Butte High’s football team will take the field for the first time in a long time as the No. 1 ranked Class AA team in the state Friday night. (KBOW, 550 AM. Click here to listen online.)
The Bulldogs will travel to Helena to take on the third-ranked Bengals, with kickoff slated for 7 p.m. at Vigilante Stadium.
Though the Bulldogs were the unanimous No. 1 pick in the weekly poll of Montana sports writers and sports casters, Butte High head coach Arie Grey said it’s just business as usual for his team.
“The kids came in Monday morning and we got to work right off the bat,” Grey said. “They come to work every day and they know what they need to do. I’m proud of the way they prepare and work to get better every day.”
Grey expressed little interest in the poll, instead choosing to focus on his team’s opponent.
“Helena High will be a great test for us,” he said. “They have a great program and they’re solid in all three phases of the game. We’re going to have to be very disciplined against them.”
It’s the second time this season Butte’s potent offense has matched up with the leading defense – which Helena now has. The Bengals (6-2) have allowed an average of just 249 yards of offense per game, utilizing a complex defensive scheme that features a big, athletic roster.
“Defensively they’re right in your face,” Grey said. “They’ll blitz and stunt and create a lot of confusion, so we’ll need to be sound on offense.”
Butte hasn’t had much trouble in that department, averaging better than 43 points per game behind Dallas Cook’s pinpoint passing game at quarterback. Cook averages 324 yards per game passing and the big back is also a threat to run. Bulldog receivers Dalton Daum, Bryce Armstrong, Jon Allen and Tyler Earles have all proven themselves this season, and will again be relied upon Friday.
Complementing the passing game are running backs Zach Bunney and Jake Eisenbarth, both of whom have shown the ability to gain yardage consistently. Bunney averages in excess of 8 yards per carry, and deft lateral movement makes him a threat to break away at any time. Eisenbarth averages 5 yards per tote and employs a more straight-forward bulldozing style of running.
The key to an offense that puts up more than 500 yards per game is a solid, veteran offensive line, led by four seniors – Nick Butorovich, Anthony Moritz, Drew Schleeman and Zach Erickson. Junior center Dustin Lamiaux has also shown strong play.
Butte High’s defense has had its share of lapses this season, but the group has come together and overcome some difficult situations.
“We handled a lot of adversity,” Grey said of his team’s performance in a 42-28 win over Helena Capital the week before. The Bruins stormed to a 20-0 lead before the Bulldogs recovered and took the game back. “We got a big play from Tyler Earles and then we settled down and played well.”
Grey said he was impressed with the defensive play of Mason Woods, though the Bulldogs also got great defensive efforts from Daniel Kloepfel and Billy Robinson up front, as well as Tanner Tregidga and Andre Vialpando in the backfield.
“We need to be sure we’re doing our jobs on defense and communicating,” Grey said. “We can’t have any letdowns.”
Helena is led by receiver Troy Arntson, who is second in the state with 50 catches for 749 yards, while quarterback Dawson Reardon has 16 touchdown throws on the season against six interceptions. Zach Winfield leads the Bengals’ running game with 15 touchdowns this season.
“The number one thing is we need to get out and get the game started,” Grey said. “We need to come out physical and fast because we’re playing a very good team at their home field. What a great challenge against a quality team.”