By Bill Foley
Last Friday’s football game with Helena Capital was hard for the Bulldogs to take.
The Bruins came to town and beat up Butte High to the tune of a 43-3 Western AA victory at Naranche Stadium. The win put a damper on Butte’s homecoming festivities, and it cost the players and coaches some sleep.
“If you pooled all of us together as a program, we probably didn’t get 8 hours of sleep,” Bulldog coach Arie Grey said.
This Friday cannot come faster for the Bulldogs as they look to bounce back in a 7:30 p.m. game against Kalispell Glacier at Naranche. (Radio: KBOW, 550 AM, 101.5 FM, kbow550.net or on the KBOW app.)
Grey said the Bulldogs have responded well from the lopsided beating that has to rank as one of the most surprising and disappointing losses in Grey’s 14 years at the helm of the Bulldogs. The coach said the players and coaches have used the game as a “learning experience” that will go well beyond the game of football.
“I’m really proud of them,” Grey said. “They took it to heart. As coaches, we took it to heart. We’re disappointed as a program how we were last week, and I think that’s what’s great about the game of football. We get another opportunity to right that ship and play up to the standard that we have already set.
“As players and coaches, we were upset that we didn’t play to that standard that we already set for this year, and this is a week where we get the opportunity to play to that standard.”
“I think we learned a ton about ourselves last week, and I’m proud of the way the kids have responded,” Grey said. “We’ve got to continue to respond that way. Those things are good in life to have. The thing now is, what are we going to do to get better?”
Butte High will have to be substantially better this Friday if it is going to knock off the Wolfpack.
Both teams enter the game at 4-2 overall. Butte High is 3-1 in conference play, while Glacier is 2-2. Like Butte High, Glacier enters the game licking its wounds from a lopsided loss.
Helena Capital beat up on the Wolfpack for a 48-24 win last Friday.
Butte High, though, has a secret weapon on its side. Actually, the Bulldogs will probably have 200 of them.
Friday is Silver B’s Night, and more than 170 Silver, Golden and Diamond B’s have RSVP’d to attend Friday’s dinner and attend the game. The organization expects its usual unannounced walk ins will push that number north of 200, and that is good news for the Bulldogs.
Through the years, Butte High has played its best with the former Bulldogs looking on. Butte High is 51-29-1 on Silver B’s Night. That includes a loss last year when the Silver B’s were not physically there because of COVID.
This year, the Silver B’s are inducting a double class because last year’s festivities had to be called off. Former Bulldogs become Silver B’s 25 years after their first varsity letter. They become Golden B’s after 50 years and Diamond B’s after 75.
(Click here to read a history of Silver B’s night written by Silver B’s historian Scott Paffhausen.)
“What a neat organization,” Grey said of the Silver B’s. “I don’t think people understand. Once you’re in it, I think is when you begin to understand. The nice thing is we get to be a part of it. There’s nothing like that anywhere in the country.”
Even with the boost from its alumni, beat coach Grady Bennett’s Wolfpack is easier said than done.
Jake Rendina, a 5-foot-11, 235-pound senior running back, leads the Wolfpack to town. He averages just under 6 yards per carry, racking up 653 yards through six games.
Rendina is looking to rebound from last week’s performance in which he was held to 39 yards on 18 carries by the Bengals. Last year, Redina ran for 191 yards and fourth touchdowns in a 33-17 win at Naranche.
Glacier is far from a one-trick pony, however. Junior quarterback Gage Sliter is completing 72 percent of his passes.
“Jake Redina is a big, physical running back,” Grey said. “He does a lot of good things with the ball in his hand. The quarterback is playing better. Each week he seems to grow and get better.
“They’ve always been one of those defenses that is exotic and plays fast. They’ve been a base team for a few years. This year they’re kind of back to the ways they were before. They bring guys from all over the place and try to disguise things for us.”
Butte High’s defense is looking for a big-time bounce back after giving up nearly as many points last week (43) as it did in its previous five games (52).
The Bulldogs should get a boost with the return of Dylan Snyder. The 6-2, 200-pound defensive end missed last week’s game with a leg injury. Snyder has five sacks on the season.
Butte High might still be without senior safety Cole Stewart, who dislocated a shoulder early in last week’s loss. He vowed to be back after returning to the sideline after a trip to the hospital last week.
If Stewart cannot go — and no Bulldog fans would bet against him — Butte High still has a lot of playmakers on the defensive side.
Keegen Muffich, Luke Andersen and Connor Konda are having a big season at linebacker. They play behind Snyder and fellow linemen Max Demarais, Zach Tierney, Kooper Klobucar, Marcus Manson, Riley Downey and Rylan Mulcahy.
Wiley Dallaserra has been solid at safety, and Kale McDonald and Holt Downey have made plays at corner. McDonald was one of the many Bulldogs to finish the last week’s game on the sideline with an injury, however.
Ethan Cunningham is more than a capable fill in at defensive back for the Bulldogs. He logged a ton of plays even before the Stewart injury. Also, Kenley Leary has filled multiple roles in the Butte defense.
Offensively, Butte High is smarting after not getting into the end zone for the first time since a 40-0 loss at Billings Senior on Sept. 16, 2016.
Junior Jace Stenson will benefit for the return of Snyder, giving the quarterback another huge target opposite junior Cameron Gurnsey, who is threatening school records with 45 catches for 608 yards.
Butte High’s passing game took a hit when Braydon Cetraro left the last week’s game with an injury. The team still has weapons in Jonas Sherman, Cole Worley and Leary as targets.
The Bulldogs could use a big boost from a running game that has not put up big numbers so far this season. Gavin Vetter and Hunter Hotalen lead charge behind a line that lost right tackle Quinn Boyle to a broken ankle.
The Bulldog line will start, left to right, Daniel Huerta, Tierney, Mulcahy, Klobucar and Wyatt Mullaney. Devin Cook and Blake Facincani will rotate in. Jak Mortensen also saw time on the line last week.
Butte High’s special teams are led by Casey Kautzman, who is two weeks removed from booting a school-record 51-yard field goal. He is also a weapon on punts and kickoffs. The hidden yardage Kautzman gives the team could be key if Butte High pulls off a victory.
The Bulldogs are tied with Capital for second in the Western AA. Missoula Sentinel leads the way at 3-0. The Spartans had a game called off because of COVID-19.
Helena High and Glacier are tied for fourth at 2-2. The top two teams earn a bye in the playoffs, and the third and fourth teams play home games.
The winner of Friday’s battle at Naranche will have an inside track to at least playing its first playoff game at home.
Silver B’s night will be the last time Butte High plays on a Friday in the regular season. The Bulldogs head to Missoula Hellgate for a game next Thursday. They close the regular season the following Thursday at home against Missoula Sentinel.