By Bill Foley
Arie Grey has a secret, and he is not going to give it away.
Butte High’s head football coach knows which one of his players will start at quarterback Friday when the Bulldogs open Western AA play against Helena High at Naranche Stadium. He just is not going to say.
Is it Jace Stenson? Maybe. How about Kenley Leary? That is another possibility. We will find out shortly after the game kicks off at 7 p.m. (Radio: KBOW, 550 AM, 101.5 FM, kbow550.net or on the KBOW app.)
“Ultimately, the No. 1 thing we have to do is put the best players on the field, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Grey said of his quarterback situation. “There will be times when we have both on the field, and there will be times when one will be on the field.”
Leary, a senior, passed for one touchdown and busted a big run that set up another one as the Bulldogs beat Great Falls High 17-7 last Friday in Great Falls. Stenson, a junior, threw for a pair of touchdowns the week before in Butte’s 18-17 loss at Billings Senior.
“It’s an advantage to be able to have two quarterbacks, and they’ve both been very productive,” Grey said.
There will be no secrets when it comes to which quarterback Helena High will start. Senior Kaden Huot, a 6-foot-4 senor who earned second-team All-State honors a year ago, will lead the 2-0 Bengals into Naranche.
Through two games, Huot has completed 70 percent of his passes while compiling 486 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. He has also run for 117 yards and a touchdown for Helena, which beat Great Falls 22-0 in Great Falls before topping Billings Senior 28-14 last week in Helena.
Butte High held up against Reed Harris of Great Falls last week. Grey said that matchup was good prep for the Bulldogs, who will have to step it up even more to slow down Huot, who committed to play at the University of Montana this summer.
“I think Huot would much rather throw it than run it,” Grey said. “The thing I’ve been impressed with is how much better his composure is in the pocket.”
Huot has three receivers who have reached double digits in catchers already in seniors Chase McGurran and Kade Schlepp and junior Cade Holland. Senior Marcus Evans has racked up 102 yards and a score on the ground.
Defensively, the Bengals get after the quarterback. The team already has 13 sacks on the season, with Evans, Holland and senior Forrest Suero each registering three.
“We’re excited to welcome Helena High into Naranche Stadium,” Grey said. “They’re a pretty talented team on both sides of the ball, and we’re excited to see what we can do.”
Whichever quarterback plays, grey said getting the ball in the hands of the likes of Cameron Gurnsey, Cole Worley, Dylan Snyder, Jonas Sherman and Braden Cetraro is key.
“We have to do a great job offensively and getting the ball into the hands of our playmakers, and we have a decent amount of playmakers,” Grey said.
Gurnsey, a 6-2, 185-pound junior, is off to an incredible start. He already has 20 catches for 255 yards and a score. He went up high to make a sick catch for a 49-yard reception from Stenson last week.
Worley, a 5-6 senior, caught a perfect pass from Leary and raced 65 yards for a touchdown. Sherman caught a TD against Senior.
Behind linemen Daniel Huerta, Zach Tierney, Rylan Mulcahy, Kooper Klobucar, Quinn Boyle Tierney, Devin Cook, Wyatt Mullaney and Blake Facincani, Gavin Vetter has 109 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Defensively, senior middle linebacker Keegen Muffich and senior safety Cole Stewart are off to strong starts to lead the Bulldogs. Muffich leads the team with 23 tackles, including a team-best three for a loss. Stewart has 21 tackles, while senior linebacker Luke Anderson has 16.
Wylie Dallasera, Tierney, Max Demarais, Kale McDonald and Snyder each have reached double digits in tackles through two games. Snyder, Mulcahy and Riley Downey have gotten in on sacks. Dallaserra forced a fumble, and John Lerum recovered one.
Butte High has a weapon on special teams in senior Casey Kautzman. In addition to his range as a field goal kicker, he also helps the Bulldogs pick up hidden yardage on kickoffs and punts.
Friday’s game starts a run of seven straight weeks of playing Western AA games. The top six teams from the division will qualify for the Class AA playoffs.
While the meaning increases drastically this week, Grey said the Bulldog preparation really has not. He emphasized the team has to continue to get better by 1 percent every day.
“Everything’s got to stay the same,” he said. “Is this game a little bit more important than last week’s game? Yeah. But it’s just a game.”
Butte High will travel to Kalispell Flathead and Missoula Big Sky the next two weeks. Butte High will play back-to-back home games against Helena Capital and Kalispell Glacier on Oct. 1 and Oct. 8.
After a trip to Missoula Hellgate on Thursday, Oct. 14 the Bulldogs will close the season at home against defending state champion Missoula Sentinel on Thursday, Oct. 21.
Grey said none of those games will be easy.
“The Western AA is tough,” Grey said. “I think it ended up going 10-6 in cross over (against the Eastern AA). The West is going to be tough, but it always is.”