By Bruce Sayler
Tradition on parade will be part of the inspiration for Butte High’s Silver B’s football game against Bozeman on Friday at Naranche Stadium.
The kickoff for the Class AA Conference counter will be 7 p.m. on Butte High head football coach Arie Grey described as “the best night of the year.” (Radio: KBOW 550 AM, 101.5 FM or online)
Alumni Bulldogs to be honored will be the first-time letter winners from the 1992 season as Silver B’s, inductees from the 1967 Butte High team as Golden B’s and two from 1942 as Diamond B’s. Also, recently located 1937 letterman Gorham Ward, will be recognized as a Diamond B.
It will also another challenge for the Butte High team. Bozeman is undefeated at 3-0 and serves as the Bulldogs’ regional rival in assigned Class AA scheduling. As a result, the Hawks and Bulldogs tangle every year on the gridiron.
“It’s kind of a fun game for us because they are kind of our crosstown rival,” Grey said.
Both teams pack plenty of entertainment and competition into a team, too.
The Hawks, coached by Levi Wesche, own wins of 40-7 over Missoula Hellgate, 15-14 over Billings West and 7-6 over Kalispell Glacier, scoring a touchdown on a kickoff return to pull out their last victory.
“Bozeman, defensively, is pretty tough,” Grey said. “They get to the ball ad they do some things. Our mantra all week has been ‘Relax’ and just take what the defense gives us. We need to be better in the run game. Their defense competes and tackles really well. They shut down West and Glacier, which are two good offensive teams, very well. They’re physical.
“Offensively, they have talented running back s and receivers. The quarterback is pretty talented, too. They’ll usually be about 50-50 in running and passing the ball. If we can stop the run, we can create some confusion for their quarterback.”
The quarterback is Covina, California, transfer Chris Brown, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound junior, who is the younger brother of Montana State reserve quarterback Kamden Brown. The offensive arsenal also includes MSU Bobcat commit Logan Kleinhans, a 6-2, 200-pound senior receiver, as well as running back Jack Tetrault (6-0, 190), junior tight end Ryan Lonergan (6-5, 200) and senior receiver Latrell McCutcheon (6-0, 160).
The Bozeman defense is led by senior end Jory Choate, a 6-2, 185-pounder and son of Bobcat head coach Jeff Choate.
Butte High is 1-2 this season after last week’s home opener, a 44-7 loss to looming AA power Helena Capital. So, the Bulldogs’ first Friday night game of the year pits them against an unbeaten opponent for the third time in four weeks — including the season-launcher when all teams were 0-0. They lost to Flathead of Kalispell 27-19 to start the schedule, then slammed Hellgate 64-12 before their home debut.
A win Friday would mean much to Butte High’s standing in the Class AA playoffs race, though the season has not quite reached its halfway mark.
“It’s going to take a while for AA to shake out,” Grey said. “I think we played a really good Capital team last week and they were big and physical. But in AA it’s a tough game every week. In AA, there are no games off — you can’t take anyone lightly.”
Grey said the running game has received quite a bit of work in the week’s practices. Being able to move the ball on the ground could be a very good element in competing with the Hawks, he said. The passing game has been pretty good, though a fierce rush Capital applied last week disrupted the Bulldogs’ aerial plans.
“We have to run the ball effectively,” Grey said. “We will try to do some different things there.”
Sophomore Tommy Mellott is the quarterback while senior Beau Mortensen, a 195-pound bruiser, is the lead back in the running game. Junior Josh Neil also shares in the ball-toting. Several pass-catchers rotate through the receiver routes, led by senior tight end Nate Ferguson and junior wide-out Kash Kelly. Seniors Kaden Hanni and Kody Keene have been operating well at other receiver spots, along with senior Brady Deck and junior Kale McCarthy.
Center Carter Pribnow and fellow linemen Greyson Mandic, Kyle Fleming, Jeff Queer and Brennan Nielsen will man the spots in the trench.
Ferguson has been starring as a kicker and punter, and also ably holds down a defensive end spot. Mandic and Corbin Walker will also start on the line. Anderson has been at middle linebacker with Marcus Garcia and Cole Walker on the outside spots. Bozeman receivers figure to test the Bulldog secondary of Kale McCarthy, Ty Peterson, Robin Bagley and Dakota Eggars. Others will see defensive duty, too.
“I’m excited for the way the kids rebounded and responded (after the loss to Capital),” Grey said, noting that having an extra day this week before playing again was probably a benefit after three straight Thursday night games. “We have to take care of the ball. That’s a big deal. The ball is the program.
“Defensively, we have to create, create, create.”
The defense will be looking to confuse the Bozeman offense, nullifying speed and some size. The aim will be to pick up some turnovers.
“The whole team has to get better,” Grey said, “taking care of the ball on offense and creating turnovers on defense.”