By Bruce Sayler
A return to business mode was the aim of coaches this week in the Butte High football program.
The Bulldogs beat Bozeman 31-7 last Friday, enjoyed the victory for a couple of days and then got back to work readying for this week’s opponent: Missoula Sentinel.
Butte High will play the Spartans Thursday at 7 p.m. at MCHS Stadium in Missoula. (Radio: KBOW 550 AM, 101.5 FM or online)
“Every week is a fun week,” Arie Grey, head coach of the Bulldogs said. “The difference between this week and last was last week we told the kids they needed to show that they were a better team because we had just lost to (Helena) Capital.
“Then, we beat Bozeman and so this week we’re telling them they have to show they are a good team. It has been great to see the kids come back and make strides. It’s funny, but we usually spend more time responding to a loss than we do to a win because after a loss we have to get them to play better.”
Butte High is 2-2 for the season and Sentinel is 2-1 over a disrupted schedule that saw the Spartans play two weeks ago in Butte where they beat Great Falls High at Naranche Stadium. Thick wildfire smoke caused the move of the game from Missoula. Then, last weekend, Sentinel was scheduled to play Flathead in Kalispell, but cyber threats against students and personnel in Kalispell-area schools concerned administrators to the extent that their activity schedule for the weekend was canceled. It was announced this week the Sentinel-Flathead game will not be rescheduled.
This weekend marks the halfway point of the Montana prep football regular season.
“It is an exciting matchup for us against Sentinel,” Grey said. “Sentinel is a very well-rounded team playing well on both offense and defense.”
Dane Oliver is the fifth-year head coach of the Spartans and fields an offense well-balanced in the run and the pass. Junior quarterback Rylan Ortt a 6-foot, 180-pounder, executes the plan.
“He’s a great athlete who does a good job distributing the ball,” Grey said. “They have a really good receiver, Nick Germer, and a very talented running back, Elias Dewaters.”
Germer is a 6-2, 175-pound senior who has drawn strong college scouting interest. His dad, Chad Germer, is a longtime assistant coach at the University of Montana where he was a standout lineman in his own playing days. Dewaters is a 5-9, 175-pound junior and enjoyed a standout track season last spring as a jumper and sprinter.
“They have great team speed,” Grey said of the Spartans. “They’re one of the fastest teams in the state. “They have some key kids back from last year and they perfected what they do. They will be a multi-dimensional offense and they’ll use window dressing, too.”
Speed shows up on the Sentinel defense, too, Grey said.
“They try to create havoc,” he said. “We have to make sure that when they’re blitzing, we hurt them (with big gainers). They play fast on defense. They do a great job of getting to the ball and creating havoc.”
Grey said the Bulldogs have had fast starts in three of their four games and realize they have to have another one this week.
The game will be the second on MCHS Stadium’s new artificial turf for both teams. The Spartans lost 44-40 to rival Missoula Big Sky there the second week of the season, the day after Butte High beat Missoula Hellgate 64-12 in the facility.
Grey said his team worked a little extra on kickoff coverage this week after giving up a eturn for a touchdown, Bozeman’s only score in their last game.
“Part of it was we had a new kicker,” Grey said, “but, Trevyn (Roth) did a great job for us filling in for Nate (Ferguson), too. We just had to work on it a little bit.”
Roth, a Butte High soccer standout, kicked three extra points and a field goal after Ferguson was lost to injury. He also made a tackle when he pushed a Bozeman returner out of bounds.
“Yeah, we don’t want that to happen again,” Grey said, noting it is not good to have to rely on the kicker to make a tackle.
Ferguson hurt a leg while helping on a sack of the Bozeman quarterback. He will miss this week’s game, but is expected back later in the season, Grey said. Ferguson had been a starter at defensive end and tight end as well as the punter and kicker.
Sophomore quarterback Tommy Mellott, who engineered three touchdown drives against the Hawks and finished two of them with passes to Brady Deck and Kash Kelly, will take on punting chores until Ferguson returns.
Senior lineman Robbie Leipheimer missed last week’s game with an injury and remains out of the lineup this week.
The Bulldogs scored first against Bozeman on a 4-yard power run by senior Bo Mortensen to end the first possession of the contest. He, Mellott and junior Josh Neil took turns packing the ball and Kelly, a receiver, ignited the ground attack with a big gain on an end-around to start the first scoring drive.
“We have to match them physically,” Grey said about playing against the Spartans. “I think we did a great job of that against Bozeman and we were physical against Capital, too. We’ve done a good job of that all year.”
The Butte High defense was stout against Bozeman, allowing no points, only 80 total yards, and didn’t let the Hawks across the 50-yard line until the fourth quarter. Leading tacklers included linebacker Marcus Garcia, tackle Corbin Walker, safety Ty Peterson and end Rylan Waananen. Junior safety Dakota Eggars intercepted his fourth pass of the season and tallied the team’s other TD when he scooped a fumble caused by Peterson and took it 14 yards to the end zone. It was partly set up by a Ferguson punt that pinned the Hawks inside their own 5-yard line.
Probable Butte High starters for Thursday’s game follow:
Offense — Center — Carter Pribnow, 6-1, 240, senior. Guards — Brennan Nielsen, 6-3, 200, senior, and Jeff Queer, 6-2, 240, senior. Tackles — Greyson Mandic, 6-2, 230, senior, and Kyle Harding, 6-1, 220, junior. Tight end — Brady Deck, 6-0, 165, senior. Wide receivers — Kaden Hanni, 6-1, 140, senior; Kody Keene, 5-11, 160, senior; and Kash Kelly, 5-9, 140, junior. Running back — Bo Mortensen, 5-11, 195, senior. Quarterback — Tommy Mellott, 6-0, 165, sophomore.
Defense — Tackles — Jeff Queer, 6-2, 240, senior, and Corbin Walker, 5-10, 215, senior. Ends — Rylan Waananen, 6-2, 190, junior, and Greyson Mandic, 6-2, 230, senior. Linebackers — Carl Anderson, 5-8, 170, junior; Cole Walker, 6-0, 175, senior; and Marcus Garcia, 6-0, 195, senior. Cornerbacks — Robin Bagley, 5-9, 140, senior, and Kale McCarthy, 6-1, 155, junior. Safeties — Ty Peterson, 5-10, 150, senior, and Dakota Eggars, 6-0, 160, junior.