Maroons take on Whitefish in home opener

By Bill Foley

The Maroons are looking for a big jump Friday night when they make their 2021 football debut on Montana Tech’s Bob Green Field.

“In a football season, the most dramatic improvements occur between Week 1 and Week 2,” Butte Central coach Don Peoples Jr. said.

That has Central aiming high when they welcome the Whitefish Bulldogs to town for the Western A game. Kickoff is 7 p.m. (Radio: KOPR 94.1 FM, or on the KOPR app.)

Last week, the Maroons played their first game of the season and rolled to a 37-0 win at Browning. That followed a Week 1 forfeit to Polson.

“The kids are excited,” Peoples said of BC playing its second game. “We know we have a lot of areas that we have to clean up. We felt like our defense got better as the game went on, which was positive. We feel like we can clean up some things on offense.”

Whitefish coach Chad Ross has a ton of positives to build on, too. The 2-0 Bulldogs ride to town on the momentum of two impressive wins to open the season.

The Bulldogs went to Dillon and won 28-26 on Aug. 27. Last week, they beat Frenchtown 20-0 in Whitefish. (Butte Central roster: Whitefish roster)

“They’re really solid,” Peoples said of the Bulldogs. “I think they’re one of the up-and-coming teams in the Class A. Any time you can win in Dillon, that really says something.”

Junior quarterback Fynn Ridgeway passed for 247 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s win. On the season, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Ridgeway has completed 61 percent of his passes for 438 yards and four scores. He has been picked off twice.

Ridgeway also leads the team with 102 yards on the ground.

Seniors Bodie Smith and Jaxsen Schlauch are his favorite targets. Smith has hauled in 15 passes for 161 yards. Schlauch caught 11 passes for 160.

“He’s a really good player,” Peoples said of the Whitefish signal caller. “He throws the ball well and runs well. They’ve got a back named (Ty) Schwaiger, and he pounds the ball. They’ve got a slew of receivers. They’re going to be dangerous.”

On defense, the Maroons will rotate up front, where they will be led by Riley Gelling, Eric Loos, Kayden Kibler, Eric Hart and Joe Sehulster.

Rye Doherty, Konnor Pochervina and Eyston Lakkala lead the way at linebacker, and Jack Keeley, Kyle Holter, Drew Badovinac and Luke Garrison man the secondary.

“The one thing we were excited about is we played six defensive linemen,” Peoples said. “We rotated three for four kids in the (offensive) backfield. We played a bunch of receivers, too. We’re developing some depth, which is something we don’t usually have.”

Lakkala, a senior, had a huge day on offense last week. He ran for 138 yards and three touchdowns. He did his damage behind linemen Hart, Cayden and Kanyon Kibler, Gelling and Gage Guldseth. Sehulster will likely team at tackle this week, too. He was limited to defense because he was coming off an injury last week.

Garrison passed for 99 yards, completing passes to Dougie Peoples, Garrett Button, Holter Loos, Lakkala and Zane Moodry.

Lakkala handles punting, while newcomer Ethan Andersch had no problem booting PATs last week.

The last time the Maroons and Bulldogs met on the gridiron, BC fell in a 28-27 thriller Sept. 7, 2018 in Whitefish. Central’s last win over the Bulldogs was a 49-27 victory the year before in Butte.

BC and Whitefish also have a rich history in playoff games. The last postseason battle between the teams saw the Maroons win 37-13 in the 2014 Class A semifinal game in Whitefish. The Bulldogs rebounded to win the state title the next year.

The Maroons will be back on the road next Friday when they travel to Dillon. Then, BC will play back-to-back home games against Corvallis and Dillon.