The Montana Standard sports page will take a major hit next week when Jordan Hansen takes his talents to the Missoulian.
For the past couple of years, Hansen has been covering Montana Tech and high school sports in Butte. He came to town fresh out of college, and he has done a really good job.
It has been fun getting to know Jordan and reading his work, even though we are employed by competing news outlets. I am really happy for him to take a big step at such a young age, and I know he is going to crush it.
Jordan will cover the University of Montana men’s basketball team in Missoula. There, he gets to write for a rabid fanbase at a newspaper that has long been among the best when covering sports, particularly the Grizzlies.
For Jordan, this is a really big deal. Really big.
However, as we talked about his new gig on the sideline of a Butte High football game, I could not help but feel a little bad for him. While this is an incredible opportunity, the timing really stinks.
That is because Jordan will miss out on covering the undefeated Butte High football team.
As a sportswriter, nothing could be better than covering Butte High football when the Bulldogs are winning.
At 6-0 for the first time since the 1991 team rolled to a 12-0 record and the Class AA state title, the Bulldogs are legitimate title contenders.
You can feel it in the air. The atmosphere is electric on Friday nights at Naranche Stadium.
Without question, the Bulldogs are the biggest show in town. That goes a thousand fold when they are winning.
I can only imagine what it must have been like to be a writer covering the Bulldog wrestling team when Butte High won 13 straight titles from 1980 through 1992.
I can tell you first hand how great it was to be on the beat with the Butte High boys’ basketball team that played in the state title game in 2004 and 2007. Or when the Bulldog girls’ just missed state titles in 2006, 2008 and 2009.
Those teams captivated Butte Rats from around the world.
Retired coach John Thatcher maintains that the Mining City is the greatest sports town in the world. Not the state. Not the country. The world.
There just might be something to that. There certainly is a special aura when Butte has a winner, especially when that winner is wearing purple.
When I got into this business, I thought it was to watch the Chicago Bears from a press box. After I watched the crowd rush the field after Jake Dennehy and the Bulldogs beat Bozeman in the final seconds with a 46-yard field goal in the 2012 state championship game, I knew I was wrong.
Butte High has won four state championships in football in my lifetime — 1977, 1981, 1991 and 2012.
I vaguely remember the 1981 team, and I walked the hallways with the 1991 team.
In the fall of 1991, I transferred to Butte High from Butte Central as a junior. I did not go out for the football team because I bruise easily.
My first class every morning was chemistry taught by Butte High football coach Jon McElroy. Every afternoon I sat next to Bulldog defensive standout Brian Farren in study hall.
The excitement built every week as the Bulldogs went from a dark horse to powerhouse with each win they stacked up.
Friday nights at East Junior High Stadium (that was before they gave Bulldog Memorial Stadium that silly name) were even better. I can still see those perfect passes from Josh Paffhausen floating into the arms of Jon Smitham.
I can remember Paffer, Randy Riley, Lance Steilman, Jon Smitham, Ben Racicot, Shawn Galetti, Darrell Story and Jeremy Whitlock being named All-State. I remember that Paul Flynn, Josh Vincent, Brian Toone, Brian Seymour and Dave Dunston, Farren and others should have, too.
Four years later, by the way, Toone and Riley combined to sack Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington for a safety. That turned out to be the difference in the University of Montana’s 22-20 win over the Thundering Heard in the NCAA-IA national championship game.
In 2012, I got to interview several of those 1991 players as the radio sideline reporter during state championship game.
I will never forget the look in Toone’s eyes when it was suggested that he did not have a pass to watch the game on the sideline. I remember knowing that nobody was going to be able make him leave.
The Bulldogs playing in the title game again after 21 years meant too much.
The Naranche crowd was absolutely crazy that night. Some say more than 7,000 packed the stadium. Others said it was more than 8,000. Both numbers seem unfathomable, yet perfectly believable.
With a couple minutes left in the game, I texted my wife to turn on the radio so my young son could listen to the Bulldogs win the state championship.
Then Bozeman scored a touchdown with 57 seconds left. Then the Hawks recovered an onside kick. Then Will Dissly, now an emerging star with the Seattle Seahawks, caught a touchdown pass, and Bozeman was going for two.
Then Dissly caught a pass from Will Weyer for the conversion to put Bozeman up 36-35 with 29.2 seconds left.
My heart sank because I thought I just might have jinxed the Bulldogs with a text.
But Dalton Daum had a nice kickoff return, Dallas Cook scrambled for a big gainer, and Cook hit Daum with a pass on the sideline with 3.2 seconds left.
Then the Bulldogs ran out their field goal unit for a long field goal. I thought they were crazy because I did not know Dennehy was that good of a kicker.
One Butte High lineman ran out late, getting set just in time. Maybe. Then Drew Schleeman snapped the ball to Cook. Dennehy’s low kick cleared the crossbar on the right side, and the town went nuts.
When the majority of the crowd finally left, the firetrucks pulled up to take the champions on a victorious ride around town. That is when the eerie fog set in, as if it was the ghosts of Naranche signaling their approval.
The days leading up to that night were magical. The days after were, too.
Who can forget how packed the mall was when the town showed up to get autographs from the championship players?
After six games, that feeling has returned to Naranche Stadium. The town is starting to buzz over its Bulldogs.
It kind of feels like 2012 and 1991 and probably 1981 and 1977, too.
No one is saying Butte High will win the state title again this season, so nobody better be sending any texts. The Bulldogs, though, have something special going on this season, and everybody in town can feel it.
Congratulations to Jordan on his great promotion.
Unfortunately for him, he is leaving town about a couple months too early.
— Bill Foley, who is still waiting for that call to cover the Chicago Bears, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. Check out his NFL picks every Thursday. 2 comments