The first game of any high school football season is always special. There is an added touch with the opener on Friday night between Butte High and Billings Senior. When the football flies in the air on Friday night at Daylis Stadium in Billings, it will mark the 100th meeting between the Bulldogs and Broncs.
The first meeting between the two schools took place in 1907 at the Columbia Gardens field in Butte. The Bulldogs whipped the Broncs 27-0 in the state championship game. Butte beat Spokane, Washington, the next week to capture the Northwest title.
Billings got revenge the next time the two schools met. They beat Butte High 31-7 in 1912. The next season, the two teams battled to a scoreless tie. It was the first of five meetings that ended in a tie. The other games finishing in a tie took place in 1936, 1941, 1950 and 1953.
Butte and Billings met for a second time at the end of the 1913 season to settle the scoreless tie. This time the stakes would be higher with a state championship on the line.
Billings had a 6-0 lead late in the game that was played in the Magic City. The Bulldogs got a touchdown with only a few minutes left in the contest. Wreck Donnelly booted the extra point. Butte High held on to win the game 7-6.
Billings supporters claimed the Butte team was too rough during the game. They called the Bulldogs players cannibals. The next season, despite both teams going undefeated, Billings refused to play Butte in the state championship game. Billings supporters felt their players would be mobbed playing the Bulldogs in Butte.
Both teams declared themselves the state champions. The local newspapers for both towns supported their clubs by each picking an all-state team. Each paper only selected players from their local team on the elite squad.
The two clubs finally got back on the field against each other in 1916. Butte High destroyed the Broncs winning 54-0.
The loss did not sit well with the Billings club. They whipped Butte High the next three times they played. In two of those wins, Billings blasted Butte winning 55-7 in 1919 and 84-0 in 1920. The victory in 1920 by Billings was the worst defeat Butte High ever experienced in football in school history.
The clubs only met three other times in the 1920s. Butte High won two of three including hammering Billings 44-7 in the state championship game in 1927. Shine Schneller and Willie Inkret each scored three touchdowns in the Bulldogs march to the state title.
The next state title game between the two clubs would go Billings Senior’s way. The Broncs edged Butte 9-7 in overtime in the state finals. The two clubs played to a 7-7 tie during regulation. Billings advanced the ball eight more yards than the Bulldogs did in a California playoff to pick up two additional points and the state championship trophy.
Butte High came back with a 20-6 playoff win in 1936 before shutting out Billings 19-0 in the 1937 state finals played at Clarks Park in Butte. It was the last high school game ever contested in that fabled sports complex.
The Bulldogs knocked off Billings again in the 1940 state finals 19-0 in a game played at Mitchell Stadium in Anaconda. The next season, the two clubs once again were in the state championship game at Naranche Stadium in Butte. This time the two clubs battled to a 7-7 tie. Both teams were declared co-state champions following the game rather than holding a playoff.
The two clubs battled twelve times against each other in the 1940s. The Bulldogs won seven of those games. One victory, in 1947, was 13-6. The two clubs battled again later in the season in Billings for the state championship.
Butte held a slim lead at 20-19 late in the contest thanks to Bob Graham. He tallied three scores with of the them coming on the receiving end of passes from Alex Chavez. There were only a couple of minutes left when Butte High was forced to punt the ball deep in its own territory.
Jim Orr of Billings Senior broke through the line and blocked the Butte High punt. The ball sailed out of the end zone giving the Broncs a safety. The two-point play gave Billings a thrilling 21-20 victory and the state championship.
The Broncs came back with another big win over Butte High in 1952. Billings Senior beat Butte High 21-19 in the first round of the playoffs.
Butte High started dominating the series following that 1952 Broncs’ playoff win. The Bulldogs won 13 of the next 16 games played between the two clubs over the next two decades. During that time, Butte High won five state championships.
The Bulldogs had one of their best teams ever in 1977. They won the state crown and only gave up 20 points all season. One of Butte High’s toughest games of that season was a 6-0 victory over Billings Senior.
Two years later, in 1979, the Broncs ended a 32-year drought by winning the state championship beating Great Falls Russell 34-28 in the finals head in Billings. One of the few setbacks that season for Billings Senior was a 15-8 loss to Butte High.
The 1979 Butte victory triggered the Bulldogs to 11 straight wins over the Broncs.
Billings Senior ended the bleeding in 1992 winning 28-22. Billings won again the next season 41-7. It was the final season for longtime Butte High coach, Jon McElroy, who had a glittering 14-4 record against Billings Senior.
Since 1990 the rivalry had been relatively even with Butte High holding a 14-10 edge over the Broncs. One game of note took place in 2012. Butte High won a wild game at Daylis Stadium 62-57. The two clubs combined for 1,362 total yards in the game. Butte’s Zach Bunney had five rushing scores while pounding out 265 yard on the ground. Billings Senior’s Nolan Saraceni was almost as good with four rushing scores and 241 rushing yards.
Overall, Butte High leads the series 64-30-5. The 100th meeting with Billings Senior will mark the second time the Bulldogs have played an opponent 100 times. They have battled against Great Falls High a total of 107 games.