By Bruce Sayler
The first unit seemed to click in the Purple-and-White Scrimmage for Butte High football last week, maybe providing a springboard into the regular season.
The starts on Friday and the Bulldogs will be out of town with a Class AA non-conference contest against always-contending Billings West. The clash is scheduled for a 6 p.m. kickoff at Billings’ Daylis Stadium.
Head coach Arie Grey has enough of a veteran nucleus to be able to smile realistically about hopes for this season. Butte High reached the State Class AA Playoffs quarterfinals last year before losing to eventual state champion Helena Capital, a genuine juggernaut among all teams.
Seven starters on offense return to that Bulldog huddle while the defense has experience and athleticism as well.
Senior Bo Demarais seems to have stepped in nicely at quarterback if the scrimmage was a legitimate indication. It probably was. Demarais has been an attentive student in the offense for three prior years while quarterbacking the subvarsities and spelling first string.
The returning starters on offense set to play in the opener include linemen Kade Schleeman, Jake Hennelly, Joey Wall and Brett Polich, All-State tight end Hudson Luedtke and receivers Rueso Batterman and Cayde Stajcar.
Returning experience on defense includes Schleeman at nose tackle, linebackers Kyler Stenson and Aiden Cuchine and defensive backs Stajcar, Tocher Lee and Will Stepan. Cuchine’s speed will also be implemented as a kick returner.
The passing game was the star in the scrimmage with Luedtke having a big night. The experience on the offensive line should be an early advantage in a league that consistently grows good defensive line talent.
Junior Karson Pumnea draws the start at running back and other newcomers to the offensive starting lineup include lineman Carter Barsness and receiver Will Taylor.
Luedtke is slated for two-way duty. Grey has him at nickel back on defense. Other new starters include lineman Asher Palmer, end Trey Driscoll, linebacker Nolan Casey and safety Luke Verlanic.
Stajcar is the punter and Boyd Dewitt is the placekicker.
Rob Stanton again guides the Billings West team, which is again picked to be among the top teams in the Eastern AA Conference. The Golden Bears were 6-4 last season and have senior Drew McDowell at the quarterback duties. Noah Speidel is a 305-pound lineman and senior Cooper Freitag is one of the state’s top linebackers.
Butte High’s probable starters follow:
Center – Brett Polich, 5-10, 240, senior; Guards – Kade Schleeman, 6-0, 230, senior, and Jake Hennelly, 6-3, 235, junior; Tackles – Carter Barsness, 5-11, 190, junior, and Joey Wall, 6-1, 185, senior. Tight end – Hudson Luedtke, 6-2, 185, sophomore; Wide receivers – Rueso Batterman, 6-3, 185, senior, Cayde Stajcar, 6-1, 190, sophomore, and Will Taylor, 5-11, 155, senior; Running back – Karson Pemnea, 5-7, 155, junior; Quarterback – Bo Demarais, 6-5, 175, senior. Kicker – Boyd Dewitt, 5-8, 150, senior.
Down linemen – Kade Schleeman, 6-0, 230, senior, and Asher Palmer, 5-9, 190, junior. Ends – Trey Driscoll, 5-10, 180, senior, and Kyler Stenson, 6-3, 220, senior. Linebackers – Nolan Casey, 6-0, 195, senior, and Aiden Cuchine, 6-1, 180, senior. Safeties – Luke Verlanic, 5-8, 160, senior, and Will Stepan, 5-9, 160, junior; Cornerbacks – Cayde Stajcar, 6-1, 190, sophomore, and Tocher Lee, 5-8, 155, junior; Nickel – Hudson Luedtke, 6-2, 185, sophomore. Punter – Stajcar.