Maroons come out big and fast for scrimmage watchers

The Maroon machine needs to connect all the moving parts, but the pieces certainly all seem to be there for another successful Butte Central high school football season.
The BC team held its Maroon-and-White preseason scrimmage Saturday morning on the Torger Oaas Maroon Field and a good-sized crowd got a look at a lot of promise. A good nucleus of standouts from last year’s state Class A runner-up team performed as expected. The first offense trampled the second defense, and the first defense stifled the second offense. Of course, the firsts are the pretty much the same players on both sides of the ball, as are their backups on the second teams.
Head coach Don Peoples Jr. welcomed one of his highest turnouts in 26 years at the helm as 39 players hit the field for Butte Central football.
“We’re not quite ready for a game,” Peoples assessed after the scrimmage. “I think we’re a week away.”
The Maroons,the 2014 Southwestern A Conference champions, are to open their season Friday with a non-league home game against Belgrade on the Bob Green Field at Montana Tech.
“A bunch of kids made athletic, speed plays,” Peoples said. “We had a lot of kids swarming to the football on defense. But we have to keep in mind that they were playing against a lot of younger guys.”
Offensively, junior Tanner Kump, with some limited varsity experience, is stepping up to take over for graduated two-year starter Danny Peoples and combines good speed with a fine throwing arm in the quarterback position. He scored on a 55-yard dash threw four touchdown passes in what looks like will be a dangerous big-play attack. His TD tosses were of about 35 and 80 yards to junior Nate McGree, 20 yards to senior Cole Harper and 10 yards to sophomore Ryan Moodry.
Senior Kyle Harrington, a 1,000-yard-plus rusher last year, displayed his power and speed on 60- and 80-yard touchdown bursts. McGree also busted an 80-yard TD run. The defense got into the scoring act with three interception returns for touchdowns — 40 yards by McGree, 55 by Kump and 15 by senior Cal Hollow.
Harrington and Hollow also teamed up on a quarterback sack, and senior defensive end Kyle Schulte collected a batch of tackles in the backfield.
Harrington has grown to 6-foot, 195 pounds since last year while keeping his sprinter’s speed, and McGree, who started in the secondary later in last year’s season, has shot up to 6-3, 200, and may have even improved his speed.
Another speedster, junior Blake Burton, sat out the scrimmage, but is expected to contribute much when he recovers from a leg injury suffered during a summer football camp.
“Offensively, we have good speed kids,” coach Peoples said. “Overall, we might have even more speed than we did last year.”
The line has good size. Schulte, a tight end/fullback and linebacker last year, is moving inside to tackle on offense, and going to end on defense, and joins returnees Jake Michelotti (6-0, 240 senior), Ryan Richards (5-11, 285 junior) and Ethan St. John (6-3, 265 senior) in the trenches. Also, senior Liam Devine (5-10, 200) saw quite a bit of time up front last year. Junior lineman Paul Thomas LaFleur, however, will miss the season with a knee injury, also suffered in a summer football camp, Peoples said.
The defense is a veteran group.
“We have seven or eight kids who played a lot of key minutes on defense in the state championship game,” the coach said.
Some have changed position. Schulte, 6-2 and 205, is now at end and McGree moves to linebacker from safety. Harrington returns at the other end while the offensive interior linemen will also play inside on defense. Several players contend for open linebacker spots while the secondary has starters Harper and Colin McArthur returning at the corners and Hollow back for a third year starting at free safety.
Peoples said many candidates are looking to take over the kicking duties, held by his son for four years before taking them to the University of Montana program. Junior Archie Petritz performed the tasks Saturday and Schulte has previous punting experience.
“Development of the offensive line is always the hardest (of preseason workouts),” the coach said. “It is especially so with it having to learn pass protection, run-block, and the different nuances in option, screen pass and so forth. The offensive line just needs to gel. But even though we’ve had only eight days of practice, the kids have playing football since June 1st with the seven-on-seven summer competitions and the camps we go to.
“We have work in the kicking game, but to be fair, the kids (practicing for the spot) have been kickers only about a month-and-a-half and there’s a lot to learn. We need somebody to kick extra points. We might be going for nothing but touchdowns until we get to the 10-yard line.”
A different element in this year’s scrimmage, Peoples pointed out, was that the freshman candidates didn’t have to take the upperclassmen’s brunt so much. More depth exists in the sophomore and junior classes than has existed in more recent seasons. So, the varsity’s showing Saturday was against bigger, more physically developed and experienced opposition than was usually available.
“There is an air of optimism, right now,” Peoples said, with a smile, about the anticipation for the season. “Everybody is undefeated.”
Peoples’ assistants this year are defensive coordinator Tom Peterson, offensive coordinator Doug Peoples, and position coaches Stephen Burns, Mike Paffhausen, Scott Mansanti, Marcos Pica, Jeff Hartwick, Pat Schulte and Clay McQueary.

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