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Maroons look for return to win column in Stevi

Both Butte Central and Stevensville will be looking for bounce-back efforts Friday when the two teams clash in a Southwestern A Conference high school football contest.

The game, the league opener for both, is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff in Stevensville. (Radio: 94.1 FM or online)

Butte Central is coming off a 25-18 loss to Laurel after a 3-0 start on the season while the Yellowjackets began the year with a win over Livingston but have since fallen to three tough Northwestern A opponents — Whitefish, Columbia Falls and Frenchtown.

“We had a good week of practice and the kids are anxious to get back on the field,” Don Peoples Jr., head coach of the Maroons, said. “We’ve, hopefully, cleaned up a few things from last week. We were disappointed with the way we didn’t take advantage of some of our red zone opportunities, and we had some assignment errors on defense that hurt us.

“We were happy with our offensive and defensive lines last week and the blocking efforts. Now, we need to be more efficient.”

Stevensville has been showing a power running game augmented by a spread passing attack on offense under new head coach Tif Myers. The Yelllowjackets are led by 6-foot-5, 190-pound senior quarterback Bryce Torrey, who not only has the height to see over his line and the defense, but also possesses a strong passing arm. Even, better though, might be his running ability. Torrey is the third leading rusher in the Southwestern A Conference through the first month of football.

Stevensville has a pretty good stable of ball carriers with 5-10, 175-pound John Diepstraten getting the most handoffs while 6-3, 170-pound junior James Fry and 5-7, 135-pound sophomore Kaleb Behner also rank among the league’s top 10 toters.

The Yellowjackets are a young team with only four seniors on the roster — Torrey, Diepstaten, 5-8, 175-pound tight end Josh Barker and 5-9, 215-pound lineman Kordale Behner. The wide receiver spots are mostly filled by sophomores and freshmen, but sophomore Alex Gavlak, listed as a running back, might be the most dangerous deep threat. He is also their best return man and Torrey is the Southwestern A’s leading punter with an average of 49.0 yards a boot. There is good size available on the lines, but it is young.

“We’re expecting a tough game,” Peoples said. “They usually run two tights (at the ends) on offense and try to run the ball hard. But, they will spread out and throw the ball. It’s a dual challenge — a smash-mouth running attack, and 6-5 strong-armed kid to throw the ball.”

Butte Central has shown balance on the offensive side. Running backs Blake Burton and Nate McGree rank sixth and eighth, respectively, in league rushing. Senior receiver Cole Harper has the most catches in the conference with 24 and senior Cal Hollow has 10 to also rank among the leaders. Junior Tanner Kump continues to make positive strides at the position. He showed some quick ones last week in a 52-yard touchdown dash against Laurel.

Defensive highlights last week included forcing four fumbles, three recovered by junior outside linebacker Sam Johnston, and one by sophomore inside linebacker Ryan Moodry. The Maroons caught Laurel behind the line of scrimmage a number of times as Hollow had or was in on three tackles in the backfield, Kyle Schulte, Colin McArthur and Jake Michelotti were there for two apiece, and Ethan St. John registered one. McGree leads the league in interceptions with two.

Schulte is the No. 2 punter in the league at 37.8 yards per kick while Hollow leads in kickoff returns, 33.8 yards a runback, and is tied with Gavlak for No. 2 in punt returns, 15.0 yards for each on average.

“We have to finish in the red zone,” Peoples said. “We had a pretty solid game against Laurel, but assignment errors in the red zone kept us from scoring in the first half.

“The better the team we play against, the smaller margin there is for error. We have to put a full offensive and defensive game together. We’re excited that its conference. These games are really huge.”

Butte Central has the top-rated defense in the league going into conference play while its offense is No. 2. Stevensville stands No. 4 on both sides of the ball.

Peoples will again go with an offensive lineup of Dylan Shea at center, Michelotti and Ryan Richards at the guards, St. John and Schulte at the tackles, tight end McArthur rotating with wideouts Harper, Hollow, McGree and Johnston as receivers, Moodry at fullback in power sets, Burton and McGree sharing running back, and Kump at quarterback.

The defensive regulars are Michelotti, Richards and St. John rotating at the tackles, McArthur and Schulte at the ends with St. John also maybe seeing time there, Moodry at one inside linebacker, Burton and Hunter Hartwick switching off at the other, Hollow and Johnston manning the outside linebacker stations, Ryan Ashby and Harper at the corners, and McGree at safety.

The placekicker is Tyler Kump and Schulte is the punter.



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