Butte High’s football team has a chance to get back in the win column Friday night when the Bulldogs take to the road to play at Great Falls Russell. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.
“CMR has two of the most dynamic players in the state in Andrew Grinde and Karl Tucker,” said Butte High head coach Arie Grey. “All game long we’re going to have to tackle. We’ll bring as many guys to the ball as we can. We’re excited to play such a storied program. Coach (Gary) Lowry stepped in and has really kept it rolling.”
The Rustlers have won three straight after a slow-starting first-week loss to Kalispell Flathead. Grinde is averaging 145 yards rushing per game, while Tucker runs for 65 and catches for another 64 per game. Quarterback Lane Jensen has passed for 10 touchdowns against just one interception.
“They’ve got a great venue and great fans,” Grey said. “It’s a great place to play. They have a class program up there.”
Butte High, on the other hand, has lost its last three after winning its first time out against Billings Skyview. The Bulldogs are coming off a tough 32-7 loss to Billings Senior (4-0), though Butte’s touchdown was the first scored against the Broncs this season.
The Bulldog offense got a boost last Friday when the offensive line combined with sophomore running back Bo Mortensen to produce 92 yards on 18 carries – Butte’s best rushing performance this season.
“Bo ran hard, physical and downhill,” Grey noted. “I couldn’t be more proud, but really it was the offensive line that made it possible. Little mistakes hurt us last week, but this week we’re going to try keeping positive thoughts all night long.”
Positive yardage will be even more important, as Butte will need to run the ball successfully to open up the pass game for sophomore quarterback Ty Peterson, who is settling into his role as offensive leader after the season-ending injury to senior QB Dylan Cook. Kiley Caprara and Matt Merzlak have stepped up at the receiver position following the loss of Paul Campbell, while sophomore lineman Cody Berge has helped to fill the gap left with the loss of senior captain offensive lineman Riley Vaughn.
The good news is that Vaughn in expected back in the lineup within the next couple of weeks.
Butte’s defense has given up about 27 points per game thus far, but the group has held remarkably well, save a few big plays.
Sophomre lineman Greyson Mandic has played well on both sides of the ball, while Anthony Cooney helps shore up the D front. Kaleb Ferriter has been a ball hawk at linebacker, as have teammates Cian Randall and Justin Peterson.
The Bulldog defense will concentrate on making big stops on first down, just as the Butte offense will look to get some momentum going down the field with an offensive surge.
“All week we’ve been working on finding a way to get in a groove early,” Grey said. We get [the first down] and then we get going. We have to be good on first down. And it’s the same thing on defense. We have to be solid on first downs to force CMR into longer-yardage situations.”
Grey said he’s working to remind his squad that they’re playing a game and that they need to have fun, which should help bring energy and enthusiasm to the ranks.
“The ordinary person doesn’t see us get better every day, but we’re getting better every day,” Grey said. “Now we just need it to happen on Friday. We need to create some luck for ourselves and get that big play we’ve been lacking all year.”
Less a half dozen plays or so in each of the last three weeks, Butte High has played some good football.
“Our defense is playing really well,” Grey said. “You have to trust your buddy next to you. They care about each other, and now they just need to go out and have some fun. There are not many guys walking the halls of Butte High who can say they’re fb players, and I love our attitude. I love to be around them and I’m proud of them.
“They’re excited, and they’re ready to roll.”