By Bill Foley
A longtime nemesis will be standing in the way as Butte Central faces a must-win game Friday on Montana Tech’s Bob Green Field.
The Dillon Beavers will be on the west sideline when the game kicks off at 7 p.m. (Radio: KOPR 94.1 FM, kopr94.net or on the KOPR app.)
Dillon is looking for its eighth straight win over the Maroons in the Western A football game that both teams need for their playoff pushes.
“They just seem to reload every year,” Butte Central coach Don Peoples Jr. said. “They have such a great tradition and they’re well coached.”
Head coach Zach McRae’s Beavers come to town at 3-2 overall and 2-2 in Western A play. After falling to Whitefish and Hamilton, Dillon beat Corvallis and Sidney before turning back Frenchtown 27-21 last week in Dillon. (Dillon roster; Butte Central roster)
Central is 2-3 after last week’s 44-0 home win over Corvallis.
Peoples pointed out that the Beavers and Maroons both lost to Hamilton and Whitefish. BC also has a forfeit loss to Polson.
“They’re a lot like us,” Peoples said. “They played tough schedule.”
The last time Central beat Dillon came in a 31-27 game Oct. 3, 2014 on the Bob Green Field. Seven weeks later, though, the Beavers returned to Butte to break the hearts of Central with a 29-28 victory in the Class A State championship game.
Dillon won the next seven regular-season meetings with the Maroons, including a 41-0 victory last Sept. 11 in Butte.
This time around, the Central-Dillon game includes a pair of young teams. It also appears to be a much better matchup than it was a year ago.
The Beavers are led by sophomore quarterback Kee Christiansen. He has completed 54 percent of his passes for 791 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions.
“We’ve seen great growth in his play at quarterback since his first game,” Peoples said of Christiansen. “He’s gotten better every game. I think he played his best game against Frenchtown.”
Through five games, 10 different Dillon players caught passes. Senior Connor Curnow leads the way with 17 grabs for 222 yards. Senior Jon Kirkley, who has missed time with an injury, has 11 catches for 122 yards in three games.
Junior Caden Hansen follows with 10 catches for 136 yards. Senior Treyton Anderson has eight catches for 193 yards and two touchdowns.
Sophomore Kale Konen leads a Dillon rushing attack that has seen multiple players contribute. He has 200 yards and six touchdowns on 47 carries.
Seniors Connor Vezina and Callahan Hoffman lead the Beavers with 22 total tackles apiece. Hoffman also leads the team with two sacks.
Central’s defense will once again be without junior Butte High transfer Eric Loos. Peoples said he hopes to have him back next week. The Maroons could also be without junior Dougie Peoples for the third straight game.
The coach said his nephew will be a game-time decision on Friday.
BC will still have Kayden Kibler, Eric Hart, Joe Sehulster and Riley Gelling up front on defense. Rye Doherty, Konnor Pochervina and Eyston Lakkala play linebacker, and Central’s secondary includes Jack Keeley, Drew Badovinac and Luke Garrison.
Badovinac picked off two passes last week. Holter intercepted one. Holter nearly took his pick to the house in a game in which he scored on a reception and punt return.
Garrison had a strong game at quarterback for BC, hitting Holter, Pochervina, Lakkala and Zane Moodry for big gains. Garrett Button, and Doherty are also threats for the Maroons in the passing game. Peoples is, too, if available.
Lakkala and Pochervina, along with Garrison, lead Central’s running game behind Cayden and Kanyon Kibler, Hart, Gelling, Gage Guldseth and Sehulster.
Ethan Andersch booted a 26-yard field goal last week, showing BC has a weapon in special teams, as well.
“We feel like we’ve gotten better every game,” Peoples said. “In the Hamilton game we did some things better than the week before.”
Peoples said the Maroons are benefitting this week from seeing their improvement shown on the scoreboard.
“The kids seem to be approaching the game with more focus,” the coach said. “That’s part of the growth process.”
The Maroons have just two games left in the regular season following Friday’s showdown with Dillon. BC will travel to Frenchtown next week. Following a week off, the Maroons will close the regular season at home against Stevensville on Oct. 22.
Butte Central’s schedule always lists the playoffs. A win Friday would go a long way toward making sure the Maroons are part of that.