The current landscape of the Class AA standings shows a logjam of five teams tied for first place with 4-1 records.
At least one of those teams will absorb its second loss of the season this weekend, as No. 5 Butte High (4-1) is scheduled to play host to No. 4 Bozeman (4-1). Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. on Friday at Naranche Stadium in Butte.
Elsewhere in Class AA action, No. 1 Helena Capital (4-1) hosts Billings West (3-2) in a rematch of last year’s Class AA State Title game, while No. 2 Great Falls Russell (4-1) is at Billings Skyview (2-3). No. 3. Helena High (4-1) is at Great Falls High (1-4), while Glacier plays crosstown rival Flathead, and Missoula Sentinel hosts Missoula Big Sky. Missoula Hellgate is at Billings Senior as well.
Bozeman is coming off a 7-3 loss last weekend to unranked Kalispell Glacier (3-2), and slipped from the No. 1 spot in the polls after the defeat.
Butte High had to hang on against a spirited comeback effort by Billings Senior, as the Bulldogs remained in the No. 5 spot for the second straight week following a 62-57 victory over the Broncs in Billings. The Bulldogs led 49-21 late in the third quarter, but allowed Senior to score on each of its final five possessions.
Butte head coach Arie Grey said his team has focused on the finish this week at practice.
“We didn’t do a good job finishing,” Grey said. “We can’t get complacent and we can’t have those kinds of letdowns.”
The fifth-year head coach said work progressed at an expected pace coming into the matchup with the Hawks.
“It’s been a good week of practice,” Grey said. “The kids understand we need to get better every day to give ourselves a chance to win. We’ve had great attitude all week and I’m proud of the energy level they’ve shown.”
Bozeman will be scrambling to fill a couple key positions for Friday’s matchup with the Bulldogs. Junior Hawk quarterback Will Weyer fractured his collarbone on the final play of Bozeman’s loss to Glacier last Friday, while top receiver Kyle Miller is also out with a broken collarbone. Weyer will be replaced by either freshman Balue Chapman of junior Connor Linebarger.
Bozeman’s offense will rely heavily on Hunter Gappmeyer, who averages 116 yards per game on the ground with eight runs for score.
Butte’s defense will benefit from the return to the home confines of Naranche, but will still need to step up and show what it can do after giving up 57 points the week before.
Grey lauded two-way line starter Anthony Moritz for excellent play in and out of the trenches last Friday.
“He’s just got such a great motor,” Grey observed. “He showed great pursuit on defense and great blocking on offense. He just continues to come to work, bringing his lunch pail. We’ll expect another good week out of him.”
Butte’s defense was led at Senior by back Andre Vialpando, who registered nine solo tackles, a pair of assists, a tackle for loss and an interception last weekend. Daniel Kloepfel had six tackles and three assists, while Jarrret Rowling had six solo and three assisted tackles, as well as a forced fumble.
Offsetting Bozeman’s offensive woes is the team’s top scoring defense, which allows just 11 points per game and has collected 11 interceptions on the season. The Hawk defenders have given up just 224 yards per game, also the best in the AA.
The unmovable object will have to contend with the unstoppable force that is the Butte High offense, led by quarterback Dallas Cook. The junior signal caller leads the state in total offense (360 yards per game) and passing yards (313 yards per game), while senior running back Zach Bunney is coming off a breakout performance in Billings where he ran for 265 yards and five touchdowns.
KBOW will carry the game at 550 AM, as Paul Panisko will call the play-by-play action.
Butte High vs. Bozeman
QB — Dallas Cook, 6-4, 210, jr.
HB — Dalton Daum, 6-1, 165, so.
FB — Zach Bunney, 5-7, 165, sr.
WR — Jon Allen, 5-11, 165, sr.
WR — Bryce Armstrong, 5-10, 165, sr.
TE — Tyler Earles, 6-3, 190, jr.
LT — Zack Erickson, 6-0, 220, sr.
LG — Drew Schleeman, 6-3, 215, sr.
C — Dustin Lamiaux, 6-0, 240, jr.
RG — Anthony Moritz, 6-1, 280, sr.
RT — Nick Butorovich, 6-4, 300, sr.
NG — Anthony Moritz, 6-1, 280, sr.
DE — Daniel Kloepfel, 5-11, 200, sr.
DE — Billy Robinson, 6-0, 225, sr.
OLB — Nate Matteson, 5-10, 175, sr.
ILB — Mason Woods, 5-11, 180, jr.
ILB — Blake Kraus, 5-8, 190, sr.
OLB — Bo Taylor, 5-8, 150, sr.
CB — Zach Bunney, 5-7, 165, sr.
SS — Jarret Rowling, 5-11, 150, sr.
FS — Tanner Tregidga, 5-11, 170, sr.
CB — Andre Vialpando, 6-0, 160, sr.
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