This game seems to have been a long time in the making for both teams.
Butte Central will take on Whitefish in a 1 p.m. Class A playoff game Saturday in Whitefish. (Radio: KOPR 94.1 FM, listen live)
Whitefish is still smarting from Butte Central’s 41-35 playoff win in Whitefish in 2003. The game, which was the first in the post season for BC since the 1970s, was the last time the Bulldogs hosted a playoff game. It has haunted the Bulldogs for a decade.
Butte Central is looking to exercise some demons of their own after a disappointing performance in the first round of the playoffs last year in Frenchtown.
“We didn’t feel we played well in Frenchtown last year, and we want things to be different this year,” Butte Central coach Don Peoples Jr. said after Friday’s practice at Whitefish. “It was one of the sloppiest fields we ever played on, and they came out with more energy than we did. It was a disappointing, not-so-fun way to end the season.”
The Maroons fell 32-7 in Frenchtown that day, ending a rebound season for the Maroons.
“We had a sense of real disappointment when we left the field that day,” Peoples said. “That’s been in the back of their minds since then.”
So, one team is going to have a day of redemption Saturday afternoon.
For the Maroons, the 2013 season has been an up-and-down campaign that has battled tested Peoples’ team.
“We’ve had times when we looked almost unbeatable,” Peoples said. “At other times we didn’t execute well at all.”
One of the unbeatable moments came last week when Wyatt Kingston ran for a 61-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage and the Maroons rolled in a must-win game. BC led 42-0 at halftime in beating Corvallis 49-0 in Butte.
“Hopefully,” Peoples said, “that team takes the field on Saturday.”
Butte Central has the weapons to play with anybody.
Kingston has ran for nearly 1,100 yards and 19 touchdowns behind offensive linemen Liam Doran, Connor Schulte, Brant Ahlborn, Marcus Ferriter, Ty Bolton and Ethan St. John.
Junior quarterback Danny Peoples has passed for 22 touchdowns in nine games, including three against Corvallis.
Kale Guldseth and Connor McGree are Peoples’ favorite targets. Guldseth has hauled in 57 passes for 850 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2013. The school’s all-time leading receiver has more than 2,000 yards on his career.
McGree, who scored on a fumble return last week, has racked up 28 receptions for 384 yards and six touchdowns.
Chad Peterson has caught 22 passes, while Dalton Sessions has hauled in 20. Kingston is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield. He has 12 receptions on the season.
Whitefish is also a team with a lot of weapons.
Sophomore quarterback Luke May is in his second year at quarterback in the Bulldogs’ spread attack.
“He runs well and he has a really good presence when he throws,” coach Peoples said. “They run a spread package, and they run well out of it.”
The Bulldogs have a balanced offence that features play-making running back in Calub Thilmony and speedy receiver Sean Foley.
Thilmony scored a touchdown running and receiving in last week’s 35-14 win at Libby. Foley caught a pair of TD passes in that win.
“They’re a very solid football team,” Peoples said.
The defense charged with stopping the Bulldogs is basically made up of the same players who play offense for the Maroons along with playmakers like Kaemen Richards, Jake Michelotti and Kyle Harrington.
The way the bracket shakes out, Butte Central cannot have a playoff game at home this season. The winner of Saturday’s game will head to Belgrade to take on the Panthers, the champions of the Central A Division.
Whitefish (7-2) is the No. 2 seed from the Northwestern A, while Butte Central (5-4) is the No. 3 seed from the Southwestern A.
The Maroons have basically be playing with their season on the line since their conference opening loss at Dillon, the Southwestern A champion.
“We’ve had our ups and downs,” Peoples said. “We’ve had our backs against the wall when we had to win to keep our hopes and dreams alive.”
So Saturday should be nothing new for the 2013 Maroons.