By Bruce Sayler
A postseason football loser-out game awaits Butte Central Friday night when the Maroons will line up against Corvallis in what is really their last regular-season game of the Southwestern A Conference schedule.
As the season has churned, the ending comes down to one remaining spot left to advance to the western portion of the state Class A playoffs. The winner of the Butte Central-Corvallis will earn that berth. The BC team, coached for the 30th straight season by Don Peoples Jr., is seeking its 17th state Class A playoffs berth in the last 18 years.
Likely accompanying a Butte Central or Corvallis win will be a first-round tilt next week at either Frenchtown or Hamilton. The winner of Friday night’s Dillon-Hamilton clash will receive a first-round bye.If Dillon wins, the Butte Central-Corvallis winner will challenge Hamilton on the road next week. If Hamilton is the winner Friday, then the Butte Central-Corvallis winner will likely play at Frennchtown next week according to the workings of the new seeding formula for the Class A postseason.
Corvallis has a 1-3 Southwestern A Conference record and is 4-4 overall. The Maroons are also 1-3 in league play, but 3-5 for the season. Their game in Corvallis is slated for a 7 p.m. kickoff. (Radio: KOPR, 94.1 FM, online or on the KOPR app)
“This is as big as it gets in the regular season,” Peoples said. “It’s a huge game.”
Clayton Curley serves as the head coach of the Blue Devils and shows a strong, potent offense deftly directed by standout quarterback Liang Liedle. The 5-foot-9, 155-pound senior has good receivers to go to in seniors Jace Barcus and Mason Murray. However, the throw would likely be a changeup, as Liedle is best at running the Corvallis option attack.
Senior fullback Hunter Pinheiro is a 6-0, 225-pound load who has powered upfield for more than 1,000 yards this season. Junior Rory Jessop and Jacob Dalbey are other capable options in the ground attack. A good-sized line is anchored by 6-foot-3, 270-pound senior Garrett Brown.
“Pinheiro, the dive back, is the leading rusher in Class A,” Peoples said. “Liedle is muscular for his size and is really dangerous in the option attack. He runs a perfect option attack. He doesn’t throw a ton, but he has a high completion percentage.”
Corvallis lost 39-7 at Dillon last week while Butte Central is coming off a 54-14 victory over Stevensville. The Maroons passed for five touchdowns and ran for three in the victory peppered with big plays.
The junior Simkins twins, both 6-5 and 200 pounds, hauled in five TD passes between them. Senior quarterback Cade Holter fired three to Matt and one to Jared. Junior Thomas McGree found Jared Simkins for the other scoring aerial. Fisher also broke a 36-yard touchdown run, and senior running back exploded for TD dashes of 91 and 89 yards in a 214-yard rushing night.
The Maroons showed enviable balance on offense with 272 yards through the air and 276 on the ground. Junior Guido Ossello intercepted two passes as BC created five turnovers — which also included fumble recoveries by Seth Gardner, Braden Harrington and Holter.
Senior receiver/linebacker Luke Jensen sat out last weekend with a leg injury, but Peoples said that he expected Jensen to be ready to play Friday.
“For us, everybody is ready to go for the first time since the first game,” Peoples said. “One of the things about an option offense like we’ll be facing is they keep the ball so long. We have to not them have the ball for long times because we need to give our offense time to put points on the board.”
The Maroons’ defense was good last week in stops and turnovers.
“This time of the year, the offense are executing well,” Peoples said. “Turnovers can be huge. Getting turnovers has to be a focus, defensively. Anything can happen.”
The win over Stevensville helped improve the BC spirits with so many key players coming back from injury and performing with the promise shown in the preseason.
“Our kids have been through a lot of adversity,” Peoples said. “We need to take advantag of the opportunity we created last weekend in keeping our season alive. ”
Corvallis is expected to be entering with the same attitude.
“We’re just going to try to be at our best (Friday) night,” Peoples said. Both teams will be fighting for their lives. Getting into the playoffs is our No. 1 goal every year and we have a chance to do that (Friday) night. Our kids will give it their best.”
Probables for Butte Central’s lineup are:
Offense — Center — Tyler Dyhame. Guards — Seth Gardner and Ian Williams. Tackles — Bryan Holland and Aaron Richards. Tight end — Matt Simkins and Braden Harrington or Jared Simkins. Wide receiver — Luke Jensen and Trevor Neumann. Running back — Clay Fisher and Thomas McGree. Quarterback — Cade Holter. Kicker — David Grannell.
Defense — Seth Gardner and Aaron Richards. Ends — Braden Harrington, Jared Simkins and/or Matt Simkins. Linebackers — Luke Jensen, Thomas McGree, Bryan Holland and Clay Fisher. Cornerbacks — Trevor Neumann and Aidan Petritz. Safety — Cade Holter and/or Guido Ossello. Punter — Braden Harrington.