By Bill Foley
The Butte High boys’ soccer team has some packing to do.
The Bulldogs are going to state.
Butte High knocked off Great Falls Russell 4-1 Friday afternoon to punch its ticket to the Class AA State tournament, which is next week in Kalispell.
“We’re going to state,” Butte High coach Eric Zahler said. “It’s the best feeling ever.”
Kyle Rauch scored a pair of goals, while Travis Williams and Oscar Kronenberger. each added one in the win. Zach Archibald assisted on two goals, both off corner kicks. Nick Werkmeister and Brock Powell also assisted a goal for the Bulldogs, who broke the game open with three goals in the second half.
The win marked the second time in three weeks that the Bulldogs knocked off the Rustlers 4-1 in the Mining City. Like the last game, when CMR picked up three yellow cards, the playoff game was rough. Russell picked up two yellow cards this time around.
The Bulldogs, though, kept their cool throughout.
“It gets chippy, but we try to stay together and don’t retaliate,” Williams said.
The Bulldogs took the lead for good 20 minutes in when Rauch found the back of the net off a Werkmeister assist.
Butte High wasted little time extending that lead to 3-0 in the second half.
Williams headed in an Archibald corner kick in the 48th minute. Before the dust settled, Butte High scored again when Powell fed Kronenberger for a score in the 49th minute.
That bang-bang scoring wasn’t an accident.
“The next 5 minutes after a goal, everybody is not as organized,” Archibald said. “We were just able to take advantage of that.”
Butte High’s plan is to focus on the first and last 5 minutes of each half and in the minutes following a goal.
“That’s when we try to push on the most,” Archibald said.
“We try to pick up the pace and force it to them a little more,” Williams added.
Zahler said those two quick goals were the key.
“We got that third goal, and you could literally see the energy leave their body,” the coach said. “It was huge.”
Williams agreed with his coach.
“It really puts the other team down once you get ahead like that,” he said. “That’s what we were trying to do, just keep scoring.”
Butte High extended the lead to 4-0 when Rauch headed an Archibald kick to the back of the net in the 63rd minute.
CMR’s Moses Roque capped the scoring with a goal in the 72nd minute.
“We just played with a lot of heart,” Zahler said. “The guys stepped up. They wanted it more.”
Zahler added that containing Nathan Painter and Braden Stremcha was a key to the win.
“We were trying to win the middle of the field,” he said. “We needed to shut down No. 6 (Painter), knowing that when he receives the ball, gets his head up and finds No. 9 (Stremcha) they are dangerous. We knew if we could shut down six and stop nine from scoring goals, we were going to be OK. We were able to do that, and in return we were able to finish some of our great opportunities.”
The Bulldogs weren’t able to capitalize on such opportunities during their three-game losing streak — to Billings West, Billings Senior and Bozeman — to close out the regular season.
“We had a little trouble finishing the last few games, so to get four out here today is great momentum going into state,” Zahler said. It takes that little three-game slide and totally erases it. Everybody is amped up. We’re packing our bags. We’re going to Kalispell.”
The trip to state will be the first since 2013 when seniors Archibald, Williams, Rauch, Powell, Ryson Lovshin, Oscar Kronenberger and Eric Todd were freshmen.
“It’s going to be fun,” Williams said. “Hopefully we don’t make the same mistake and we don’t lose the first game, and make a run on trophy.”
Also heading to state will be juniors Shaun. Villa, Werkmeister, Brandon Quinn, Logan Johnson, Jackson Maloney, Adam Choquette and goalkeeper Erik Rosa. Sophomore Xavier Black, Trevyn Roth, Justin McNabb and Russell Park will also make the trip.
The Bulldogs will be hitting the road a confident bunch, too.
“We know what we can do as a team, definitely,” Archibald said.
Butte High will open the state tournament Thursday at 2:30 p.m. against Missoula Hellgate.
Great Falls Russell 0 1 — 1
Butte High 1 3 — 4
Butte — Kyle Rauch (Nick Werkmeister), 20th
Butte — Travis Williams (Zach Archibald), 48th
Butte — Oscar Kronenberger (Brock Powell), 49th
Butte — Rauch (Archibald), 63rd
CMR — Moses Ruque, 72nd 1 comment