McGree, Maroons rout Stevi for Homecoming victory

McGree, Maroons rout Stevi for Homecoming victory
Butte Central's Nate McGree outruns Stevensville's Caleb Edens on the way to one of his four touchdowns. (Bill Foley photo)

By Derek Hendrickson

The Butte Central Maroons took an 8-0 lead in the opening minute on a Sam Johnson interception return and 2-point conversion and never looked back, earning a 56-14 Southwestern A Conference win over the Stevensville Yellowjackets Friday night at Bob Green Field.

Johnston’s big play set the tone but amazingly wasn’t even the play of the game. Nate McGree put himself in the record books and can never be outdone as he took what was meant to be a simple dive play 99 yards for a touchdown and set a school record in the process.

McGree’s romp bested the previous school record run of 95 yards, achieved on two separate occasions, first by Steve Markovich against Butte High in 1988 and matched by Brodie Kelly in 1992 versus Whitefish.

The Maroons have two other plays of 95 yards in the record books. Jake Stagnoli hit Alex Murphy for a 95-yard score against Libby in 2005 and Danny Peoples hit Kale Guldseth for another 95-yard score in 2013.

The long score was one of four touchdowns on the evening for McGree, who tallied over a hundred yards both rushing and receiving in the first half alone.

“After the penalty I knew we were backed up,” McGree said when asked about entering the record books. “Basically I just wanted to get out of the end zone.  I kept it and got out of the end zone and there was a huge hole so I took off.”

In the build up to the game Maroon’s Head Coach Don People’s had spoke about the team having a bad taste in their mouth after not playing up to their expectations at Laurel last weekend.

Central quickly took care of that issue, building a 22-point lead less than 9 minutes into the first quarter.

Peoples’ talked about the team’s performance after the game, saying, “It was a good game by our kids.  Stevensville, they’re a really good passing team, they’re leading the league in passing, so they gave us a few problems there.  Our kids responded with big plays.  Offensively I thought we did a great job.  Defensively we made some big interceptions and made the plays to win the game.  We’re still in a process where we’ve got to get better but I’m proud of the kids.”

Johnston’s pick 6 took place on the second play from scrimmage.  The Central defense then forced three and outs on the next two Yellowjacket possessions setting up offensive touchdowns.

McGree took a 24 yard pass from Tanner Kump to make it 15-0 less than half way through the first and the McGree set up Kump’s two yard touchdown run with a diving 32-yard reception leading to a 22-0 lead.

Despite the lopsided looking score the Yellowjackets brought some talent to the table.  Senior quarterback Liam LeCoure came into the game as the leading passer in the Southwestern Conference and showed why on the next drive.

LeCoure completed all four of his passing attempts on the drive, leading Stevi on a 5 play 84 yard drive that ended with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Alex Gavlak, younger brother of former Montana Tech football player Zak Gavlak.

On the ensuing kickoff the Maroons bobbled the ball and the Yellowjackets swarmed to pin Central at the 2-yard line.  A false start penalty pushed the ball back as far as it could go, setting up McGree’s historic run, which would fit well in the pregame video put together by the Maroons, featuring legendary players and Butte landmarks.

The play capped a wild first quarter that featured 5 touchdowns and fireworks on both sides of the ball.  Central led 29-7.

The Maroons had one of the few fruitless drives occur after the teams exchanged punts.  After Central’s kick Blake Burton recovered the muffed catch and set Central up at the Stevi 37.

Central got all the way down to the 4 and looked to put the game away but the Yellowjacket defense held.

The next Maroon possession resulted in their only turnover of the night, when a missed handoff led to a bouncing ball that Chris Brownlee gobbled up.  That set up the final Yellowjacket points of the night and brought Stevensville within 2 scores at 29-14.  Luis Estrada did the honors on a ten yard catch.

Estrda was a bright spot for Stevi as he finished the game with six catches for 132 to go with the touchdown. Estrda also showed some good sportsmanship after the game as he congratulated McGree on his big run during the Maroon postgame hugs and handshakes.

The Maroons wasted little time making those points up.  After a kick return to the 34 yard line Kump found McGree on a tight end screen.  Nate followed his blocks on the well-designed play and ran 66 yards to the end zone to immediately take the wind back out of the Yellowjackets.

Central very nearly had their second defensive touchdown of the first half on the next play.  This time Blake Burton stepped in front of a LeCoure pass and appeared to have a path to the end zone.  LeCoure got back enough to force Burton to make a move and he lost his footing at the 3.

On the next play McGree cashed in his 4th touchdown, 3 of which came on one play drives and staked Central to a 42-14 lead.

The Yellowjackets moved the ball well on the last possession of the first half but were unable to capitalize as sophomore Cade Holter got his first interception to send the teams to the locker room.

During the break Butte Central crowned their Homecoming Royalty, with the king going to starting tackle and defensive end Archie Petritz.  Petritz got into the big plays during the first half as well, recording the only sack of the game by either side.

“It was a great night,” Petritz said after the game, with a huge smile while holding his crown.  “I’m just glad I went out with a bang on my last homecoming.”

Central clearly wanted to ice the game as quickly as possible in the second half and Johnston was able to get the scoring going again, this time on the offensive side of the ball with a 62 yard catch and run.  Ryan Moodry’s PAT made it 49-14.

Stevi tried to get back in the game and return to the stopping clock but stalled out on the Maroon 16, setting up Central’s last scoring drive, which found pay dirt when Burton got into the end zone from 35 yards out off a misdirection play.  Kump found him wide open and Burton waltzed into the end zone completely untouched.

The score also capped a huge game for Central’s quarterback as Kump was responsible for 5 touchdowns, 4 passing and one rushing as well as a 2 point conversion toss.

Kump had almost as many touchdowns as incompletions, going 10 of 15 for the game and averaging over 27 yards on each of his connections with his receivers on the night.

Peoples’ was asked about his team’s big play capability on the evening, as the Maroons struck for several huge gainers on both offense and defense.  “The play action,” he said. “They were coming hard after the run on some of those passes we completed.  I thought we ran the ball well and we were missing two linemen, so it was challenging for us.”

The Maroons were ready for the passing they knew was liking coming and Ryan Ashby got an interception that sent the Central starters to the bench.

Central then was able to get some of their younger players into the game in the fourth quarter as Thomas McGree took over the quarterbacking duties on the last Maroon series.  His classmate Braden Harrington was able to get an interception on the last play of the game, Central’s fifth pick of the game and sixth forced turnover.

The defense also did an outstanding job against the run, holding the Yellowjackets to only 25 yards on 16 carries and frequently forcing them into problematic down and distance situations, helping them predict the obvious passing situations.

The win moves the Maroons to 3-2 on the season as well as 1-0 in conference play.  They will travel to Corvallis next Friday night to take on the Blue Devils.  Corvallis went on the road and knocked off defending Class A State Champion Whitefish 23-17 this evening.  The Blue Devils are 2-3 on the season and 0-1 in conference, falling 47-17 to Hamilton last weekend.

“We’ve got to find a way to win road games.” Peoples said in regards to next week.  “The next four games of our season are going to be extremely difficult, if we are going to make the playoffs we’ve got to win some of those.”

Stevensville                7          7          0          0 —14
Butte Central            22        20        7          7 —
First Quarter
BC — Johnston 40 interception return (Burton pass from Kump) 8-0, 11:18
BC — McGree 24 reception from Kump (Moodry kick) 15-0, 7:31
BC — Kump 2 run (Moodry kick) 22-0, 3:07
Stevi — Gavlak 27 reception from LeCoure (Brownlee kick) 7-22, 1:29
BC — McGree 99 run (Moodry kick) 29-7, 1:07
Second Quarter
Stevi — Estrada 10 reception from LeCoure (Brownlee kick) 14-29, 2:59
BC — McGree 66 reception from Kump (Moodry kick) 36-14, 2:40
BC — McGree 3 run (kick failed) 42-14, 2:19
Third Quarter
BC — Johnston 62 reception from Kump (Moodry kick) 49-14, 9:42
Fourth Quarter
BC — Burton 35 yard reception from Kump (Moodry kick) 56-14 8:10
— Butte Central, Kump 10-15-0-276 yards, T. McGree 0-1-0-0. Stevi, LeCoure 16-34-5-274.
RUSHING — Butte Central (32-267), McGree 3-106, Burton 10-88, Kump 5-31, Moodry 8-27, Fisher 5-15, Philippi 1-0. Stevi (16-25), Edens 7-16, Thomas 3-7, Brownlee 1-2, Gavlak 1-1, LeCoure 4-(-4)
RECEIVING — Butte Central (10-276), McGree 4-142, Johnston 4-89, Burton 1-35, Moodry 1-10. Stevi (16-274), Estra 6-132, Gavlak 4-72, Thomas 3-42, Coleman 3-28.

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