POLSON — The Polson Pirates used big plays at key moments to sink the Butte Central Maroons 28-14 in a key non-conference Class A showdown Friday night.
The Pirates had 6 plays that went at least 25 yards, including 2 separate 3rd and 26 conversions, both of which lead to touchdowns.
The Maroons hung tough all night, trimming the lead to 20-14 with just over 5 minutes to play in the game when Blake Burton punched in his second rushing touchdown on the night. Junior quarterback Tanner Kump made an outstanding effort play on the 2 -oint conversion, a called pass play that wasn’t open and he took on three Polson defenders before barely stretching the ball across the plane of the goal line.
Polson’s longest play of the game came only two snaps later. Pirate QB Tanner Wilson busted up the middle and raced past the entire Maroon defense for a back breaking 62-yard score to give Polson a 2 touchdown lead, a cushion they enjoyed most of the game.
The Maroons got things moving on their initial possession but finally bogged down in the red zone. An unfortunate theme for Central all night was untimely penalties, in this case a hold on a reverse that would’ve resulted in a first and goal instead became 3rd and long. The Pirates held and took over on their own 17.
Another tough penalty on the ensuing drive helped set up Polson’s first points, this time a pass-interference infraction hurt the Maroons. The first of the big plays was the 32 yard strike from Wilson to Matthew Rensvold to put the Pirates up 6-0.
Central got going in the wrong direction before their next drive officially started with a false start penalty. The Maroons couldn’t overcome it and were forced to punt after a three and out.
The Pirates next drive saw the first of their two crushing thrid and long conversions. Jacob Harrod got behind the Maroon defense on a go route to get Polson out of a 3rd and 26 hole, gaining 57 in the process. Rensvold then took over the drive, catching a 25 yard pass to the 1, rushing in the touchdown and then catching the 2 point conversion from Wilson for a quick 14-0 Pirate advantage.
The Maroons’ next drive was déjà vu from the previous one. False start on first down, three and out, punt.
Central finally got going on the next drive, forcing a punt that went off the side of the kicker’s foot and only traveling about 10 yards before going out of bounds. The Maroons took advantage of the short field by feeding Burton on 5 of the 7 plays needed to travel 60 yards. Burton rushed for 45 of them including the 4 yard score and the Maroons looked to seize back some momentum, cutting the lead to 14-6.
The Maroons again forced a punt on the Pirates next drive. This time Kyle Schulte busted through and had a great chance to block the kick. The Pirates punter saw this and tried to angle the kick around him which resulted in the ball going directly out of bounds for a one yard loss, giving Central the ball at the Polson 35.
Central tried to go right back to the well that got them on the board their last time with the ball. Three Burton totes got 7 yards but on 4th down Haden Smith jumped up from his defensive line position to bat away the pass and kill the drive.
The Maroons returned the favor on the next drive, a long march the started at the Central 28 before the Central defense forced three straight incompletions from their own 9-yard line.
With 2:18 left on the clock Central initially looked content to run out the half but after converting a couple plays and getting a roughing the passer penalty they went into hurry up mode. The Maroons got to the Pirate 19 with 11 seconds to go but an offside penalty on the o-line and 2 incompletions sent the to the locker room down 14-6.
After trading punts to open the second half the Pirates found the rhythm that led to touchdowns on the inital two possessions. The drive appeared doomed as a holding call and a delay of game had the Pirates facing 3rd and 26 from their own 6. Rensvold again made a play, this time over the middle when he secured a fingertip catch just outside the reach of two Maroon defensive backs. The Pirates used 9 rushes on the next 10 plays before Rensvold finally scored from a yard out to retake a two-score advantage at 20-6. The drive lasted 13 plays and was 18 seconds short of taking up half the third quarter.
Cal Hollow nearly broke the kickoff for a touchdown but was tracked down after 47 yards and taking it across midfield. The excitement was short lived, however, as Jonah Burke stepped in front of Kump’s pass on the next play to set the Pirates up with good field position.
Central tried to get the ball back immediately and almost succeeded but Wilson fell on his own fumble. Hollow and Colin McArthur combined for a sack to force a punt and the defense held despite being on the field nearly the whole third quarter.
The Maroons finally got a splash play shortly after. Polson did force a punt but Burton raced down and laid a jarring hit on the Pirate return man, knocking the ball free. Archie Petriz came out of the scrum with the ball and Central looked to cut into the lead, but on 4th down Kump looked to convert and instead Harrod came up with the interception.
Polson once again found Rensvold making a big play, this time a 34 yard gain to set up first and goal the 6. The Pirates were set up to put the game away but Wilson was stripped as he crossed the line of scrimmage and the ball slid into the end zone where at least a dozen bodies piled up to grab it. When the refs finally got to the bottom of the pile Central junior lineman Ryan Richards had the ball, giving the Maroons life one more time.
Central finally got a huge play out of the offense to match the defense’s efforts. Facing fourth and 2 from their own 28 the Maroons called a screen pass to Hollow that got him in space with a convoy of blockers, much like his electric kick returns. He dashed 63 yards through the middle of the Pirate defense and was finally tackled at the Pirate 9, setting up Burton’s touchdown, followed by Wilson’s exclamation point on the 28-14 final score.
“It was a disappointing night for us,” Maroon Head Coach Don Peoples Jr. said. “I thought the kids played hard. We gave up some big plays when we had crucial momentum situations in the game and just didn’t get it done. I thought we fought hard but just didn’t get it done tonight, but we’ll regroup and be ready to play next week.”
While Rensvold got most of the headlines, Wilson actually accounted for most of the Pirate offense, passing for 227 yards and rushing for 165 more. The Maroons struggled to stop the wildcat runs from the Polson QB and he managed 9 runs that gained 10 or more yards.
Central had the running game going in the first half when Burton gained 82 yards on 13 carries, but he only managed 1 more positive yard in the second half on five attempts. Kump threw for 206 but was picked off three times. Nate McGree came up with a remarkable interception late in the 4th when he appeared to pin the ball between his forearm and helmet with one hand while fighting off a Pirate receiver in the end zone.
The loss drops the Maroons to 5-2 on the season but they still control their own destiny with the other top teams in the Southwestern A still on their schedule. Central will host Hamilton, whose only conference blemish is to Dillon, next Friday on Bob Green Field at Montana Tech. The Maroons then close the regular season schedule at Dillon in two weeks.
Polson will possibly be a team the Maroons might face again as they will battle Columbia Falls for the No. 2 seed in the Northwest, where Whitefish has claimed superiority with lopsided wins, including a 49-0 beating of Polson last week and a 47-7 win tonight over Columbia Falls. The Pirates lost at Hamilton 27-12 to open the season. Whitefish has only been challenged once, a Week 2 loss to Dillon by one point.
Butte Central 0 6 0 8 — 14
Polson 14 0 6 8 — 28
POL — Rensvold 32 pass from Wilson (kick failed) 6-0. Drive 5 plays, 83 yards, 2:05
POL— Rensvold 1 run (Rensvold pass from Wilson) 14-0. Drive 5 plays, 67 yards, 1:36
BC — Burton 4 run (kick failed) 14-6. Drive 7 plays, 60 yards, 2:25
POL — Rensvold 1 run (Schulte blocked kick) 20-6. Drive 13 plays, 79 yards, 5:42
BC — Burton 2 run (Kump run) 20-14. Drive 6 plays, 80 yards, 2:17
POL — Wilson 62 run (Smith pass from Wilson) 28-14. Drive 2 plays 69 yards, :45
PASSING — BC: Kump 17-36-3-206. Polson: Wilson 10-24-1-227.
RUSHING — BC: Burton 18-83, Kump 8-26, Moodry 1-5, Polson: Wilson 26-165, Cote 9-23, Rensvold 3-0.
RECEIVING — BC: Hollow 4-72, McGree 5-53, Harper 4-46, Burton 2-19, Johnston 2-16. Polson: Rensvold 4-127, Harrod 2-62, Smith 3-24, Ducharme 1-14.