Butte vs. CMR a classic battle

Great Falls Russell High School opened the doors for classes for the first time in 1965. Right from the first kickoff in their initial contest against Butte High, it was easy to sense that this would be a rivalry. The Rustlers upset the defending state champions from Butte 10-0 in the first contest between the two schools. The Bulldogs would win six of the next seven meetings with the lone non-Bulldog win ending in a 7-7 tie in 1970. The momentum for the series started to swing CMR’s way when Jack Johnson became the head skipper of the Rustlers in the early 1970s. Johnson led CMR to the state finals in 1975. They met the Bulldogs in the chipper. CMR put a hurt on Butte High beating the Bulldogs 41-7 in that state title match up.  Two years later, Butte High returned the favor. The Bulldogs beat Russell 35-6 during the regular season. Remarkably the one touchdown scored by CMR  in the seventh game of the season was the first time in 1977 that Butte Bulldogs had yielded points. The two again met in the playoffs with Butte High winning a hard-fought 7-0 victory to advance to the state finals against Havre. If things were hard-fought in 1977 it only fueled the competitive fire between the two sides into a raging inferno in 1981. Both teams were unbeaten when they met in the Mining City during the regular season. The Rustlers beat Butte High in overtime 20-14 to spoil the Bulldogs’ homecoming game. CMR won the league title with Butte High making the playoffs. That’s when things got downright nasty. The Montana High School Association announced that CMR running back Kurt Strutz would be ineligible for the playoffs because of a transfer violation when he moved from Great Falls High to Great Falls Russell that fall as a student. Great Falls school officials and attorneys tried to block the ruling in court vowing that the state football playoffs would be a joke without the best team, CMR, in the post season action. The remark infuriated people across the state.  CMR officials won the court battle and the Rustlers were back in the playoffs that had been postponed for an entire week due to the legal battle. After each team won a playoff game, the Bulldogs traveled north to Great Falls to take on the Rustlers in the 1981 state finals. Butte High took the opening kickoff and marched straight down the field for a score. That touchdown would hold up until the fourth quarter. Butte quarterback Don Douglas scored on a nice run. It gave Butte High the cushion they needed as they beat the best team in the state in their own stadium 14-6 to capture the state crown. The two schools met in the state finals again five years later in 1986. Russell completely dominated winning 41-15. Four years later, in 1990,  Russell’s star quarterback Dave Dickenson led CMR to a 42-28 win over Butte High in a playoff game. Since that game the two schools have met fifteen times all during the regular season with the Rustlers winning twelve of those games. The Butte High wins came in 1991 when the Bulldogs pounded the Rustlers 35-13 on the way to their last state title. They also won in 2005 by a count of 14-9 and earlier this fall 41-20. In fact, when long-time coach Jack Johnson visited Naranche Stadium in this year’s season opener it was the first time he ever coached against the Bulldogs at Naranche. The appearance by the Rustlers here in the playoffs is only the second time they ever have visited Butte for post season action. The other time came in 1977 when Butte edged the Rustlers 7-0 at East Stadium. A win over CMR this Friday night would keep in line one pattern between the two schools. The trend is this, Butte High has won four state titles since CM Russell was established and in each of those four title years the Bulldogs have managed to beat Great Falls Russell during that season. A win on Friday night would propel the purple-and-white in the state championship game for the first time since 1991 and inch the Bulldogs closer toward a memorable classic season..