Maroons eye playoff berth on Senior Night

A host spot in the playoffs, and maybe more, is on the line for Friday’s Hamilton-Butte Central football game scheduled for Bob Green Field on the Montana Tech campus.

The kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. and the game is a Southwestern A Conference high school contest.

The winner will lock up a first-round slot in the state Class A playoffs. Butte Central will also keep its league championship hopes alive with a victory while Hamilton, which has lost to undefeated Dillon, will secure the conference runner-up berth and first-round home field in the playoffs. Dillon and Butte Central will close out the regular season against each other on Friday, Oct. 23 in Dillon.

The league champion earns a first-round bye and second-round playoffs host opportunity. Whoever places third will be in contention for one of two wild-card berths assigned to the combined Southwestern A-Northwestern A group.

“This game is as big as they get (in the regular season),” Don Peoples Jr., head coach of the Maroons, said.

Butte Central is 2-0 in conference play, sharing the Southwestern A top spot with Dillon, and 5-2 for the season. Hamilton comes in at 2-1 and 6-1.

Adding to the moment will be that the BC seniors and their parents will be honored in Senior Night festivities prior to the game, Butte Central’s last home tilt of the regular season. The seniors are Tyler Kump, Kyle Harrington, Kyle Schulte, Cal Hollow, Ethan St. John, Jake Michelotti, Cole Harper, Colin McArthur and Liam Devine. Harrington and Devine have both been out because of injuries.

Butte Central seniors pose for a photo after the first game of the season. They are, back row from left, Kyle Harrington, Kyle Schulte, Liam Devine, Ethan St. John and Jake Michelotti, and back row from left, Colin McArthur, Cal Hollow and Col Harper. (Courtesy photo)

Butte Central seniors pose for a photo after the first game of the season. They are, standing from left, Kyle Harrington, Kyle Schulte, Liam Devine, Ethan St. John and Jake Michelotti, and kneeling from left, Colin McArthur, Cal Hollow and Col Harper. Senior Tyler Kump, who joined the team later in the season, is missing from the photo. (Courtesy photo)

Hamilton’s head coach is former Butte High offensive coordinator Travis Blome and one of the Broncs’ assistant coaches is Deer Lodge native Steve Weston, who headed a powerful Hamilton program for several years before stepping down.

Bret Huxtable, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior, is in his second year as Hamilton’s starting quarterback and his strength is running the offense by making good decisions. Huxtable is a capable runner and passer to make it all go.

The Broncs’ rushing attack features 6-0, 200-pound senior Alex Draper, who averages about 118 yards a game, second in the conference only to Corvallis’ Wyatt Haldorson. Also, expected to challenge the Maroons’ defense is 5-11, 185-pound sophomore Bridger Bauder, who earned postseason honors in 2014 playing is a freshman. He ranks second in the conference in receiving and is one of the top returners.

Another top receiver for the Broncs is 6-0, 200-pound senior Jonathan Ringer.

“Hamilton is a very good football team,” Peoples said. “Huxtable is a good, experienced quarterback and Draper, their running back is very good, and Bauder is one of the top receivers in Class A

“Then, they reloaded their line this year with a bunch of 240-pounders. I can’t believe how huge these teams are getting.”

Hamilton follows Corvallis and Polson as the third straight Butte Central opponent with large linemen to try to move and muscle.

The bigger Broncs include 5-10, 260-pound junior Jose Menjivar, 6-2, 260-pound junior Brendon Brown, 6-3, 240-pound sophomore Zach Fussell, 5-11, 230-pound sophomore Blake Pitzinger and 6-2, 220-pound junior Riley Presswood.

“Travis Blome and Steve Weston make them a very well-coached team,” Peoples said. “They execute well on offense and defense.”

The BC squad is coming off a 28-14 road loss suffered at Northwestern A contender Polson. Butte Central saw a first-half touchdown called back on a penalty and also suffered through some assignment and alignment breakdowns on both sides of the ball, Peoples said.

“We need more consistency in our defense,” he said. “Our kids played very hard, but we had some problems on defense, sometimes in just lining up. We have to do better than that.

“We just need to put together a full football game. We haven’t done that, yet.”

Another area Peoples said he is looking for improvement is capitalizing on chances. He said the Maroons need to “do a better job in the red zone.”

Butte Central is expected to rotate personnel with the use of McArthur at tight end, when the position is required, while Harper, Hollow, Nate McGree, Sam Johnston and Jared Schneider see time at wide receiver. Ryan Moodry will be in fullback in the power sets while Blake Burton and McGree share running back duties. Junior Tanner Kump is at quarterback. The offensive line will include combinations employing Dylan Shea, Ryan Richards, Michelotti, St. John, Schulte and Archie Petritz.

On defense, McGree will be at safety while Harper and Ryan Ashby man the corners in the secondary. Linebacker time will be divided between Burton, Moodry, Hunter Hartwick, Shea, Johnston and Hollow. Up front, St. John, Michelotti and Richards trade off at the tackle spots while McArthur, Schulte and St. John will each see time at end.

Schulte is also the punter, Tyler Kump the kicker and Hollow, Burton and Harper lead the return corps.

Burton ranks third in the conference in rushing while averaging about 71 yards a game. Tanner Kump is second in passing with just over 222 yards a game on average. Harper has a conference-high 40 receptions and Hollow averages a league-high 23 yards per catch. McGree is also a Top 10 receiver in Southwestern A standings.

McGree leads the conference in interceptions with four while Moodry and Ashby have two each. Schulte averages 38.0 yards a punt. Hollow tops the league in kickoff returns by averaging 32 yards per runback. McGree and Tyler Kump are both among the league leaders in kickoffs with averages topping 40 yards per boot.

“We’re excited,” Peoples said. “This is our first marquee of the year for the kids.”



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