The last time Butte High played a football game at Daylis Stadium against Billings Senior, the Bulldogs walked away with a wild 62-57 win over the Broncs. Zach Bunney rushed for 265 yards and five touchdowns in the win, while Senior’s Nolan Saraceni notched 241 yards on the ground, rushing for four TDs and catching another.
Bunney and Saraceni are now teammates at Montana Tech, and few players remain from the lineup on either side from that wild night.
Butte and Senior renew their rivalry Friday evening with a 7 p.m. kickoff on Wendy’s Field at Daylis Stadium. (Radio: KBOW 550 AM, 101.5 FM, online)
“That was a fun night if you like to see some offense,” recalled Butte High head coach Arie Grey. “Not so much for the defense.”
Butte High downed Senior 26-20 in the 2013 season opener at Naranche, and Grey said he expects yet another tight game.
“Coach Murdoch will have his players ready to go,” Grey said. “We know when we play Billings Senior that they’re going to give you everything they’ve got. They remind me of our team, and we have a ton of respect for them.”
Like Butte High, Senior comes into the 2014 campaign with a number of positions vacated by graduating seniors. Unlike Butte, the Broncs bring a big line back, and will likely lean heavily on the run game.
Sophomore quarterback Nathan Dick earned the starting job over the summer with a good handle of the zone-read game, while Nolan Timmons is another athletic two-way player who will need to be watched, especially by the Butte defense.
The Senior defense matches well with Butte High’s screen pass game, and Grey said a big effort would be needed on the part of his players.
“Senior will sit back in a 4-2-5, and last year they brought a lot of pressure,” he recalled.
Grey credited offensive coordinator Mike Schmidt with key play calling.
“Coach Schmidt gets into the flow of the game and does a good job getting the ball to guys in space, where they can make some plays,” Grey said. “It’s the same way with coach (Brian) Arntson on defense. I’m really excited to see us playing physical in some live action.”
Though many Bulldogs will obviously see extensive playing time, Grey said that as of Wednesday afternoon, many of the starting positions for Butte High had yet to be set.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who can play,” Grey said. “We’re young in some places and thin in others, but for the most part we’ve got some depth. I credit our coaching staff for getting multiple guys ready to play multiple positions.
“The guys who work the hardest will be the guys who run out on that field for the first play.”
Among those who will see plenty of playing time are captains Clay Dean, Tyler Wonnacott, Jake Urich and Brock LaPier (see related story), as well as a number of athletes who will line up on both sides of the ball.
Dalton Daum, the reigning 100- and 200-meter sprint state champion, will play at both receiver and defensive back. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound speedster owns many of the Butte High game, season and career receiving records, and will get plenty of attention from opposing players and coaches.
“It seems like Dalton should be gone by now,” Grey joked, pointing to the years of playing time that began his freshman season. “Dalton is such an exciting guy with what he can do with the ball in his hands.”
Paul Campbell, a 5-11, 165-pound junior, is another player who will line up at both receiver and defensive back.
“I’m excited to see how much further Paul has come,” Grey said.
Throwing to both receivers is 6-4, 246-pound junior Dylan Cook – fondly referred to as D-Lo. Cook comes in with big shoes to fill – those of his brother Dallas, who virtually rewrote Butte High’s record book in regard to the quarterback position.
“We’ll see what Dylan’s able to do,” Grey said. “He’s worked hard in the weight room an also in the classroom. He’s progressed as a leader and it will be fun to see what he can go out and do.”
A pair of linebackers – 6-1, 205-pound senior Lee Cannon and 5-7, 185-pound junior Cian Randall – should shine on defense in addition to captain Tyler Wonnacott.
“Cian is a tough, hard-nosed player who is really a student of the game,” Grey said. “Also I’m really happy with how Lee has dedicated himself to being a better player every day. I’m excited to see him have success on the football field the same way he has on the wrestling mat.”
Also returning for the Bulldogs is sophomore kicker Sean Staples, who has a full season of varsity experience under his belt.
“Sean has worked very hard and has increased his leg strength,” Grey noted, adding that it was somewhat of a luxury to have a returning starter in the position.
Butte High is a pair of years removed from a State title, but the Bulldogs have been very competitive since as well, including a run through the playoffs last season that ended in Kalispell against a talented Glacier team.
With a heavy load of returning starters, including many at skill positions, Grey said he expects the Wolfpack to be the team to beat this season.
Thanks to work from head coach Tony Arntson, Grey pointed to Helena High as another of the top teams in the 14-team Class AA ranks.
Rounding out Grey’s top six are Great Falls Russell, Helena Capital, Billings Skyview and Billings Senior.
“There’s those top three, but it’s really wide open,” Grey observed. “It’s one of the great things about the AA in that there are a lot of teams able to win ball games. You have to be prepared every week and you’ve got to be focused. Every game is a conference game and every game matters, and that starts with Week 1.”