On Nov. 2, 2012, I thought the Butte High Bulldogs were in real trouble.
Billings Skyview was coming to town for a Class AA football game, and I thought Butte High had about a 30 percent chance of winning at Naranche Stadium.
A lot of Bulldog fans were thinking the same way because Billings Skyview beat Butte High 55-48 in a wild shootout at Billings’ Daylis Stadium on the second week of the season.
Coach Ron Lebsock’s Wing-T offense was working to perfection as the Falcons ran for 461 yards. Yes, 461 yards in one game.
Butte High had a potent offense, but 48 points wasn’t enough on a hot August night while playing on turf. I figured on a cold November night on the grass at Naranche, there was no way the Bulldog offense could keep up.
Of course, I didn’t know the Bulldogs were planning on playing Bo Taylor at nose guard that night.
Taylor, who died at 19 in a work accident last Thursday in Idaho, was No. 35 for the Bulldogs. At 5-foot-8, 150 pounds — according to the roster — Taylor was small for a linebacker and not very big as a running back.
Taylor, though, was a bruising goal-line running back and a hard-thing, sure tackler. He was probably the toughest member of the Butte High football team.
“Pound for pound he was probably the toughest kid we ever had,” Butte High seven-year head coach Arie Grey said.
But as a defensive lineman, Taylor was tiny. He was giving up 100 pounds — at least — to the center he lined up against.
As it turns out, putting him at nose guard was the coaching move of the century. It was a move that should keep Grey and defensive coordinator Bryan Arntson immune from second guessing for at least 10 years.
The mammoth offensive lineman for Skyview had no answer for Taylor as he ran around the big men all night. He single-handily baffled the Wing-T.
I watched much of the game for the east end zone at Naranche, laughing at the center’s inability to lay a finger on that quick, little defensive lineman.
“His only job was to cause as much disruption as possible, and he did that,” Grey said. “They couldn’t do anything.”
Grey said Taylor moving to the defensive line from outside linebacker was a selfless act because he was doing the dirty work while his teammates got all the glory.
“He moved from a position where he could make a lot of tackles,” the coach said. “For a kid to be able to put the team ahead of himself was amazing. That was basically what Bo was all about. He wanted everyone else to have a smile on his face.”
Taylor played through 2012 with a badly injured shoulder. He had it surgically repaired after the season. When that shoulder stopped him from playing, it didn’t stop him from being a team guy.
“We held him out of the (Missoula) Sentinel game,” Grey remembered. “He dislocated his shoulder twice cheering. He always had a smile on his face. He was always happy.”
Even though they might not have noticed, his performance put a smile on the face of every Bulldog fan the night of that first playoff game.
The same Skyview offense that ran for 461 yards during the second week of the season, ran for exactly 100 in the first round of the playoffs. The team that beat the Bulldogs 55-48 exited the playoffs with a 40-21 loss.
The same team that scored eight touchdowns against Butte High in the first meeting scored three TDs in the playoff game.
It was Butte High’s first playoff victory since the 1991 state championship game. The next week was the CMR semifinal classic, followed by the miracle against Bozeman in the championship game.
Jake Dennehy kicked the 46-yard field goal as time expired and the Bulldogs beat the Hawks 38-36 in the Nov. 16 title game.
Dalton Daum had the big kickoff return and the tip-toe catch on the sideline to set up that kick.
Of course, the Bulldogs wouldn’t have even been there without the superhuman effort by quarterback Dallas Cook as the Bulldogs overcame a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter six days earlier in an overtime win over CMR.
Billy Robinson made the season-saving tackle in the semifinal game, and Zach Bunney’s victorious battle with leukemia inspired everybody and set the tone for the amazing season.
They are the heroes of the 2012 Butte High championship team. We all know their names, and we will forever remember the plays they made.
One player and one memory, though, probably doesn’t jump to the front of the minds of Bulldog fans, and that’s too bad because it should.
My favorite memory of the 2012 Butte High Bulldog football season was feeling silly for my doubting thoughts as I watched Bo Taylor make those giant Skyview offensive linemen look helpless.
“What a night that was,” Grey said. “You could easily say that Bo doing that is what catapulted us to win the whole thing.”
—Bill Foley writes a column that appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74.
Note: A memorial fund for Bo Taylor has been set up. Click here to donate to that fund.