Maroons break out for 39-13 win at Hardin

By Derek Hendrickson

HARDIN — The Butte Central Maroons faced a gut check moment in the waning moments of the 3rd quarter.

The home standing Hardin Bulldogs had just scored to retake a narrow 13-12 lead and recovered a fumble in Central territory. They had the ball, the momentum and a crowd hungry for a win after an 0-8 2014 to go with a one point defeat at Havre last weekend.

After ripping off two big runs the key play was a third and 6 at the Maroon 15. Bulldog quarterback Codi Small dropped back to pass and had an open receiver cutting across the middle when sophomore linebacker Hunter Hartwick leapt and just got a fingertip on the ball. That ended up being exactly the push the Maroons needed as the tipped pass found its way into the waiting arms of defensive tackle Ethan St. John.

Junior quarterback Tanner Kump atoned for his fumble by leading a determined 14-play, 90- yard drive that not only gave the Maroons the lead it also energized the team to have a huge fourth quarter that propelled them to 39-13 non-conference win to run their record to 3-0 on the season.

The Maroons used a big fourth quarter for the second straight week to turn a close game into one that appeared much easier than it was in reality.

Last week, the Maroons finally broke through with two late touchdowns at Browning to salt away the win. Tonight they doubled down and found the end zone four times to put up a decisive 27-0 final frame.

The Maroons methodical drive saw them overcome a holding call that put them in a hole and a sack that had them behind the chains.

The drive was capped in fitting fashion when Kump faked an inside handoff and then fought off two Bulldog defenders as be dove for the goal line. Kump then converted the 2-point conversion on a designed pass but scrambled to the opposite sideline to sneak in for a 20-13 lead.

The huge momentum shift fired up the Maroons and deflated Hardin.

Central forced a quick three and out and then found the lightning quick scoring punch they were searching for when superstar running back Kyle Harrington was lost for the season with a torn ACL.

On the first play after the Bulldog punt Nate McGree flashed both the power and speed Maroon fans have been spoiled with in recent years. McGree broke through a handful of would be tacklers in the first few yards of the run and then blazed away from the Bulldog secondary for a 65-yard scoring tote putting Central up 26-13.

Hardin’s hopes to stay in the game got a boost when they got a decent return and a late hit penalty that pushed the ball to midfield on the ensuing kickoff.

Looking to catch the Maroons on a play fake Small turned to find nothing but Central defenders in his face. He panicked and lobbed a pass to the sideline. Senior cornerback Cole Harper stepped in front and ran untouched down the sideline for a 58-yard score that was the Maroons third in about 2 minutes on the scoreboard clock.

Hardin was clearly shake by the quick turn of events and this showed up again on the next play. McGree squibbed the kickoff down the right sideline. A Hardin player was unsure about fielding it and kicked it about 3 yards in front of him. Ryan Ashby beat three Bulldogs to the ball and set Central up at the Hardin 30.

Kump and McGree would team up for the final points of the game on a 7 yard screen pass 6 plays later.

Central Head Coach Don Peoples Jr. talked about his team finally breaking through moments after his team celebrated a successful road trip, saying “I think that’s the key, we finally found a way to get points on the board.”

The Maroons had eked out wins with 16 and 20 points the first two weeks. They could have almost matched that total in the 4th quarter alone tonight but the coaching staff got the froshmore team some late reps.

“First half it seemed like we were up and down the field but we didn’t score enough,” Peoples said, in reference to his team’s 200 passing yards that only resulted insix points.

Some of that was bad luck as penalties reared their ugly head as the Maroons entered the red zone. Some of it was great defense by a very game Bulldog team. Some of it was bad timing as the Maroons had a promising drive end as the first half expired.

Peoples praised the effort of his team, saying “our kids hung in there and we were determined we were going to find a way to win.  I think we came of age in the second half against a good football team. They were big and physical.”

The Maroons totaled over 400 yards of offense, which was more impressive due to giving away 39 late in the game when two snaps went over backup quarterback Hartwick’s head.

Kump completed 18 of 29 passes for 309 yards. Senior wideout Cal Hollow led the Maroons in receiving as he had five grabs for 145 yards. He had some tough luck as his 21 yard catch on the last play of the half saw him get tackled at the 3. Hollow’s 60-yard catch and run set up the Maroons’ first score as the 2 play drive was capped by Burton’s 7 -yard dive.

McGree had a great all-around performance. He made the most of his 3 carries, taking them 77 yards and a score. He also was one of three Maroons to catch at least 5 passes, grabbing 6 for 59 more yards and 2 touchdowns.

Harper was mister reliable as a receiver, catching eight balls for 105 yards, several which keep drives alive on 3rd down.

Burton took his nine carries for 69 yards and the first Maroon touchdown of the night that cut the Bulldog lead to a point at 7-6 heading to halftime.

Central also got big plays from Kyle Schulte who tipped away a fourth down screen pass in the first half and was in on numerous tackles around the line of scrimmage.

Hardin was paced by their hard-nosed rusher Connor Murdock. Murdock carried the rock 22 times for a bruising 113 yards and both Bulldog touchdowns. The second one coming on 4th and goal from the 2 when he carried several Maroon tacklers into the end zone with him.

Hardin had visions of avenging a 51-15 blowout on the same field last year and was in the game until midway through the fourth

The Maroons will host another team looking for some payback when the Laurel Locomotives arrive next Friday night. The Maroons eliminated Laurel from the Class A playoffs last year with a 27-12 win on Bob Green field. Central will celebrate their homecoming against the Locomotives, a perennial Eastern A contender and one of the biggest schools in all of Class A.

Butte Central            0          6          6          27 — 29
Hardin                       0          7          6          0 — 13

Second Quarter
Hardin — Murdock 5 yard run (Coyote Runs kick) 7-0. Drive 8 plays, 67 yards. 2:47
BC — Burton 7 yard run (kick blocked) 7-6. Drive 2 plays, 67 yards. :34
Third Quarter
BC — McGree 24 yard pass from Kump (2 point pass failed) 12-7. Drive 4 plays, 61 yards. 1:15
Hardin — Murdock 2 yard run (2 point run failed) 13-12. Drive 11 plays, 61 yards, 5:2
Fourth Quarter
BC —  Kump 2 yard run (Kump run) 20-13. Drive 14 plays, 90 yards, 5:43
BC — McGree 65 yard run (kick blocked) 26-13. Drive 1 play, 65 yards, :15.
BC — Harper 58 yard interception return (pass failed) 32-13. Drive 1 play, 58 yards, :10
BC — McGree 7 yard pass from Kump (Tyler Kump kick) 39-13. Drive 6 plays, 30 yards, 2:56

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