By Bruce Sayler
Bo Demarais’ accurate arm and poised passing have been receiving much notice this fall high school football season in Montana. Friday night, the 6-foot-5 senior showed he has ample foot speed, too.
His first-quarter 80-yard quarterback draw up the middle led all racers to the end zone and helped propel Butte High to a 42-29 win over Billings Senior at cold, snowy Naranche Stadium in the first round of the state Class AA playoffs.
Temperatures were in the teens and the crowd was sparse but energetic in the stands. The win sends the Bulldogs to Bozeman next week for a quarterfinal-round test with Bozeman High. Bozeman was one of four teams to earn first-round byes.
“I’d been watching it on film all week,” Demarais said of the opening for the play. “I made the read and it all came together.”
He stepped backward as if to set up for a pass and a wide hole in the middle of the line appeared before him. The QB shifted into higher gear and burned through the opening and past everyone beyond the line. Broncs players were pirouetting and trying to catch up, but Demarais had gained too much of a lead. The play, from Butte High’s own 20-yard line, came following a Billings Senior into the end zone that had cut a Bulldog lead to 7-3.
Demarais later added a 5-yard scoring run, senior running back Trey Hansen crossed the goal line three times from inside the 10, and an unlikely TD conjured up by defensive lineman Kyler Stenson blunted a strong comeback bid by the Broncs.
“The O-line was great tonight,” Demarais said. “We wouldn’t have done it without them.”
Butte High had to weather a 20-point Billings Senior fourth quarter and the star play of Broncs junior quarterback Ryder Murdock and senior receiver/kicker Maclain Burckley. Burckley kicked a field goal and caught four touchdown passes from Murdock, who passed for 325 yards.
angaining 151 of them. Much of his yardage came in the fourth quarter while Butte High was melting time off what had been a slow-moving clock. Demarais rushed for 91 yards, 80, of course, on the first-quarter TD. Karson Pumnea ran for 54 and helped ignited the Bulldogs’ offense early.
“I’m proud of our resiliency,” Butte High head coach Arie Grey said.
The weather conditions were hardly ideal for the Bulldog passing game and the team lost senior receiver Rueso Batterman to an undisclosed injury in the first half. Butte High was also flagged for infractions 15 times and yielded 131 yards in the penalties. An officiating crew from Missoula called the game.
Stenson’s defensive touchdown with 9 minutes, 13 seconds left in the game may have sludged the Broncs’ motor just enough to outdistance their rally.
“It would have been a sack if the ball hadn’t popped out,” Stenson said.
It was even better for the Bulldogs.
Billings Senior was at its own 15-yard line in the fourth quarter after stopping Butte High at midfield and forcing a punt. On third-and-10, Murdock dropped back to pass and Stenson and fellow senior Bulldog lineman Kade Schleeman broke through the protection. Schleeman smashed into Murdock and the ball shot into the air. It was batted around and bobbled for a bit among the principles before Stenson finally secured it and tumbled backwards into the end zone for a touchdown, his third in the last two games.
It gave Butte High a 42-15 command with 9:13 to go in the game. Murdock strikes of 36 and 91 yards to Burckley for TDs narrowed the margin by the end.
Billings Senior was in the playoffs as the fifth-seeded team from Eastern AA and Butte High as the No. 4 from the Western AA. Both teams started a little sluggish with emerging signs of explosiveness imminent.
Butte High got going first. Demarais threw a 23-yard aerial to Hudson Luedtke to ignite the Bulldogs’ attack. The play took the team to Billings Senior 30-yard line and Hansen scored from the 6 three plays later, busting a 30-yard tote to set up the scoring play.
The Burckley field goal and Demarais’ sprint up the middle followed and Butte High had a 14-3 lead after one quarter.
Hansen made it 21-3 at halftime after a 1-yard TD plunge late in the half. It finished a 44-yard drive after the Bulldogs pinned the Broncs deep. Demarois completed a 19-yard pass to Sam Sampson along the way.
Demarois’ TD run in the third quarter began the second-half scoring as Butte High widened its’ margin to 28-3. It was a 5-yard keeper that saw him roll right and shoulder a Billings Senior defender out of the end zone as he romped into it.
Penalties began to nag at the Bulldogs as the quarter wore on and Murdock hooked up with Burckley for a 15-yard touchdown toss. Butte High answered with a pass-run mix on a drive that ended with Hansen tallying from a yard away. The Bulldogs owned a 35-9 advantage going into the final quarter.
As the snowing slowed and, sometimes, subsided, the Billings Senior Murdock-Burckley air attack heated, igniting a late comeback by the Broncs. The rally fell short and Billings Senior finished a 4-6 season.
Schleeman led the Butte High defense with seven tackles, two of them for 20 ½ yards in losses, including a 7-yard sack. Grady Winston, Asher Palmer, Stenson, Luedtke, Trey Driscoll and Torre Tempel were also in tackles for losses. The Bulldogs stymied Billings Senior on the ground. The Broncs netted minus-9 yards rushing.
Butte High’s win snapped a two-game losing streak. The Bulldogs are 7-3 going into next weekend’s game at 9-0 Bozeman High.
Blngs Senior 3 0 6 20 – 29
Butte High 14 7 14 7 – 42
BUTTE – Trey Hansen 6 run (Boyd DeWitt kick), 7:38.
BGS – FG Maclain Burckley 26, 1:14.
BUTTE – Bo Demarais 80 run (Ayden Harryman kick), :59
BUTTE – Hansen 1 run (DeWitt kick), :27.
BUTTE – Demarais 5 run (Harryman kick), 8:49.
BGS – Burckley 15 pass from Ryder Murdock (pass failed), 3:53.
BUTTE – Hansen 1 run (DeWitt kick), 2:04.
BGS – Burckley 40 pass from Murdock (pass failed), 10:58.
BUTTE – Kyler Stenson 2 fumble recovery (Harryman kick), 9:13.
BGS – Burckley 36 pass from Murdock (Burckley kick), 8:11.
BGS – Burckley 91 pass from Murdock (Burckley kick), 2:32.
First downs 13 19
Rushes-yards 20-(-9) 52-281
Passes 15-42-0 10-22-0
Passing yards 325 130
Total offense 62-316 74-411
Return yards 0 46
Punts-avg. 9-34.7 6-41.8
Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-1
Penalties-yards 6-38 15-131
RUSHING – Billings Senior, Jalen Rosas 13-26, Harper Doucette 1-(-4), Ryder Murdock 6-(-31). Butte High, Trey Hansen 29-151, Bo Demarais 4-91, Karson Pumnea 15-54, Aiden Cuchine 1-0, Team 2-(-2), Cayde Stajcar 1-(-13).
PASSING – Billings Senior, Murdock 15-41-0-325, Maclain Burckley 0-1-0-0. Butte High, Demarais 10-22-0-130.
RECEIVING – Billings Senior, Burckley 8-227, Rylan Jennigts 2-57, Rosas 1-23, Severn Cellan 1-13, Joey DeMatteo 2-4, Tristen Chapel 1-1. Butte High, Hudson Luedtke 3-54, Will Taylor 1-31, Sam Sampson 2-24, Pumnnea 1-9, Rueso Batterman 2-9, Stajcar 1-3.
TURNOVERS – Fumble recoveries: Billings Senior 1 (Maxx Lee), Butte High 1 (Kyler Stenson). Pass interceptions: none.
TACKLES LEADERS – Billings Senior: Murdock 16, Vaughn Beierlorzer 13, Jacob Barnhill 13, Amir Elhormaoui 7, Lee 7. Butte High: Kade Schleeman 7, Grady Winston 6, Asher Palmer 5, Tocher Lee 4, Nolan Casey 4.