By Bruce Sayler
The consistency of Butte High’s football schedule this year continues in its toughness when the Bulldogs play host to Helena Capital Friday night in their last game of the season.
The kickoff at Naranche Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m. and Arie Grey, head coach of the Bulldogs, said the slate would have been challenging no matter who fell out of the draw in whichever order. (Radio: KBOW 550 AM, 101.5 FM or online)
“Every game in AA is tough,” he said. “We’re excited to play. But we need more consistency and need to be better.”
The game will be the Senior Parents Night tilt for Butte High with the team’s senior players to be recognized before the game with their parents.
“The seniors understand this will be their last game they will play for Butte High School,” Grey said. “And the younger guys understand they need to play hard to send the seniors out with a win and honor their work and effort.”
The Bulldog seniors are Willie Anderson, Will Brandon, Kiley Caprara, Riley Dobb, Bryce Gallagher, Brian LaFond, Austin Lee, Jacob Masters, Josh May, Connor Miller, Clayton Moody, Jake Moore, Will O’Connor, Ethan Pezdark, Christian Shock, Jorey Thatcher and Tyler Vetter. Shock and May are managers.
Capital is 5-4 this season, on a four-game winning streak and has clinched a spot in the Class AA state playoffs. Butte High is 2-7 and will not be in the playoffs. Grey said that in addition to honoring the seniors, incentive will be in come in trying to “mess with (the Bruins’) seeding.”
“That would be great for us,” he said. “We’re excited and ready to roll.”
Capital is coming off a 34-14 win over Missoula Big Sky and exhibits one of the top defenses in the state, evidenced by a 3-0 crosstown rivalry win over Helena High on Oct. 7.
“They’re a team that’s really hot and a team that had a tough schedule early,” Grey said. “They’ll be a great challenge for us. It is an opportunity for us to play consistent in all three phases of the game and put together a good game all night long. We’ve played very well at times, had big moments, but not consistently.”
The Bulldogs will be trying to halt a four-game skid, including a 49-14 loss to Helena High last week.
“Offensively, Capital relies on running the ball,” Grey said. “Their quarterback (Carter Pappas) is throwing the ball well, right now, but Capital really is a heavy run team. They like to control the ball.
“Defensively, they play a couple of different coverages and use their front four to create havoc. They’re probably going to be the most solid defensive team we’ll face.”
Kyle Mihelish is in his second year as Capital’s head coach and looks to have the Bruins clicking after surviving a 1-5 start to the season.
“Offensively, we’ll have to run the ball effectively and throw the ball to get guys in space,” Grey said. “Defensively, we’ll have to stop the run — fly around, get to the ball.”
Pappas is a 5-foot-11, 195-pound senior and one of his main weapons in the Bruins’ offense is twin brother Payton Pappas, a running back the same size. The rushing leader for the ground-oriented club has been 5-10, 200-pound junior Seth Schneider. Marcus Welnel, a 6-1, 215-pound senior, plays some fullback, but is also a defensive leader at linebacker. When Capital does throw the ball, it usually goes to 5-10, 170-pound junior wide receiver Conor McCarvel or 6-4, 195-pound wide receiver Bradley Haller.
Welnel and 5-10, 210-pound lineman/linebacker Caelan Cummings spark the defense.
Butte High will look to its seniors for inspiration as Anderson starts at linebacker, Brandon plays receiver and cornerback, Caprara starts at receiver and plays cornerback, Dobb on both the offensive and defensive lines, Gallagher starts at safety and plays receiver, LaFond leads the pass rush at defensive end, Lee plays linebacker and some fullback, Masters sees time in the secondary and at linebacker, Miller starts on both lines, Moore is a third-year started at defensive end, O’Connor starts at receiver and cornerback, Pezdark plays linebacker, Thatcher plays on the line and Vetter starts in the secondary.
The offense also sees Greyson Mandic, Corbin Walker, Jeff Queer, Carter Pribnow and Cody Berge on the offensive line, Nathaniel Ferguson at tight end, Brady Deck, Kash Kelly and Kale McCarthy at receiver, Bo Mortensen at running back and both junior Ty Peterson and freshman Tommy Mellott taking snaps at quarterback
Defensively, the personnel will also include Moody, Mandic, Walker and Queer on the line, and Tommy Martz in the secondary if he is back from injury. Ferguson kicks and punts.