One bad break after another – coupled with a fast and talented Billings Senior football team – made for a long night for Butte High, as the Broncs spoiled the Homecoming festivities with a 32-7 win over the Bulldogs Friday evening at Naranche Stadium.
Butte High showed good signs of life, including a revived running game led by sophomore Bo Mortensen and a shuffled offensive line, but three turnovers and a couple other miscues halted the home team’s momentum.
“This is on me,” said Butte High head coach Arie Grey. “I need to do a better job getting us ready.”
Though Grey was unwilling to make any excuses, he was working with a team that saw both offensive captains and two other starters sitting on the bench in street clothes. Other injuries limited playing time for key players as well.
Butte started out quickly with a first down on a couple of up-the-gut runs by Mortensen – who finished the game with 18 carries for 92 yards – but the center to quarterback exchange wasn’t on and the Broncs took over at Butte’s 34.
Senior saw Sam Sparks move them within striking distance with a strong running attack, then Nate Dick found Tyger Frye on a 4-yard pass for a touchdown, followed by a 2-point run in by Dick.
Butte’s offense got right back in the game, however, as the second play from scrimmage saw sophomore quarterback Ty Peterson loft a perfect pass to junior receiver Will O’Connor, who made a couple of good moves after the catch for a 51-yard gain. Peterson then passed to sophomore defensive lineman/tight end Greyson Mandic who brought the ball to the 1, where Peterson scored the next play on a sneak that just broke the plane of the goal line.
It has been the only touchdown scored on the Broncs in four games.
The Bulldog defense did a good job limiting Senior on the next drive, forcing a punt after 14 plays, but the Butte offense was ready to punt after three. On their own 22 on the first play of the second quarter, the long snap went high, and punter Nate Ferguson ran the ball out of the back of the end zone to take a safety, but save six points in the process.
Ferguson then let loose a booming punt following the safety, but Senior speedster Gabe Sulser found his way back through the Bulldog kickoff team for a 73-yard touchdown return. Sulser then ran the ball in for a 2-point conversion and the Broncs had added 10 points to their total in the span of 14 seconds.
“We’ve got to be able to handle adversity,” Grey said, as there was still nearly three quarters of football remaining.
Another missed connection on the snap led to a turnover and excellent field position for the Broncs, but Butte’s defense held fast again, getting the ball back to the Bulldog offense on downs. Billings got it back five plays later and this time marched it in, capped by a 1-yard carry from Sparks, who led all rushers with 23 carries for 112 yards.
Butte’s final play of the first half saw Keaton Anderson intercept a Peterson bomb, but it was fourth down and Anderson was tackled on the Senior 1, leaving the Broncs pinned for the final seconds of the second quarter.
Neither team was able to mount a successful offensive drive until the waning minutes of the third quarter when Sparks broke free for a 34-yard gain, setting up an 11-yard option keeper touchdown by Dick, which ended the scoring for both teams.
Butte made a couple good efforts late in the game, most notably a couple of fourth-down conversion runs by Mortensen, who has been playing with one hand completely covered in a game cast. Still, little mistakes ended up costing the Bulldogs a chance at any kind of late rally.
Peterson completed five of 23 passes for 71 yards, while O’Connor led all receivers with three snags for 53 yards.
Defensively, Butte saw Cian Randall, Justin Peterson and Quinn Dennehy credited with seven solo tackles each. Kaleb Ferriter made a number of key stops, while Jake Moore had a tackle for loss. Mandic recovered a fumble, while Kiley Caprara had one of the top special teams tackles on a punt.
Senior improved to 4-0 on the season, while the Bulldogs fell to 1-3. Butte gets a chance to get back in the win column next Friday when the Bulldogs travel to Great Falls to take on the Rustlers of CMR.