No. 5 Bulldogs outrun Broncs, 62-57

BILLINGS — The artificial turf at Daylis Stadium suffered what appeared to be a few scorch marks Friday evening, as the Butte High and Billings Senior football teams combined for 119 points in an offensive shootout for the ages.

Butte High came out on top of the scorefest, spoiling Senior’s homecoming celebration by hanging on in the 62-57 thriller. The victory boosted the Bulldogs’ season record to 4-1, while the Broncs fell to 2-3.

“This was one of those games we knew it was going to go all 48 minutes, and it did,” Butte head coach Arie Grey said after the game. “But the most important thing is we got the win. We got the win on the road in a tough place to play against a very good team. I’m proud of the kids. A win is a win.”

Butte running back Zach Bunney went off for 265 yards rushing and five touchdowns to lead the huge offensive outpouring. He scored from 69, 35, 32 17 and 1 yards on the biggest night of his career.

“It feels great to do what I did,” Bunney said. “But I couldn’t have done it without my line and my receivers. They’re the ones who opened up the holes and I ran through them. There was nobody there because everybody was blocked.”

Butte’s offensive effort overcame a big late push by the Broncs, whose Nolan Saraceni ran for four touchdowns and caught one more.

The Bulldogs took what appeared to be a backbreaking 43-21 lead when Dallas Cook passed to tight end Tyler Earles for a 97-yard scoring play, followed by a 20-yard TD pass from Cook to Bryce Armstrong, that left a 49-21 gap with four minutes to play in the third quarter.

The Broncs, however, were far from finished.

Senior scored on its next five possessions, the last of which pulled the Broncs within six points of the lead with 1:18 still left to play. The last of Senior’s four unsuccessful onside kicks was recovered by the Bulldogs, who took a knee in the victory formation to run out the clock for the win.

Grey said he was proud of the effort put forth by his team, though he noted the need for improvement.

“We’re better than what we did tonight,” he said. “We made way too many mental mistakes in all three phases of the game that hurt us. We’ve got to be better, but the bottom line is, when we wake up tomorrow, we got the win.”

Butte started fast. On the second play from scrimage, Bunney broke free up the middle for a 69-yard scoring run. The Bulldog defense held Senior to a three-and-punt, and Cook scored on a 7-yard run that lifted Bute to a 14-0 advantage.

Saraceni got the Broncs on the board with a 32-yard jaunt, but Butte’s defense was the next to score, as Earles caught Luke Paine in the endzone after a fumble. Bunney broke free on a 34-yarder to give Butte a 23-7 lead.

Saraceni punched the ball in from a yard out to open second-quarter scoring, then scored again from 10 to bring the Broncs within two points, 23-21, with six and a half minutes left in the half.

Bunney gave the Bulldogs a bit more halftime breathing room, scoring on a 32-yard sprint with a minute to go in the half. Butte’s Andre Vialpando picked a Paine pass in the final seconds of the alf, quashing a Seniore drive.

Butte took advantage of a Senior fumble — recovered by Tanner Tregidga — early in the third quarter, as Cook found Armstron on a 57-yard scoring strike. Blake Kraus recovered a Saraceni fumble on Senior’s next drive, and following a Butte penalty, Cook and Earles combined for the 97-yard strike.

Armstrong scored on a 20 yard reception, but the Broncs pulled within 20 on a 48-yard TD from Saraceni. Butte answered with a 17-yard scoring run up the gut by Bunney, but the Broncs had a few tricks up their sleeve.

Brennan Neilsen caught a 68-yad halfback pass from Joe Zimmer, who finished 4-of-5 passing for 187 yards. Tipton then scored on a 47-yard pass from Paine, before Bunney scored from a yard out. Zimmer tossed his second scoring pass to Saraceni, followed by a 75-yarder to Tipton, bringing the Broncs as close as they were able to manage.

Earles finished with four catches for 173 yards, while Armstrong had three for 73. Kelly Tipton paced Senior with 13 grabs for 242 yards.

“We’re going to continue to get better, and the kids understand that we need to do that,” Grey said. “They know we got a little complacent, and against a team like senior we can’t do that. But we got the win and that’s the most important thing.”

Butte High is back in action next Friday when the Bulldogs play host to top-ranked Bozeman. The Hawks (4-1) dropped a tight 7-3 decision to unranked Kalispell Glacier (4-1) Friday night at Legends Stadium in Kalispell.

In addition to Butte, Glacier and Bozeman, Class AA teams sporting a 4-1 record include Great Falls Russell, Helena High and Helena Capital.

Butte                        23   7    19   13 — 62
Billings Senior      7   14    8   28 — 57
First Quarter
BUT-Zach Bunney 69 run (Jake Dennehy kick), 11:22
BUT-Dallas Cook 7 run (Dennehy kick), 6:24
SEN-Nolan Saraceni 32 run (Kelly Tipton kick), 4:21
BUT-Safety, Tyler Earles tackled Quarterback tackled in end zone, 1:14
BUT-Bunney 35 run (Dennehy kick), 0:47
Second Quarter
SEN-Saraceni 1 run (Tipton kick), 9:42
SEN-Saraceni 10 run (Tipton kick), 6:35
BUT-Bunney 32 run (Dennehy kick), 0:57
Third Quarter
BUT-Bryce Armstrong 57 pass from Cook (kick blocked), 10:32
BUT-Tyler Earles 97 pass from Cook (Dennehy kick), 6:39
BUT-Armstrong 20 pass from Cook (kick blocked), 3:57
SEN-Saraceni 52 run (Joe Zimmer run), 1:02
Fourth Quarter
BUT-Bunney 17 run (Dennehy kick), 8:08
SEN-Brennan Nielsen 68 pass from Zimmer (Wade Cicierski pass from Luke Paine), 7:45
SEN-Tipton 47 pass from Paine (Tipton kick), 4:54
BUT-Bunney 1 run (kick blocked), 3:37
SEN-Saraceni 31 pass from Zimmer (run failed), 2:52
SEN-Tipton 75 pass from Zimmer (Tipton kick), 1:18
                                                BUT                 SEN
First downs                                22                        22
Rushes-Yards                    39-361                  37-317
Passing                                   11-19-1             24-32-1
Passing Yards                         264                       420
Total yards                               625                     737
Fumbles-Lost                           0-0                      3-2
Penalties-Yards                         8-90                 7-73
RUSHING — BUT, Zach Bunney 20-265, Dallas Cook 9-48, Jake Eisenbarth 6-45, Dalton Daum 2-6, Bo Taylor 2–3. SEN, Nolan Saraceni 25-241, Luke Paine 5-60, Wade Cicierski 2-8, Levi Beck 1-12, Scottie Crigler 1-5, Kelly Tipton 1-1, Joe Zimmer 1-0, Wyatt Summers 1–10.
PASSING — BUT, Dallas Cook 11-18-1-264, Jake Eisenbarth 0-1-0-0. SEN, Luke Paine 20-27-1-233, Joe Zimmer 4-5-0-187.
RECEIVING — BUT, Tyler Earles 4-147, Bryce Armstrong 3-73, Zach Bunney 1-17, Jake Eisenbarth 1-14, Dalton Daum 1-7, Jon Allen 1-6. SEN, Kelly Tipton 13-242, Brennan Nielsen 1-68, Nolan Saraceni 3-54, Scottie Crigler 3-33, Joe Zimmer 3-25, Levi Beck 1-2.