By Bruce Sayler
Figuring out the Class A high school football playoffs scene might be fairly complicated, but Butte Central head coach Don Peoples Jr. said the problem is simple for the Maroons.
“If you win, you’re in,” he said. “We’re treating it like a do-or-die game.”
The regular season will close for BC and others on Friday. The Maroons will play host to Corvallis at 7 p.m. on the Bob Green Field at Montana Tech. It will be BC’s last home game and the school will be celebrating Senior Night with the senior players to be honored before kickoff. (Radio: KOPR 94.1 FM or online)
“There are some playoff scenarios involving other teams,” Peoples said. “But, we haven’t talked to the kids about it. We simply feel you have to win the game to be in the playoffs.”
Butte Central goes into the contest with a 4-3 record that includes a 1-3 Southwestern A Conference. Corvallis is 3-4 and 0-4 in the Southwestern A. The Blue Devils are looking to end a four-game losing streak.
They lost 34-14 to undefeated league leader and defending state Class A champion Dillon last week, but were 14-all with the Beavers in the second half. Having to make an important midseason personnel adjustment derailed Corvallis as the conference schedule started, but it looked on the verge of gelling last week.
Butte Central snapped a three-game losing skid last week by blanking Stevensville 34-0 and also has had to compensate injuries to key players.
The adjustment Corvallis head coach Clayton Curley had to fit was for injured star quarterback Liang Liedle and then installing a new offense. Liedle was a league leader in several categories before being lost. Senior wide receiver Ridge Albright, a 5-foot-2, 170-pounder, was moved to quarterback and what Peoples said was the Georgia Tech offense became the Blue Devils’ offensive game plan.
“Their quarterback (Leidle) was a really dynamic athlete,” Peoples said. “They had to change things. Their new offense, a Georgia Tech offense, is getting better each week. It is run-oriented and they did well against Dillon.”
Peoples said the Corvallis offense now centers on Albright and 6-foot-2, 215-pound junior fullback Hunter Pinheiro.
“They’ll really try to pound the ball,” Peoples said. “Then, when they get a bunch of guys trying to tackle Pinheiro, they’ll go for the big play on the perimeter with a pitch or pass.”
Albright is certainly keeping for yardage, too, but can pitch to quick running back Wyatt Ballman, a 5-9, 155-pound senior, and other backs. Receiving options include 5-9, 155-pound senior Garrick Richardson, 5-9, 145-pound sophomore Jaymark Liedlie and 6-2, 210-pound senior tight end Zach Jessop.
Pinheiro’s size is a challenge for tacklers, but getting to him is, too., Peoples said, adding three large Corvallis linemen will try to dominate the trench. The linemen include 6-3, 265-pound junior Garrett Brown, 6-2, 265-pound senior James Shepherd and 6-1, 240-pound senior Nate LaBrosse.
“Our interior linemen on our defense have a huge challenge,” Peoples said. “Our defense will be tested. We have to be following our assignments and play disciplined football.”
Peoples said Thursday was the last day of concussion protocol for junior quarterback Cade Holter, who was hurt two three weeks ago. Peoples said he didn’t know, though, yet, if Holter would be cleared for Friday.
Sophomore Thomas McGree has been filling in at the spot. Senior Ryan Moodry has enjoyed a standout season at running back and linebacker. Junior Clay Fisher brings speed to the backfield and as a linebacker. Senior Allen Boyle and sophomores Matt Simkins and Trevor Neumann, and McGree, are receiving threats. The line gels a little more with Hunter Hartwick, Aaron Richards, Zeb Antonioli, Saxon Walton and Seth Gardner. Many of the same players are on defense with Hartwick, Simkins, Antonioli and Richards on the line, and Moodry, Fisher and Dylan Shea as the linebackers. Shea plays some fullback on offense. McGree and Jared Simkins or Neuman are at the safeties while Boyle and Aiden Petritz are the cornerbacks. Moodry kicks and punts.
McGree quarterbacked the road win over Stevensville.
“Our kids were focused on playing a complete football game and rose to the challenge on the road,” Peoples said. “We’re playing much better defense than we were the first two weeks of the season.
“On offense, we have to execute and play well, and finish drives.”
The coach said Senior Night is always a meaningful night for the program.
“It’s a big night for us,” he said. “We’ll honor our senior players and our kids will want to play their best football for them.”
The Butte Central seniors playing their last home game are Allen Boyle, Patrick Harrington, Ryan Moodry, Hunter Hartwick, Seamus Anderson, Dylan Shea, Johnny Williams, Zeb Antonioli, Saxon Walton and Gage Young.