By Bruce Sayler
These growing pains can really hurt.
The Butte High coaching staff will try to prevent them from leaving a mark. The Bulldogs lost their football home opener Thursday night, falling 44-7 to undefeated Helena Capital on a warm, smoky evening at Naranche Stadium. Stats
Bulldog head coach Arie Grey took the hit.
“This one’s on me,” he said after the game. “I didn’t do a good job of getting the team ready.”
Butte High’s defense was fairly stout early, but seemed to be on the field almost all of the time. The offense was unable to generate much of anything in the ways of points and yardage against what looked to be a state Class AA championship contending Capital team.
“Our defense really kept us in it for a long time, but it was just out there for too long,” Grey said. “And, we did pretty good in the third quarter.”
Quarterback Matt McGinley and a Seth Schneider-led running game powered the Bruins’ offense. The defense was fierce, though, led by linebackers Ben Hunthausen and Nick Morrison, cornerback Mark Northey and linemen Alaric Greil and Conor Quick. The 6-foot-3, 275-pound senior, Quick, has committed to continuing football at Montana State next fall.
Schneider ran for 205 yards on 18 carries, including three touchdowns, as the Bruins powered to 369 yards on the ground behind strong line play. McGinley directed the offense and threw one TD pass.
Quick, Hunthausen, Greil and Morrison led a Capital defense that pressured the Butte High backfield throughout the game, and Northey was a star in a ball-hawking secondary.
His 22-yard runback of an interception provided the first points of the game, and came after the Bulldogs had gained a lift from holding off a Capital drive.
The Bruins had driven to the Butte High 20-yard line on Capital’s first possession. McGinley was harassed into two incompletions and the Bulldogs stopped Schneider after a 1-yard gain. Kicker Brian Buschini was summoned and his 37-yard field goal try was wide left.
The Bulldogs had turned back the challenge.
However, the momentum captured didn’t last for long. Quarterback Tommy Mellott’s first pass of the game was a short flip toward the sideline. Northey broke on it, snared it and ran 22 yards to the end zone with it. Bischini kicked the extra point and Capital had the lead, 7-0, and didn’t relinquish it.
The score stayed into the second period. Then, the Bruins tallied on a 46-yard tear by Schneider, a safety and on a 2-yard plunge by Schneider. The safety followed a goal-line stand by Butte High that killed a Capital drive on downs just outside the goal line. Greyson Mandic and Ryan Waananen came out of the bottom of the pile for Butte High. Then, a collision in the backfield on Bulldog first down caused a fumble that Mellott gathered in just before being tackled in the end zone.
“That goal-line stand was awesome,” Grey said, before bemoaning the ill luck on the safety,
Capital led 23-0 at halftime and was held scoreless through the third stanza by a Butte High team that was showing growing confidence and desire to come back on the Bruins.
However, Schneider broke loose for an 80-yard TD sprint at the start of the fourth quarter. Moments later, Quick batted a Mellott pass into the air and Hunthausen picked it out of the air for an interception. The play gave Capital the ball at the Butte High 18-yard line and backup running back Alec McVey-Touchette took the ball across the goal line from there.
The score difference had widened to 37-0 with 10 minutes, 58 seconds left in the game.
The Bulldogs remained determined to score. Running back Bo Mortensen clicked off a 13-yard run to the 48-yard line after the kickoff. Mellott threw to Kaden Hanni for a gain to the Capital 16-yard line, then found tight end Nate Ferguson on a crossing route for a touchdown pass.
A little more than nine minutes remained to be played.
The teams mixed starters with subs the rest of the way, Capital scoring once more on a McGinley pass to Conor McCarvel that covered 31 yards. McCarvel finished the game with eight catches for 60 yards to lead all receivers.
Capital rolled up 21 first downs in its ball-control offense while its defense limited Butte High to eight. The Bulldogs ran for 61 yards and passed for 72. Mellott completed six of 23 attempts and suffered three interceptions. Mortensen led the team in rushing with 41 yards on 11 carries. Hanni and Ferguson caught two passes each.
Quick led the Bruins’ defense with five solo tackles, including two quarterback sacks. He also keyed the blocking on the offensivve front. Linebacker Cole Walker led Butte High in tackles with nine, six of which were solos. Cornerback Kale McCarthy and Mandic each were in on eight tackles. One of Mandic’s was a sack as he, McCarthy, Mortensen and Robin Bagley each registered a tackle for loss. McCarthy picked off a McGinley pass and brought it back 20 yards.
“It’s a learning experience and the kids understand success doesn’t happen overnight,” Grey said. “We know we have a long ways to go.”
Grey said the focus will be the next game — home against Bozeman next Friday on Silver B’s Night — without much more to say to the Bulldogs about the loss to Capital.
“You get 24 hours to enjoy a win,” he said. “With losses, you only worry about it back to the locker room. The kids played hard.
“We have to do a better job coaching the kids.”
He said he will be anxious to see how the 1-2 Bulldogs respond in their next practice and their next game.
“Now, we have to find about what we’re about,” Grey said.