Hamilton turns back BC for key SWA victory

Hamilton turns back BC for key SWA victory

By Derek Hendrickson

HAMILTON — The Hamilton Broncs managed to make more plays and secure the number two seed in the Southwestern A Conference with a 48-29 victory over the Butte Central Maroons on a chilly, wet Friday night in the Bitterroot Valley.

The 19-point win was much closer than the final score would seem to indicate as the Broncs went to the 4th quarter with a tenuous 34-27 lead but a Ty Chouinard punt return to the Maroon 8 yard line set up a Manny Rivera touchdown run and forced Central into scramble mode.

The teams combined for 11 turnovers, six by the Maroons and 5five by Hamilton.  Central also would turn the ball over on downs twice in the final frame, once at the Bronc 36 and again at the Hamilton 5.

While the Maroons had a hard time keeping the ball in their possession on the soggy field their dedication was not in question.  Head Coach Don Peoples Jr. spoke about this after game, saying, “The kids played their tails off.  The turnover game hurt us a bit I think.  We played a lot harder than last week and we’re disappointed that we lost but I’m really proud of the effort and I think we can build off this.”

The key difference in the turnover battle was the field position the Broncs seemed to gain after every one.  Two of the turnovers the Maroons forced were deep in their own territory and seemed to be momentum swinging plays.

Unfortunately for the Maroons, Central was forced to punt on each of those occasions.  The first time was a Johnston interception that was the third consecutive play with a turnover and came with under 2 minutes left until halftime and the score knotted at 20.

Hamilton took the first punt and started in Central territory. Two quick passes to Tyler Barnes gobbled up 45 yards and put the Broncs up 27-20 at halftime.

The other was the Chouinard return that set the Broncs up with a first and goal before giving them a two score lead in the fourth quarter.

The Maroons did manage to respond to early controversy, something they have struggled with in games this season.

After taking a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter on a 2-yard Nate McGree run the Maroons gave up 20 quick points before the end of stanza aided by two costly turnovers.

In games against Belgrade, Laurel and Polson the Maroons were unable to answer these types of momentum swings but tonight that was not the case.

Early in the second quarter a typical run up the middle looked destined for a short gain by Blake Burton but the gritty Maroon tailback never gave up on the play.  Out of nowhere he emerged out of the scrum and quickly got up to full speed, outrunning the Hamilton secondary to the end zone for an 85-yard touchdown and exactly the type of play the Maroons needed to cut the Bronc lead to 20-13.

That set up a string of big plays that seemed more like two prize fighters exchanging haymakers.

Clay Fisher made one of his numerous big plays in the Hamilton backfield on the next Bronc possession.  Sacking freshman quarter back Carson Rostad on third down to force a punt.

The Maroons had a promising drive going around midfield but defensive lineman Riley Presswood recovered a fumble to stymy that scoring attempt.

The Broncs appeared to be in business after a pass interference call had them in Maroon territory.  Fisher again busted through the Bronc offensive line and stripped Rostad and Archie Petritz was there to scoop up the ball.

Central cashed in on this break as McGree busted off a 20 yard run before Tanner Kump hit McGree for a 16 yard pass play to the 1 on 2nd and long.  McGree finished the drive on the next play and Ryan Moodry’s kick tied the game.

“I was really happy with the way we fought back,” Peoples said when asked about his team’s resiliency.  “When we’ve been down previous times this year it land slided on us but our kids hung in there and battled back and I’m proud of that.”

The ensuing kickoff set up the three straight turnovers.  Rivera took a screen pass for a long run and had the Broncs inside Maroon territory when Dylan Shea caught up and stripped him of the ball.

Wesley Swift was in the right place at the right on the next running play by the Maroons and then Sam Johnston made a leaping interception of Rostad’s deep ball.  Johnston is moving up the list of interception leaders with 4 on the season, tying him with several others for the 5th most in program history.

The Maroons employed a different defensive look, going with a 3-4 defense to get their playmaking linebacker Hunter Hartwick on the field more.  Hartwick responded with an effort similar to Fisher’s as he was causing havoc in the Bronc backfield all night with 2 sacks, a forced fumble and getting his hand on punt.

The rainy conditions made it challenging for the Maroons to throw the ball and they relied more on their running game, which was largely successful.  Burton finished with 190 yards on 16 totes.

Much like last year the opening round of the playoffs is looking like a Hamilton vs. Butte Central rematch.  Last year the Maroons knocked off Hamilton in the regular season 42-19 before ending their season 49-14 in an opening round playoff game.

This time around Hamilton will get to host both games if the current standings hold and Central will likely return to face the Broncs on Saturday, Oct. 29.

The Maroons will have a lot to build on if they do in fact return to face Hamilton.  Central outgained the Broncs by 100 yards for the game and limited the leading rusher in the conference, Rivera, to only 59 yards on 25 carries.

“I think we played really good on defense, but they are really good, they hit us over the top with some deep balls and the screens,” Peoples said when asked about facing the Broncs offense. “I really think our defense came out and played with a lot of heart tonight, which I’m really proud of.”

Central was also able to harass Rostad, a freshman, forcing 4 sacks on the game and just missing a couple would be interceptions.

Hamilton improves to 5-3 on the season and closes Southwestern A action at 3-1.  Their three losses have come at the hands of some of the top ranked teams in the state, Dillon, Columbia Falls and Polson.

The Maroons fall to 4-4 on the season and are now 2-1 in conference play.  The Maroons will close out the regular season with a rivalry game against Dillon next Friday on Bob Green Field at Montana Tech.  Central will honor their seniors who will play their final regular season home game against the Beavers and will look for a big hometown turnout.

The Beavers hammered Stevensville 54-21 Friday night and remain undefeated in Southwestern A action.  Dillon can claim the conference championship with a win or Central can force a three way tie for the league crown.

Butte Central            7          13        7          2 — 29
Hamilton                   20        7          7          14 — 48
First Quarter

BC — McGree 2 run (Moodry kick)
HAM — Rivera 40 pass from Rostad (Bauder kick)
HAM — Rostad 15 run (kick blocked by Shea)
HAM — Barnes 37 pass from Rostad (Bauder kick)
Second Quarter
BC — Burton 85 run (kick failed)
BC — McGree 1 run (Moodry kick)
HAM — Barnes 21 pass from Rostad (Bauder kick)
Third Quarter
HAM — Chouinard 38 pass from Rostad (Bauder kick)
BC — McGree 3 run (Moodry kick)
Fourth Quarter
HAM — Rivera 2 run (Bauder kick)
HAM — Rivera 4 yard run (Bauder kick)
BC — Safety, Rostad kneels down in endz one
— Butte Central (46-257), Burton 16-190, McGree 20-62, Kump 6-12, Moodry 2-9,  Fisher 2-(-16). Hamilton (32-46), Rivera  25-59, Rostad 7-(-13).
PASSING — Butte Central, Kump 7-30-1-152, McGree 1-1-0-20. Hamilton, Rostad 13-25-1-271.
RECEIVING — Butte Central, McGree 4-67, Johnston 3-66, Moodry 1-39. Hamilton, Barnes 4-102, Rivera 4-69, Chouinard 3-60, Bauder 2-40.

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