Butte High’s last two games with Great Falls Russell have literally come down to the last minute – if not the last play.
Don’t be surprised with another great finish Friday, as the Bulldogs play host to the Rustlers at 7 p.m. at Naranche Stadium as Butte High celebrates Silver B night.
Butte High had a big second-half rally in last year’s 38-35 win in Great Falls, while the Bulldogs held the Rustlers out of the end zone on a 2-point conversion attempt to claim a 1-point semifinal win in 2012.
“CMR is big and athletic,” Observed Butte High head coach Arie Grey. “They’ve got good skill players and a good offensive line.”
Grey expressed respect for big running back Andrew Grinde, who is averaging 117 yards rushing and 72 yards receiving per game with five touchdowns so far.
“The kid is big, strong, fast, athletic … just about everything you can think of,” Grey said. “He runs downhill and he’s very talented. We need to know where he is all the time.”
The Rustlers are 1-1 after a tight 33-28 first-week win over Missoula Sentinel, and a come-from-ahead loss at Kalispell Glacier last Friday.
Butte is also 1-1, but the Bulldogs are riding a 14-7 win over Helena Capital last Friday in which the Butte defense played one of its better games in recent memory.
“Each unit of the defense stepped up and played well,” Grey said. “They were ready to bring it. I’m very proud of the defense and also of the staff for getting them ready.”
Butte’s defense created five turnovers and stepped up after each of the five turnovers committed by the Bulldog offense.
“They were never upset about having to go back out there,” Grey noted. “They wanted to be there, and that’s huge.”
Standing out for the Bulldog defenders was senior captain Clay Dean, who earned the privilege of wearing No. 35 this week in honor of former Bulldog Bo Taylor, who was killed in a recent industrial accident.
“You look at Clay Dean, and he plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played,” Grey said. “He plays with heart, he’s physical, he brings passion and he’s so smart. Clay is a phenomenal leader for us. He’s not vocal, but he carries himself so well on and off the field. He epitomizes what Bo was all about.”
Grey also gave a nod to his team’s offensive line, which was a largely untested group coming into the season. Senior captain Jake Urich was the only returning starter.
“The line has progressed as the year’s gone on,” Grey said. “We ran the ball better on Friday, and we need to continue to improve. They’re a close-knit bunch and Urich has done a great job leading these guys and getting them ready to Roll. Cody Baszler, Ted Warthen and Riley Vaughn are all so coachable and so smart. They have a great knowledge of the game.”
The whole show will happen with the Butte High Silver and Golden B’s in attendance. Letter-winning football players from 25 and 50 years ago will be honored at a banquet before the game, and then the group will take the field to help welcome the 2014 Bulldogs.
“Silver B night has a special place in my heart,” Grey said. “Growing up with coach (Al) Cutler and hearing about all the traditions was great. These guys are one of the most supportive organizations we have.”
Grey noted keys for a Butte victory on Friday.
“Defensively we need to stop the run and limit the big plays,” he said. “Offensively, we need to be able to run and make the big plays, and we need to take care of the ball. We’ll have to be very sound on special teams. They have some explosive returners and field position will be huge. We’ve got to pin them and give ourselves a short field.”
As usual, Grey is excited for the challenge posed by CMR.
“They’re going to be a great challenge for us,” he smiled. “But we’ve got a chance to be home on one of the great nights of the year, Silver B’s. That kind of pride is what Butte is all about.”