Coming off a disappointing 28-9 loss to Missoula Sentinel last Friday, the Butte High football team has a big challenge ahead as the Bulldogs (1-1) travel to Bozeman to take on the Hawks (2-0) at 7 p.m. at VanWinkle Stadium.
Radio coverage will be carried by KBOW, 550 AM and 101.5 FM (online), with Paul Panisko calling the plays and John Thatcher as color man.
Practice was productive for the Bulldogs this week, said head coach Arie Grey.
“We really challenged the boys,” Grey said. “They came back Saturday ready to work, and they worked their tails off and got better every day. We need that. Every day we have to come in with the mentality that we’re going to get better – every rep, everything.”
Grey had specific improvements in mind with the aim of competing against rival Bozeman Friday night.
“Number one, we have to be a much better team on first down, on both sides of the ball,” he said, noting a 3.3 yard-per play average on first down for Butte’s offense while the defense has given up 6.5 yards on first down plays. Butte has converted just 11 percent of its third-down plays. “Offensively we need to get a first down every drive. We need to eliminate the yards on defense, and we need to be better on third down.”
Butte High has been retooling at quarterback after the broken collarbone suffered by senior captain Dylan Cook forced an early entrance of Ty Peterson. The sophomore slinger has steadied himself after a shaky start in the win over Billings Skyview, and though he has plenty to learn, Peterson has come a long way in a short time.
Butte will also need a big performance from linemen on both sides of the ball, as senior running back Mason Ruppel has the potential for yardage production, and the Bulldog defense has shown the ability to bend and not break.
“We need to get more plays off,” Grey said. “We’re not even close to where we need to be, but we need more offensive plays and keep our defense off the field.”
Problems were apparent in last Friday’s loss, but Grey has kept his Bulldogs aimed in the right direction, seeking improvement daily.
“They came to work and saw the film,” Grey said of his team. “It’s tough for them to see themselves do things uncharacteristic of us, but the kids are resilient. We’ve struggled but we told them that this week we want to be the hammer, not the nail.”
Grey said he thought a road trip could be good for his squad.
“We’re going up against a very talented Bozeman team,” Grey said, pointing to second-year starting quarterback D.J. Perdaems as well as running backs Payton O’Reilly and Trace Bradshaw. Balue Chapman also carries the ball but was limited to play on the defensive side of the ball after injuring his foot last week at practice. “They run a great scheme and defensively they’re very sound.”
The Bulldogs will be battling to keep the Homestake Trophy, which they claimed at the end of last season with a 34-21 win over the Hawks at Naranche Stadium.
This time around, Bozeman is thus far undefeated, posting a blowout win over Missoula Hellgate and a 24-10 win at defending champion Kalispell Glacier last Friday.
“They were youngest team in the AA last year,” Grey said. “They’ve come a long way and we’re excited for the challenge to go compete against our rival. It should be a lot of fun.”