By Bill Foley
Proudly displayed inside Butte High football coach Arie Grey’s offices is a piece of hardware called the “Homestake Trophy.”
The trophy resides with the winning team of the Butte High-Bozeman football game each year, and the Bulldogs have possessed it since last year’s 31-7 victory over the Hawks at Naranche Stadium.
When the Bulldogs and Hawks battle at 7 p.m. Friday at Van Winkle Stadium in Bozeman, possession of the prized trophy for several years could be hanging in the balance. (Radio: KBOW, 550 AM, 101.5 FM, online or on the KBOW app)
This Butte High-Bozeman matchup could be the last for a while.
“This could be it,” Grey said Thursday.
With Belgrade set to move up next year, the Class AA is in the process of figuring out a schedule with two divisions, Grey said. Butte High would play in the Western AA, while Bozeman would compete in the Eastern AA.
Non-conference opponents will rotate each year, meaning the 2018 Bulldog-Hawks clash could be the last for quite some time.
“We haven’t figured that out yet,” Grey said. “We could play them next year, or it could be a deal where we don’t play them for four, five or six years.”
So, Butte High wants to make sure the trophy stays at 401 S. Wyoming.
“That’s the idea is to keep it there for a while,” Grey said.
The Butte High-Bozeman rivalry dates back to 1904, and the Bulldogs have played the Hawks every year since 1980. Butte High leads the all-time series 43-26-3. (Series history)
That, of course, includes’ Butte High’s 38-36 win over the Hawks in the 2012 Class AA state championship game.
More importantly, the 2018 Bulldogs need a win to even their record at 2-2 when they battle the 3-0 Hawks.
The Bulldogs are coming off last week’s 37-27 loss at Helena Capital. It is a loss Butte High surely feels should have been a win.
“You turn on the film and it’s just a couple of play here and there,” Grey said. “The kids are awesome. They’re good kids. They work hard. They have good attitudes and good effort. It’s just a little mistake here. Now we’ve got to cut those mistakes down.”
Bozeman, one of three unbeaten Class AA teams, is coming off last week’s 38-22 win at Kalispell Glacier. Before that, the Hawks beat Billings West 37-33 in Bozeman and Missoula Hellgate 49-6 in Missoula.
“They’re a very talented team,” Grey said. “Obviously, they have done some good things this year. They won a tight game against Billings West, and they went on the road and won in Kalispell, which is a tough place to play.”
Kris Brown, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound quarterback leads Bozeman’s balanced offense. He is completing 60 percent of his passes for 706 yards. He’s thrown seven touchdowns and four picks.
Brown is also a threat with is feet, as is 6-foot, 195-pound senior running back Joe Olson.
Olson enters the game with stats that resemble a video game. He has ran for 596 yards and five touchdowns through three games. That is an average of 8.4 yards per carry and 198.7 yards per game.
“He’s got good speed,” Grey said of Olson. “He sees a seam and he can hit it. He’s got phenomenal balance. You think he’s down and he keeps going.”
Grey added that the Bozeman offensive line is the key to the offense.
“They’re skill kids are really good, but their O-line is what keeps them going,” Grey said. “They’re tough. They’re good. They’re just a really solid offensive line. They open up some nice holes, they give their quarterback some time. They’ve got some kids who can get open.”
The skill guys include Ryan Lonergan, a 6-4, 200-pound senior tight end. Lonergan has caught 19 passes for 320 yards and three touchdowns. Classmate Ryan Simpson, a 6-6, 160-pound receiver, has added 12 receptions for 152 yards and two scores.
On the other side of the ball, Kenneth Eiden IV, a 6-1, 220-pound sophomore, leads the team with 7 and a half sacks and 29 tackles, 22 of which are solo.
“They’re a team that plays hard and plays fast,” Grey said
Through three games, Grey said there is a lot to like about his Bulldogs. That, he said, was fully on display last week.
“We’re asking them to have a great attitude. Check, did it,” Grey said. “We’re asking them to play with great effort. Check, did it. We’re asking them to play all play long. Check, did it. We’ve got to be better in the second quarter, and we have to be better in special teams. If we can take care of those two things, good things are going to happen.”
Defensively, the Butte High coach said he wants his team to resemble something other than its mascot.
“When the whistle blows to stop a play, we need to have 11 guys there,” Grey said. “Like gnats. They’re always in our face and we want to get rid of them. That’s what we want to be, just little pests where flying around, getting to the ball, playing with a ton of energy and playing a bunch of passion.”
Senior linebacker Carl Anderson leads the Bulldogs with 23 tackles, 18 of which are solo. Junior Scout Allen has 18 tackles, while seniors Dakota Eggers, Kale McCarthy and Rylan Waananen and junior Kameron Moreno each have 15.
Allen, McCarthy, Anderson and senior Josh Neil each have a pick on the season, while sophomore Christian Vetter registered a pair of sacks. Moreno and senior lineman Austin Endy each have one sack.
Offensively, junior quarterback Tommy Mellott is coming off a huge game. He threw for a touchdown — and 75-yard strike to McCarthy — and ran for three in the loss to Capital and Vigilante Stadium in Helena.
Mellott is completing 58 percent of his passes for 848 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. He’s also ran for 182 yards and four TDs.
Junior Quinn Sullivan, a 6-foot, 170-pound receiver, is Mellott’s top target. Sullivan has 16 receptions for 384 yards and three touchdowns. He is one of nine Bulldogs with at least one reception on the season.
Junior Tucker Winston has nine, McCarthy and Neil each caught eight, and junior Cory West and senior Kash Kelly both have seven.
Behind a starting offensive line of Ryan McCarthy, Lucas Kingston, Ty Raiha, Konor McClafferty and Kyle Harding, the Bulldog running game has gotten better each week.
Last week, the Bulldogs ran for more than 200 yards, 142 from Mellott.
Friday’s game continues a tough stretch for the Bulldogs. It is the second of four road games in five weeks.
Next week, the Bulldogs play host to Missoula Sentinel. Then they make back-to-back trips to play West and Senior.
Butte High Starters
Center — Ryan McCarthy, 6-1, 260, senior. Guards — Lucas Kingston, 6-0, 230, junior; Ty Raiha, 6-0, 250, sophomore. Tackles — Konor McClafferty, 6-5, 210, junior; Kyle Harding, 6-1, 240, senior. Tight end — Quinn Sullivan, 6-0, 170, junior. Receivers — Kale McCarthy, 6-1, 160, senior; Tucker Winston, 5-11, 160, junior; Kash Kelly, 5-9, 150, senior. Running back — Josh Neil, 5-9, 155, senior. Quarterback — Tommy Mellott, 6-1, 180, junior.
Nose guard — Kingston. Tackles — Austin Endy, 6-1, 185, senior; Rylan Waananen, 6-1, 200, senior. Linebackers — Kameron Moreno, 5-8 190, junior; Carl Anderson, 51-0, 170, senior; Calvin Snow, 5-6, 170, senior; Christian Vetter, 5-11, 165, sophomore. Cornerbacks — McCarthy; Neil. Safeties — Scout Allen, 5-7, 140, junior; Dakota Eggers, 5-11, 165, senior.
Kicker — Trevyn Roth, 6-0, 155, senior. Punter — Mellott. Punt returner — Kelly. Kick returners — Sullivan, Neil. Holder — Mellott.
Class AA Standings
Great Falls High 3-0
Helena High 3-0
Billings West 2-1
Kalispell Flathead 2-1
Missoula Sentinel 2-1
Billings Senior 2-1
Butte High 1-2
Helena Capital 1-2
Missoula Big Sky 1-2
Great Falls Russell 1-2
Kalispell Glacier 0-3
Billings Skyview 0-3
Missoula Hellgate 0-3