Any other year the Butte Central’s football team would be considered very young.
After last season, though, the Maroons seem like a veteran bunch as they open the season against the Belgrade Panthers at 7 p.m. Saturday at Bulldog Memorial Stadium.
“Last year at this time we were so young,” said 24-year BC head coach Don Peoples Jr. said. “We’re a year older, we’re a year stronger, we’re a year bigger.”
The Maroons return 18 starters from last year’s team that went 4-5 overall and 2-3 in league play, coming within seven points of making the playoffs in the ultra-tough Southwestern A Division.
While the BC starting lineup is littered with sophomores, Peoples said his team is ready to compete.
“We’re very excited,” the coach said. “We had a great offseason. We’re still very young, but we’re a year older and a year more mature.”
The Maroons also enter the season with a giant chip on their shoulders. That comes from missing the playoffs.
Peoples said while other teams were going through the playoffs, the Maroons used the time off they usually don’t have to focus on 2012.
“That really set the tempo,” Peoples said. “Our kids worked hard all offseason.”
The Maroons broke out the camera, taking a picture of each player as they headed toward that offseason.
“We said, ‘This is what you look like. In 2012 we expect some unrecognizable guys,'” Peoples said. “Some of our kids are different human beings.”
Peoples credited John Trudnowski, whose son Tyler is a junior on the team, for spearheading the BC strength and conditioning program. The coach says that program has helped produce eight players who weight at least 210 pounds.
Peoples said he had just two players who weighed 200 pounds when took over the program in 1989.
Of course, that program isn’t just about gaining muscle weight. It also involves speed and agility workouts to produce better conditioned athletes.
Peoples pointed to 6-foot-3 junior guard Brant Ahlborn, who is down to 275 pounds after playing at 330 last year. That will help Ahlborn contribute on defense this season, Peoples said.
Still, the lighter Ahlborn is part of a starting offensive line with a combined weight of almost 1,200 pounds.
Senior caption Frank Joyce (220) starts at center, while senior Kolten Lamiaux (260) joins Ahlborn at guard. The starting tackles are junior Connor Schulte (220) and sophomore Marcus Ferriter (215).
The Maroons have some serious depth at the skill position.
Senior Brady Tippett will start at quarterback for the second year. He earned second-team all-conference honors a year ago.
Sophomore Danny Peoples, who has showed off some serious range as the teams’ field goal kicker, will also see time behind center for the Maroons, who return four all-conference picks on offense.
Junior Kale Guldseth and sophomores Chad Peterson, Dalton Sessions and senior Northey Tretheway highlight a deep receiving corps.
Thretheway earned all-conference accolades at cornerback last year, and Peoples said he’s ready to produce on offense. Guldseth earned post-season honors at receiver.
Connor McGree, a two-way all-conference performer, is a solid target at tight end.
The Maroon running game is in solid hands with senior caption Joe Joyce and junior Wyatt Kingston.
Defensively, Frank Joyce, Schulte, Ferriter and McGree lead the way up front. Sophomore Kaemen Richards is the man in the middle. He’s surrounded by outside linebackers Kingston and new-coming sophomore Ben Holt.
Tippett and Joe Joyce play safety, and Tretheway and Guldseth are the cornerbacks.
Peoples has nine assistant coaches.
Renzy Kelly is the offensive coordinator, while Lee LaBreche runs the defense. Other assists are Tom Peterson, Alex Murphy, Pat Schulte, Mike Hogart, Stephen Burns and Larry Hart.
All the coaches except Peterson, who is returns after a stint as Anaconda’s head coach and a year as an assistant at Montana Tech, and Hart played for the Maroons.
“These guys really love this school and work hard to make the team the best it can be,” Peoples said.
The Maroons are looking at a similar team in their opening opponent, even though Belgrade had 102 players go out for football. BC got 32 players.
“You can only put 11 out there,” Peoples reasoned. “It will be 11 on 11 whenever we play.”
The Panthers went 1-8 last year. Still, Peoples sees them as a dangerous team.
“They’re going to be hungry,” the coach said. “From what I’ve heard they’ve had a great offseason. I think they have a chip on their shoulders like we do from not making the playoffs, and we know they have a lot of good kids.”
After playing the Panthers, Butte Central heads to Havre to take on the Blue Ponies Aug. 31. The Maroons host Billings Central Sept. 8 before wrapping up their tough non-conference slate Sept. 14 at Laurel.
The Maroons open conference play Sept. 21 at home against Anaconda. Then they go to Stevensille, host Hamilton and head to Corvallis before closing the regular season Oct. 19 at home against defending Class A state champion Dillon.
“Our league is going to be really tough,” Peoples said. “Dillon has been the marquee program of the Class A for a long time. Stevensville has a great group of guys, and they won a playoff game last year.
“Anaconda, Corvallis and Hamilton are going to be better football teams. From top to bottom, our league is going to be a big challenge.”
Click below for BC’s complete schedule.
Butte Central will unveil their new uniforms Saturday night.
The Maroons will have some new form-fitting uniforms when they take on Belgrade at Bulldog Memorial Stadium.
Peoples said BC will be wearing Maroon helmets for the first time since 1969.
Butte Central Maroons
Don Peoples Jr. (24th season)
QB — Brady Tippett, 5-11, 180, sr
RB — Joe Joyce, 5-10, 170, sr; Wyatt Kingston, 5-9, 170 jr
WR — Kale Guldseth, 5-8, 140, jr; Chad Peterson, 5-10, 160, so; Dalton Sessions, 6-0, 175, so; Northey Tretheway, 5-7, 155, sr
TE — Connor McGree, 6-2, 215, jr
C — Frank Joyce, 5-10, 220, sr
G —Kolten Lamiaux, 6-1, 260, sr; Brant Ahlborn, 6-3, 275, jr
T — Connor Schulte, 5-10, 220, jr; Marcus Ferriter, 6-4, 215, so
T — Schulte; Frank Joyce
E — Ferriter; McGree
ILB — Kaemen Richards, 6-1, 195, so
OLB — Kingston, Ben Holt, 5-9, 188, so
FS — Tippett
SS — Joe Joyce
C — Guldseth; Tretheway