Bulldogs welcome Falcons to Naranche for opener

Butte High head football coach Arie Grey will take his brand new 2015 Bulldogs out of the garage and out for their first drive of the season Friday as the ‘Dogs play host to Billings Skyview.

Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. from Naranche Stadium. The game will be carried live by KBOW, 550 AM, 101.5 FM and online, as the play-by-play call comes from Paul Panisko and the color commentary features John Thatcher.

Butte High brings a deep, talented team to the field, featuring 25 returning letter winners and 18 players who started at least one game last season, where the Bulldogs finished with a 4-6 record. As of Wednesday, Grey said the program had 111 players out, 18 more than last season.

The Bulldogs played a lot of younger athlete last season due to necessity, but hope to reap the benefits provided by the experience. Along with the higher numbers, the Bulldogs plan to use fewer players on both sides of the ball this season.

“We do have a lot more depth this year,” Grey said Wednesday between practices. “And it’s a credit to the kids that they can buy in and master a position. It’s important to our offensive tempo that we have players just playing offense and not getting worn down.”

The Bulldog offense is led by second-year starting senior quarterback Dylan Cook. At 6-foot-5, 258 pounds, Cook could be successful on the line, but his abilities in the backfield show that he’s in the right spot. A cannon for an arm and a powerful running style leave defenses befuddled, and Grey said the offensive captain has progressed in both leadership and decision-making on the field.

Cook lines up behind a bigger and stronger offensive line led by senior guard Riley Vaughn.

“Riley is a hard and physical player with great demeanor,” Grey said. “He cares about being a Butte High Bulldog.”

At 6-0, 230, Vaughn is joined on the front by center Konnor O’Neill, a 5-9, 235-pound senior, guard Quinn Cunneen (6-0, 180 sr.), tackle Cody Baszler (6-1, 235 sr.) and tackle Nolan Boyle (6-2, 215 sr.). Connor Miller and Cody Berge will rotate in on the line as well.

“I’m extremely proud of our offensive line,” Grey said. “They’re bigger, stronger and more athletic through the maturation process. During the offseason this was a group that showed up every day to push each other to get better.”

They’ll be blocking for senior running back Mason Ruppel, as well as receivers Paul Campbell, Jake Salmonsen, Kiley Caprara and Matt Merzlak.

“Mason’s come a long way,” Grey observed. “We needed him to be more physical and he’s stepped up. He’s become more of a downhill runner and he’s been working extremely hard. Paul is a third-year starter and he brings a lot of savvy to the receiver corps.”

The Bulldog defense centers around captains Cian Randall and Anthony Cooney. Randall is a 5-7, 190-pound senior with plenty of experience, while Cooney is a 6-1, 180-pound end.

“Cian’s been becoming more vocal, but he leads by example. Anthony takes a vocal role and he gets out and gets after it,” Grey said.

Joining Cooney up front is Bryce Liebel (5-10, 195 sr.), Greyson Mandic (6-2, 230 so.), Brian LaFond (6-3, 170 jr.) and Jake Moore (5-9, 155 jr.). Randall is flanked by Rover linebacker Justin Peterson (6-1, 200 sr.) and Kaleb Ferriter (5-10, 165 sr.), who has been impressive in fall camp, Grey said.

“It seemed like Kaleb was in on about 98 percent of the plays,” Grey said of the converted running back who seems right at home on the other side of the ball.

The Bulldog defensive backfield seems in good hands, as Bryce Gallagher (5-11, 160 jr.) and Will Kilmer (5-9, 160 sr.) have a handle on the corners, while Sean Cooney (5-9 185 sr.) and Quinn Dennehy (6-1, 145 sr.) man the safety positions.

“Defensively we play with a lot of energy,” Grey said. “We’re not the biggest guys you’re going to see, but we’re high-motor guys. They get out and go.”

Special teams has seen the addition of sophomore kicker/punter Nathaniel Ferguson, who has improved through camp and looks ready for action.

The Bulldog defense will have its hands full with Skyview’s extra large offensive line and the powerful Wing-T offense.

“They’re big,” Grey said of his first opponent of the season. “Coach [Ron] Lebsock just seems to reload every year. They do a great job of creating angles and they run such a great scheme, really well coached. We’ll have to be extremely disciplined and focus and refocus on every play.”

As far as testing Skyview’s defense goes, Grey hopes to wear the Falcons down.

“They’re aggressive and hard-nosed, just like the offense,” Grey said. “We’ll have to get the tempo going and try to keep them on their heels. We want to dictate what we want to do on offense and give the defense a rest.”

All in all, a good test for the Bulldogs, Grey said.

“This is a great challenge to start the year.” 2 comments

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  • mdk2197
    August 28, 2015, 3:08 am

    Great writeup Pat, Good Luck Bulldogs!

  • Ted Richards
    August 28, 2015, 8:10 am

    Good luck.


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