Three in 73 for the Maroons

The date was November 9, 1973. The Butte Central Maroons beat the Cut Bank Wolves 27-6 to win the Class A state football championship. The state title was the third in a row for the Maroons and extended their winning streak to 28 straight games over a three-year period.

This Saturday night, 40 years to the day Butte Central won the state crown, members from the 1973 Maroons’ team will hold a reunion at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

The 1973 Butte Central Maroons had a motto before that glorious season began.  It was “Three in 73!”

The club started out the season beating Butte High 8-0 in the final city title game played at Naranche Stadium. The Maroons won the title in a mud bowl with heavy rains earlier in the day turning the fabled Naranche dirt into a soggy pile of gew.

Butte Central scored the first points of the game on a safety when Butte High punter Bob Peterson had to retrieve a poor exchange from center in the end zone. His knee hit the ground in the end zone and the Maroons were awarded a safety. It is the only safety ever registered by Butte Central in the city title match up.

In the second half, senior quarterback Mark Schulte led his club down the field for the game’s only touchdown. He tallied from a yard out as the Maroons put away the Bulldogs winning 8-0.

There were two keys to the Central victory. The first was Maroon running back Matt Buckley who pounded the Bulldogs with 124 rushing yards. The second key was a brilliant Butte Central defense. They held Butte High to 17 rushing yards and 37 total yards on the night. Both were Butte Central team records in their series with Butte High.

The outstanding Central defense was the key to the 1973 season. During the year, the Maroons registered three other shutouts: Lewistown 34-0, Deer Lodge 36-0 and Billings Central 42-0.

The Maroons breezed through their regular season unbeaten.

They met Miles City at Naranche Stadium in the state semi-finals. Butte Central won easily 26-7. It was the last playoff game held at Naranche until last year when the Butte Bulldogs made their miracle run through the playoffs.

After whipping Miles City, the Maroons traveled north to Cut Bank to battle the Wolves in the state finals. Butte Central dominated the game winning 27-6.

For Maroons followers it was the final hooray to a glorious run. During the five-year stretch, from 1969 to 1973, Butte Central won four state titles. They lost only three games in five seasons. One of those loses a 6-0 upset in the mud against Bozeman cost Butte Central a playoff spot and the potential for five  straight titles in five years.

The 1973 club was an impressive bunch. They had 21 seniors on the roster. It was the most of any of the Butte Central teams during their brilliant five-year domination.  They were the first team in Butte Central history to win 10 games in a season going 10-0. The 1973 team gave up only 53 points.  Since that time no Butte Central team has given up fewer points in a year. In fact, if you throw Butte High into the mix, only the 1977 Bulldogs team that gave up only 20 points for the whole season can top the performance of the 1973 Maroons.

Since that glorious night in 1973, the Maroons have not been back to the top step of the ladder in the state playoffs. In fact, they have only been victorious once on the road in the state playoffs since that title game 40 years ago. The lone win came 10 years ago in Whitefish with the Maroons winning 41-35.

Butte Central has only been back in the state finals twice since that 1973 state title. They got beat 12-7 by Miles City in 1981 and fell to Sidney on the road 41-22 in 1992.

The 1973 club was led by Ron “Swede” Kenison. He a cracker-jack coaching staff with Otto Simon, Steve Stosich, Ron Kautzman and John Thatcher. Four of those coaches, Kenison, Simon, Stosich and Thatcher, are all individual members of the Butte Sports Hall of Fame.

Another member of the Hall of Fame is the 1973 Maroons’ quarterback Mark Schulte. He was the starting signal caller for all of those 28 straight wins and those three state titles.

The popular tune from Pink shouts out “Raise Your Glass” and indeed they will raise their glass a time or two this Saturday night to one of the best of all time, the 1973 Class A State Football Champions, the Butte Central Maroons

1973 Butte Central football season

 Maroons            8        Butte High                    0        win

Maroons          34        Lewistown                    0        win

Maroons          30        Livingston                     6        win

Maroons          36        Deer Lodge                   0        win

Maroons          48        Laurel                            6        win

Maroons          40        Dillon                          14        win

Maroons          35        Hardin                         14        win

Maroons          42        Billings Central             0        win

Maroons          26        Miles City                     7        win      playoff game

Maroons          27        Cut Bank                       6        win      state finals

326 points                                                       53 points

10-0 record