Excited Bulldogs head back to Billings to battle Bears

By Bruce Sayler

Braced optimism and new confidence joined with the Butte High Bulldogs this week at their Naranche Stadium football practices after their exhilarating 26-21 win at home last Friday.

Butte High reported Monday ready for work, head coach Arie Grey said, with spirits buoyed by the come-from-behind victory over Great Falls’ C.M. Russell Rustlers on Silver B’s Night.

The focus, though, is renewed this week as the Bulldogs have been preparing for a game with Billings West for their next Class AA Conference test. The set-to is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Friday at Daylis Stadium in Billings. (Radio: KBOW 550 AM, 101.5 FM, online)

The tilt with the Golden Bears will mark Butte High’s third trip to Daylis Stadium this season and it has a split at the venue — a season-opening win over Billings Skyview and then a loss to still-undefeated Billings Senior.

“We know our way to the locker room there a little better than we do at home,” Grey joked, alluding to just the two home games the Bulldogs have played at Naranche Stadium this fall.

Little time was given to celebrate the win over CMR that saw Butte High score 23 unanswered points in the second half to pull out the victory.

“I most proud of how the boys came back this week and worked hard,” Grey said.

The win put the Bulldogs at 2-3 for the season while Billings West is 4-1 after a 35-34 road win in overtime last week against Missoula Big Sky. Grey said the concern for his team will to execute its capabilities.

“For us, we’re worried mostly about ourselves,” he said. “We showed we could score points quickly (against Russell). I think we raised some eyebrows as to what we could do. You have to credit the kids. When things were looking bleak, they still played hard and talked it up on the sidelines.

“That worked out for us. The kids kept their composure and just kept going to the next play. They believed and that was awesome. Hats off to the boys. They competed.”

The challenge with Billings West, Grey said, is all the way around.

“Their good on both sides of the ball and their kick and return teams are pretty good, too,” he said.

It starts with the talented senior twins. Bryson and Brandon Deming are burning through Class AA opposition for the second year in a row with the 6-foot-4, 190-pound Bryson Deming the All-State returnee at quarterback and his twin brother, 6-4, 215-pound Brandon Deming a favorite receiver at tight end. Both have committed to continue their careers as Montana Grizzlies after high school graduation.

“The quarterback is a pretty good thrower and a pretty good runner,” Grey said. “He’s athletic. They also have great receivers and running backs and he gets (the ball) to them. We have to be able to contain him.”

The receivers include Brandon Deming and 6-1, 180-pound wideout Chaz Maddock as leaders for Rob Stanton, who is in his second year as head coach of the Golden Bears after taking over for Butte native Paul Klaboe, who retired after the 2014 season.

Most of the Billings West threats are seniors. However, the lead runner has been junior Elijah Brewer.

“This is a great chance for our defense to rise up,” Grey said. “(The Golden Bears) screen a lot, like we do. Our defense sees that.”

Grey added that Billings West is as hard to move defensively, as it is to stop offensively. Linebacker Mitchell Tausisi’i Porter, a 6-0, 215-pound senior, is a stalwart in the Golden Bears’ defense.

“They’ll be solid on defense,” he said. “They play a lot of cover-4 with a shell and make you make mistakes.

“We have to put long drives together and if the opportunity is there to make a big play, we have to make the big play.”

The Bulldogs did last week. Junior quarterback returned to the lineup after missing a game because of injury and responded with touchdown passes to Kiley Caprara and Will O’Connor, and carried in the clincher on a short carry after a completion to Caprara in the last half-minute set up the TD.

Caprara, O’Connor and Will Brandon will again in receiver spots with Peterson at quarterback. Nathaniel Ferguson, who kicked a 25-yard field goal in the win, will be at tight end. Beau Mortensen continues as the crunching running back. Up front, Grey said the Bulldogs will start Cody Berge at center, Greyson Mandic and Jeff Queer at the guards, and Riley Dobb and Connor Miller at the tackles.

Defensively, Mandic and Corbin Walker will start at tackles, Brian LaFond and Jake Moore will be at the ends, and Willie Anderson, Dobb and Jacob Masters will be the starting linebackers. O’Connor and Tyler Vetter will play the corners with Bryce Gallagher and Tommy Martz manning the safeties, Grey said.

LaFond and Austin Lee both had big tackles in the backfield in the fourth quarter to help the Bulldogs to the win over the Rustlers, Walker and Moore combined on a blocked punt and recovery that led to a safety, and Vetter led the team in tackles.

“We’re heading in the right way and we definitely needed that win,” Grey said. “The kids are excited for this game. I don’t think it really fazes them that we’re going to Billings again. Hopefully, we can repeat the first time we were there. Offensively, we need to do good things and, defensively, we need to make big stops at critical moments.

“We can take the next step to where we want to be.”