The Bulldogs did so many things right in their 41-14 Class AA football win over Billings West Friday night at Naranche Stadium.
Butte High’s offense scored touchdowns on four of its first five drives, tallying 28 points in the first half.
The Bulldog defense held the Bears scoreless until late in the game when the home lineup saw substantial substitutions.
Dallas Cook had yet another career night at quarterback (see related story), surpassing the 5,000-yard career passing mark and throwing for five touchdowns. He collected 82 yards on the ground to lead all ball carriers, and came within inches of running for another score.
Butte’s receiving corps took some of the burden off Dalton Daum, and saw breakout games for Paul Campbell and Brody Hart. The fleet-footed players caught a lot of passes Friday, but more importantly, they did a good job gaining yardage after the catch.
“I’m proud of the kids on both sides of the ball,” Butte High head coach Arie Grey said after the game. “Coach Arntson (defensive coordinator) and Coach Schmidt (offensive coordinator) did such a great job getting our guys ready this week. They came back to work, honed themselves in and got better all week. That paid off tonight.”
And yet, the Bulldogs are still looking for improvement. A lot of it.
“Tonight both our offense and defense showed up, but we’re nowhere close to perfect at all,” Cook said after the game. “I’d give us a D minus. We still have a lot of work to do.”
Though Grey didn’t assign a letter grade, he had some constructive criticism for his team.
“We’ve got to shore some things up,” he observed. “Hey, we scored three times on the same drive tonight.”
Grey was referring to penalties that cost Butte 77 yards on eight whistles, including a pair of called back scores – both beauties.
“We’re hurting ourselves with little things, but it’s good to have to deal with some adversity and to be able to overcome it,” Grey said.
Butte’s defense opened up Friday’s show with a three-and-punt possession for the Bears. Mason Woods and Ryan Evans registered a tackle for loss on second down, then Cory Farstveet batted Brott Wilson’s pass to force the change of hands.
Starting at their own 10, the Bulldog offense clicked from the start. With big chunks of yardage gained on slick inside slant passes from Cook to sophomore Paul Campbell, the Bulldog offense efficiently marched down the field. A flare pass from Cook to Daum on the right wing was sprung for a 22-yard touchdown run when Zach Johnson threw a key block to open a lane for his speedy teammate.
Solid pressure from Bulldog down lineman Connor Lee was instrumental in the Butte defense forcing another three-and-punt situation, and the Butte offense was back in business on its own 20.
Cook kept Butte’s drive alive with a key third-effort run on fourth-and-1, which was immediately followed by another slant pass inside from Cook to Campbell, who sped through the defenders for a 61-yard gain. Jake Eisenbarth scored from three yards out two plays later and Butte stretched its lead to 14-0 on Sean Staples’ PAT kick.
West finally notched its first down just before the end of the first quarter, but following a solid hit delivered by Butte defensive end Tyler Earles for no gain on a quarterback keeper, the Bears punted again.
And thus began Butte’s three-touchdown drive.
Campbell opened with a pair of slant-route receptions for 13 and 20 yards, while a 14-yard completion from Cook to Hart rescued Butte High from a fourth-and-6 situation. Two plays later Cook connected with Connor Lane for an apparent 24-yard touchdown, though a hold downfield made it just a 5-yard gain.
Daum then hauled in a spectacular TD pass from Cook, but an illegal formation call brought that one back as well. It wasn’t until Cook tossed outside to Eisenbarth, who tiptoed down the right sideline and dove over the goal line on a 23-yard play, that the Bulldogs were able to finally count their third score.
The teams traded punts – two from West to Butte’s one – before the Bulldogs launched another scoring drive. This one featured a couple of well-placed passes to Peter Granger and another to Lane before Cook and Hart came together on a 14-yard TD aerial.
Butte High had dominated the first half with 19 first downs and 338 yards of offense, compared to just two first downs and 59 total yards for the Bears, though the second half got off to a little rougher start. Brady Baxter recovered a Bulldog fumble and got the West offense back on the field, but it was only for three plays.
Cook’s running skills led to Butte’s first score of the second half, as the bruiser ran a keep-and-leap for 1 yards, 13 yards and again for 29 yards to the West 1, where he passed to Earles for a 35-0 lead.
Earles came back on the defensive side with a 10-yard sack of quarterback Casey Klaboe to force a punt, and Butte scored three plays later when Cook found a wide-open Hart on a 55-yard scoring pass up the middle.
West finally got on the scoreboard with nine minutes left in the game when Brady Baxter carried the ball in from 17 yards out, and the visitors added another touchdown with 21 seconds remaining when Bjorn Bornes hauled in a 13-yard pass from Klaboe, but the game had been settled well before the final gun.
“They’re a talented team, so it’s a good, quality win for us,” Grey said. “I’m proud of the kids and the way they battled from the get-go. It’s a good win, and we’ll continue to get right back at it tomorrow.”
No. 4 Butte High (3-1) will host No. 5 Kalispell Glacier (3-1) next Friday at Naranche for homecoming.