By Bill Foley
Cole Worley says he is 5 feet, 6 inches tall.
Then he winks and admits it might be closer to 5-5.
No matter what the roster says, though, the Butte High senior receiver made the biggest play of the night Friday in front of a crowd of about 4,000 at Naranche Stadium.
Worley caught a pass over the middle and then raced the rest of the way for a 65-yard touchdown that highlighted Butte High’s 17-7 non-conference win over Great Falls High. (Stats)
Leary, who rotated at quarterback with junior Jace Stenson, hit Worley in stride. Worley then turned some heads with his speed as he broke free for the score.
“I was eyes on the end zone,” Worley said. “I knew I just had to go.”
“Speed kills,” Butte High coach Arie Grey added.
Leary also ran to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by senior Gavin Vetter, and Casey Kautzman booted a 37-yard field goal as the Bulldogs bounced back from last week’s last-second loss at Billings Senior.
“We’ve been waiting for this,” Butte High junior lineman Zach Tierney said. “We’ve been telling ourselves ‘We have to finish’ because of what happened last week. Coach Grey has been preaching it all week.”
Aside from his role on the Bulldog offensive line, Tierney was a key figure in Butte’s defensive effort that was able to stop Great Falls star quarterback Reed Harris when it needed to.
Harris, a 6-4, 200-pound junior, ran for 133 yards and passed for 92 more. But a 49-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Keegan Chenoweth was the only score of the game for the Bison, who fell to 0-2.
Tierney said the Bulldogs had been focusing on Harris all week.
“We had a hard week of practice, telling us that we need to contain that quarterback because he’s one hell of a player,” Tierney said. “The scout team did good all week. It was awesome.”
The lineman praised the Bison offense that the Bulldogs held to seven points.
“That’s a hell of an accomplishment with that offense,” Tierney said. “Their O-line is tough, their receivers are awesome, their running backs are great. They were a scrappy bunch.”
Both Leary and Stenson drew praise from teammates on a night when junior Cameron Gurnsey put former Bulldog greats Kiley Caprara and Dalton Daum on notice that their shared school record of 74 catches in a season is in serious jeopardy.
It might not be the only record, too.
Gurnsey caught 11 passes for 129 yards, racking up a 100-yard receiving fame for the second time in as many weeks. He has 20 catches and 255 yards through two games.
Senior Dylan Snyder caught four passes for 32 yards and gave a Great Falls defender the Derrick Henry treatment on the Butte High sideline.
If it was not for Worley’s dash — and perhaps a Houdini punt by Kautzman — the Snyder play might have been the play of the game.
Leary passed for 123 yards, while Stenson threw for 90. Stenson’s total included a 49-yard strike to Gurnsey, who went up high to make a spectacular catch.
Worley said he likes playing with Leary and Stenson, saying that a rotation could be the way to go for Butte High for the rest of the season.
“They’re both great quarterbacks,” Worley said. “They both put it right on the money.”
Cole Stewart and Keegan Muffich each registered 12 total tackles to pace the Bulldogs. Snyder got in on eight tackles, while Luke Andersen joined Tierney with six. Wiley Dallaserra recorded five tackles, while Rylan Mulcahy had four. Mulcahy also recorded a sack of Harris.
Butte High and Great Falls High played a scoreless, but tense first quarter. With every snap, Harris seemed to be a touchdown waiting to happen, either by air or by ground.
The Bulldogs, though, held him out of the end zone until Worley’s big play with, which came on third and 10, with 8 minutes, 50 seconds left in the second quarter. Kautzman booted the field goal to make it a 7-0 game.
Great Falls took advantage of a busted coverage when Harris hit Chenoweth for the score with 1:15 left in the second quarter. Tate O’Neill’s PAT tied the score at 7.
With Leary behind center, the Bulldogs marched 64 yards on eight plays to put Butte High up for good on the first drive of the second half. One play after Leary scrambled for 18 yards to the Great Falls 1-yard line, Vetter plunged in for the score.
Kautzman put the win to bed by easily drilling the 37-yard field goal with 5:26 left in the game.
When a deep Harris pass to Ryan Krahe fell incomplete on fourth and six from the Great Falls 37, the Bulldogs took over with 1:01 on the clock. The full-out celebration from Butte’s first real crowd since the 2019 Class AA state championship then commenced.
“I thought the energy was awesome,” said Grey, who was so excited that he struggled finishing a sentence before beginning another one. “I thought the effort was awesome.”
Butte High jumps into Western AA play next Friday night when highly-touted Helena High rolls into town.
Worley said the Bulldogs will be ready.
“We’re going to get back to work tomorrow,” he said. “We’re going to watch some film and get back after it on Monday.”
Note: There is a mistake on Gavin Vetter’s rushing total on the stat sheet.