paea, Hudson Weins, Quade Ash and Oscar Glick all had sacks.
Demarais completed 14 of 24 passes for 200 yards. Luedtke was his top receiver with seven catches for 80 yards. The Butte High ground game struggled. Trey Hansen led the team in rushing with 14 yards. The team netted only 17 for the game. The Bulldog defense had a good first half and three defenders stack digits in tackles. Linebacker Aiden Cuchine led with 12, DB Luke Verlanic had 11 and linebacker Casey Nolan registerd 10. Kade Schleeman registered a sack and six Bulldogs were in tackles for loss. They were Cuchine, Verlanic, Stenson, Eli Smith, Schleeman and Quinn Cox. Nolan recovered a fumble forced by Luedtke, stopping a Hawks drive at the Bulldog 20.
Bozeman 0 15 10 14 – 39
Butte High 8 7 0 0 – 15
BUTTE – Karson Pumnea 78 pass from Bo Demarais (Kyler Stenson pass from Hudson Luedtke), 6:30. Drive – 80 yards on 3 plays. Key play – Scoring play.
BOZE – Austin Baller 1 run (Baller run), 7:52. Drive – 80 yards on 12 plays. Key play – Rocco Lencioni 11-yard pass from Kellen Harrison to Butte High 1-yard line.
BUTTE – Hudson Luedtke 6 pass from Demarais (Boyd Dewitt kick), 2:14. Drive – 32 yards in 7 plays. Key play – Luedtke 17-yard pass from Demarais on 4th-and-8 to Bozeman 2-yard line.
BOZE – Cordell Holzer 21 pass from Kellen Harrison (Rocco Lencioni kick), 1:07. Drive – 67 yards in 4 plays. Key play – Scoring play.
BOZE – FG Rocco Lencioni 31, 9:22. Drive – Jack O’Brien 20-yard pass from Harrison to Butte High 16-yard line.
BOZE – Brady Casagranda 3 run (Lencioni kick), 90 yards on 15 plays. Key play – Casagranda 18-yard run to Butte High 7-yard line.
BOZE – Lencioni 34 pass from Harrison (Lencioni kick), 7:41. Drive – 70 yards on 9 plays. Key play – Lencioni 13-yard pass from Harrison to Butte High 25-yard line.
BOZE – Holzer 44 pass from Harrison (Lencioni kick), 2:24. Drive – 64 yards in 6 plays. Key play – Scoring play.
First downs 19 7
Rushes-yards 38-145 23-17
Passes 23-37-1 14-25-1
Passing yards 369 200
Total offense 514 217
Return yards 4 17
Punts-avg. 2-29.5 5-38.4
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-0
Penalties-yards 8-81 8-66
RUSHING – Bozeman, Brady Casagranda 15-62, Jack O’Brien 11-39, Harley Bianchini 3-26, Kash Embry 1-11, Kellen Harrison 5-9, Austin Baller 1-1, Team 2-(-3). Butte High, Trey Hansen 5-14, Bo Demarais 7-5, Karson Pumnea 6-4, Wyatt Gross 2-2, Colton Shea 2-(-1), Team 1-(-7).
PASSING – Bozeman, Harrison 23-37-1-369. Butte High, Demarais 14-24-1-200, Colton Shea 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING – Bozeman, Rocco Lencioni 10-156, Cordell Holzer 6-148, Jack O’Brien 6-58, Brady Casagranda 1-7. Butte High, Hudson Luedtke 7-80, Karson Pumnea 1-78, Rueso Batterman 2-20, Cayde Stajcar 2-15, Tocher Lee 1-5, Sam Sampson 1-2.
TURNOVERS – Interceptions: Bozeman 1 (Harrison), Butte High 1 (Torre Tempel). Fumble recoveries – none.
TACKLES – Bozeman: Casagranda 8, Kaden Paea 6, Hudson Weins 6, Quaid Ash 5, Baller 4, Bianchini 3, Harrison 3, Oscar Glick 2, Ridley Brandmayr 2, Torin Jeske 2, Lencioni 2, O’Brien 2, Holzer 1, Evan Hughen 1, Andres Martinez 1, Malloy Mayer 1, Ty Steinmetz 1, Bronson Hall 1. Butte High: Aiden Cuchine 12, Luke Verlanic 11, Nolan Casey 10, Will Stepan 8, Kyler Stenson 8, Tocher Lee 6, Luedtke 5, Eli Smith 4, Tempel 4, Kade Schleeman 3, Grady Winston 2, Maverick McEwen 2, Asher Palmer 2, Derek Dunmire 1, Stajcar 1, Quinn Cox 1, Tyler Galle 1, Ayden Harryman 1, Karsen McEwen 1, Sam Sampson 1.