After two 20 plus point come from behind victories in the 4th quarter, 2 straight road wins and a 3 game winning streak the 2023 Butte High Bulldogs silenced any doubters they may have had before tonight’s game. In a highly anticipated matchup against Missoula Sentinel the Butte High Bulldogs showed up and showed out and then some as they stifled the Spartans 47-35.
The Bulldogs got the ball first and it didn’t take long for the Spartan defense to let Butte know they were ready to play as Demarais floated a ball that was picked by Spartan D linemen Christian Knowles who returned it to the house for a pick 6 the first 10 seconds of the ball game.
Demarais came back calm and poised and found that man Rueso Battermann on a 40 yard strike on the Bulldogs next possession but the Spartan defense held strong and made a goal line stand turning away the Dogs.
The defense had one hell of a night and it started with a Luke Verlanic forced fumble recovered by Will Stepan, setting up the dynamic speedster Karson Pumnea for a 29-yard scamper to pay dirt and the Dogs would knot it up at 7 with 2:49 in the first quarter.
The first half saw 35 combined points by both teams, a young fella by the name of Tocher Lee had himself a night for the ages ladies and gents as he began his night on offense with a double pass to Bulldog wideout Sam Sampson for a 38-yard bomb that would set up a Trey Hansen 3-yard TD run with 11 seconds to go in the first quarter, 14-7 Butte.
4 minutes into the second quarter Riley Allen found Danny Sirmon for a 9 yard touchdown pass evening things up at 14 all with 8:16 to go in the first half.
Sentinel would get one more crack at things in the first half as they marched down the field and Allen found his top target Grady Walker for a 38-yard touchdown and Missoula would lead 21-14 at the half, but that would be the last time they saw the lead.
The Bulldog defense came out with immense energy in front of yet another purple packed house at Naranche and fed off of it. Tocher Lee this time on the defensive end came up with another huge momentum shifting play to take possession back from the Spartans to begin the second half picking off Allen and returning it 24 yards setting up a Bulldogs scoring drive on a 1-yard touchdown run from Homecoming King Bo Demarais.
On the Spartans next possession as they tried to get the offense going, Bulldog tackle leader Luke Verlanic made another forced fumble on one of the most fundamental tackles in the open field you’ll see, popping the ball out like a bad pimple before the Homecoming dance and Nolan Casey would dive on it and the Dogs were back in business in Spartan territory ready to strike again.
Demarais would roll out to the right off a play action and found sophomore tight end Hudson Luedtke wide open for another Bulldog score and within minutes the Bulldogs went down 7 to up 14 in the blink of an eye thanks to more stellar defensive play.
On the Bulldogs next possession, they saw an unsportsmanlike penalty with a late hit out of bounds and a pass interference call in the end zone to Rueso Battermann that would set up another 1-yard rush TD by Bo Demarais and the Bulldog lead blossomed to a 3-possession game right before the Naranche faithfuls eyes.
Just as Missoula found some momentum and moved the ball down field on their next possession they found themselves in the red zone ready to cut the lead to a 2 possession game, but Torre Temple had other plans as he soared and snagged an interception leading to an eventual Bulldog punt.
The Spartans would eventually find pay dirt in the second half on a quarter back keeper by Allen to find the end zone on a 6-yard rushing score.
The Bulldogs never let up and kept feeding the running game as Karson Pumnea exploded on a 68 yard rush to the end zone and cooler than the flip side of the pillow scored his second rushing touchdown of the night doubling his season total, Dogs 41-28 after a missed two point conversion.
Butte would again force a 3 and out after Kyler Stenson sacked Riley Allen as they were set to punt it away again to Tocher Lee, that would again be a bad idea for the Spartans, Tocher Lee received the punt inside enemy territory, he side stepped and cut buck up the Bulldog sideline and made it just inside the 10 yard line setting his team up yet again for success and another chance to score again, and that’s just what they did as Bo Demarais rushed for his 3rdtouchdown of the game on a 7 yard bootleg to the left pylon putting the Dogs up 47-28 after a missed 2 point try with 9:22 to go in the game, but Butte knew better than to think it was over as they found themselves in a similar situation down 3 scores with 10 minutes to go in the final frame just a few weeks prior.
Missoula got another crack at cutting into the lead before time expired they would march down the field to the 5 yard line where the Bulldog D saw a couple of penalties on the drive, the Bulldog D looked to make a stand inside the red zone and run the clock out, but Riley Allen found Grady Wilson on a bead of a pass and route to the back right Pylon of the end zone for a Spartan score on 4th and 5 to cut the lead to 12 at 47-35 with 6:35 to play.
That would be all for the Spartans as the Dogs defense again held strong and the run game again exploded for the Butte High Bulldogs carrying them to a division win and first place in the Western AA.
Trey Hansen (123) (1) and Karson Pumnea(158) (2) combined for 281 yards on the ground and 3 scores while Bo Demarais ran it 10 times for 52 yards and 3 scores, he also completed 12 of 26 attempts for 150 yards a passing touchdown and 2 interceptions. Rueso Battermann caught 2 balls for 80 yards, Hudson Luedtke had 6 tackles and hauled in 6 catches for 55 yards and a touchdown. Sam Sampson had 3 catches for 35 yards, Gavin Rowe caught one ball for 15 yards and Tocher Lee had 85 all purpose yards and an interception return for 24 yards, he also completed 1 of 1 passes for 38 yards.
Luke Verlanic recorded 13 tackles, 7 of them solo and had two forced fumbles, Nolan Casey had 8 tackles and a fumble recovery, Aiden Cuchine had 7, Torre Temple recorded 6 tackles and an interception, Kyler Stenson recorded a sack and 3 tackles, joined by Cayde Stajcar, Will Stepan, and Kade Scheelman all with 3 tackles, Stepan also recovered a fumble. Grady Winston and Trey Driscoll each recorded 2 tackles for the Bulldogs.
Butte will host Missoula Hellgate in another conference tilt Next Friday at Naranche and will look to make it 5 in a row as the top “Dogs” of the Western AA.