Bulldogs aim for Bruins

Earlier this season the Butte High football team had a chance to end a losing streak against Billings West that dated back to 1991.

The Bulldogs get the same opportunity Friday at Naranche Stadium, as they entertain defending state champion Helena Capital. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. (KBOW, 550 AM. Click here to listen online.)

Butte High’s last win over the Bruins came more than two decades ago, though the teams haven’t played each other regularly for years. Capital comes in with a 5-2 record, while No. 2 Butte High sits at 6-1.

“Capital is one of the premiere programs in Montana,” fifth-year Butte High head coach Arie Grey said Thursday. “They’re always so disciplined. They play hard and physical football, and this will be a great challenge for us.”

The last regular-season game at Naranche will be Senior Night, where senior players and parents will be honored before the game. Naranche has been a friendly place for the Bulldogs, who are 4-0 there this season and 7-1 since the completion of the stadium renovation last year.

“The kids are excited for Senior Night,” Grey said. “This is something they’ll remember forever, but I think they understand we’ve got a very good football team coming to town.”

Capital is coming off a 54-31 win over 0-7 Kalispell Flathead, rebounding after a 41-7 loss to Billings West the week previous. The Bruins’ other loss this season came in week three against No. 1 Great Falls Russell, a 28-27 overtime thriller.

The No. 2 Bulldogs defeated CMR by three touchdowns in the opening weekend of the season, and hung a 45-13 win over West. Neither makes a bit of difference in Friday’s matchup, Grey said.

“We’re focused on Capital this week,” Grey said. “Every week in the AA is tough. Capital is a well-coached team and we’re going to have to get after it.”

Butte High’s offense has clicked along at a breakneck pace this season, averaging 44 points per game behind junior quarterback Dallas Cook, who averages 330 yards passing per game – by far the most prolific numbers in the state.

Still, Grey sees room for improvement.

“We need to do a better job in the red zone and we’ve got to be better on third downs,” he said. “And it’s the same on defense. We need to be solid against Capital. They’re so explosive on both offense and defense. They’re also very good on special teams with a couple of excellent returners. It’ll be a battle for field position.”

Grey pointed to Connor McCarthy, Joe Blunt and Keiffer Hepola for solid special teams play in Butte’s win at Missoula Big Sky last Friday. Hepola had a pair of solo tackles on coverage teams.

Tyler Earles had another big game on defense, registering a pair of sacks , while Blake Kraus had six solo tackles from his perch at linebacker. Daniel Kloepfel registered a pair of tackles for loss, a sack and a hurry, while Andre Vialpando had five solo tackles and broke up a pair of passes.

Over the course of the season, Nate Matteson leads the Bulldogs with 26 solo tackles, 17 assists and five tackles for loss. Earles has racked up six sacks, while Mason Woods leads the squad with 30 solo stops.

In other action Friday, CMR is at Billings West, while Billings Skyview takes on crosstown rival Senior in a battle of tough 3-4 teams. Flathead is at Bozeman, which is looking for a turnaround after losing three straight, while Missoula Big Sky plays Missoula Hellgate. In a battle of the two teams Butte High takes on in the next two weeks, Helena is at Missoula Sentinel. Kalispell Glacier is at Great Falls High as well.