A second straight road game beckons Butte Central back to the high school football field this week.
The Maroons will go to Livingston for a 7 p.m. non-conference Class A game versus the Park High Rangers on Friday at McLeod Field. (Radio: KOPR 94.1, online)
Both teams are 0-1 on the season and both advanced to state playoffs competition last season, each returning a number of veterans from the 2013 campaigns. Opening weekend saw BC fall 34-20 at Belgrade while Livingston lost 33-0 to Sidney, both in non-conference action.
The fortunes of last fall included seeing Butte Central lose to Whitefish in the first round of the state Class A playoffs while the Rangers defeated Anaconda before falling in the quarterfinals.
The history of the competition, though, favors the Maroons, who have defeated Livingston 25 straight times. The Rangers’ last football victory over BC occurred in 1975.
Livingston presents unusual look for opponents with a variation of the Wing-T offense in which linemen crowd foot-to-foot across the line, obscuring the defense’s vision of whether the quarterback hands off to one of two other backs, which back or if he keeps it.
“The Livingston splits up front are extremely compact,” Butte Central head coach Don Peoples Jr. commented. “They make it hard to find the ball and are extremely hard to play against.
“They ran the ball really well against Sidney. They just had trouble in the red zone.”
Another complication is that the Rangers have also been seen operating out of the shotgun formation, giving running back-turned-quarterback Cade McOmber a deeper look at the defense and more time to throw. Passing, though, is usually a rare sight in the Livingston offense. Against Sidney, McOmber passed nine times and completed four, connecting twice each with Ian Grant and Jordan Lehrer.
Head coach Bryan Beitel, always toying with the attack, has veterans in the ball-carrying slots, led by Bobby Emter and Carlos Morales. The Rangers’ defense was led last week by the play of Emter, Hunter Burda and Lehrer.
“We think they’re a good football team,” Peoples said. “They have decent overall size, too.”
The coach added that a good start and gaining the lead early might be crucial against the keepaway offense of the Rangers.
Such didn’t happen for the Maroons last Friday. Butte Central suffered a self-destructive first quarter and its loss at Belgrade. The Maroons saw two Ranger touchdowns buoyed and/or set up by penalties, and had a TD run wiped out by another penalty. Some blown coverages in the secondary also hurt BC.
Still, the team bounced back pretty well and rallied in the second half, finding ways to score on a good Panthers team.
“The kids came back to practice on Monday disappointed with the outcome of Friday night,” Peoples said. “We pointed out to them that we actually did a lot of good things, too, on Friday night. So I think, now, the kids are anxious to get back on the field for a game.”
Senior quarterback Danny Peoples ran for two touchdowns and passed to Dalton Sessions for a third. He connected on 12 of 26 attempts for 152 yards, and suffered one interception Sessions caught six passes for 76 yards. He and Belgrade’s Koby Ruff were chosen as players of the game, as announced at the site after the contest.
A good BC running game was led by big-and-fast Kyle Harrington, who sped and crashed his way to 109 yards on 17 carries. Peoples ran for 92 yards. The air attack featured six different receivers with catches, including Chad Peterson with two for 33 yards.
Coach Peoples credited the offensive line for much of what success the offense experienced. The group had Liam Doram at center, Jake Michelotti and Ethan St. John at the guards, and Tw Bolton at the tackles. St. John, the coach said, played exceptionally well in his first varsity start.
However, coach Peoples added. the 6-foot-3, 260-pound junior is iffy for this week because of a shoulder injury.
Kaemen Richards ran hard and blocked well at fullback. Sessions and Peterson were joined in the receiver rotation by Cole Harper and Cal Hollow. Frank Hendrickson blocked at tight end.
A defense that toughened in the second half saw Doran and Michelotti or Bolton at the tackles, Ferriter, Harrington and Hendrickson switching at the ends, Mike Cooney, Richards and Kyle Schulte at linebacker spots, Harper, Colin McArthur and Sessions rotating at the corners, Peterson playing strong safety and Hollow at free safety.
“We’re excited to get the ship going back in the right direction,” coach Peoples said.