Story from ButteSports.com, By Derek Hendrickson
The Butte Central Maroons won some respect by hanging tough to the final whistle but the Dillon Beavers won their second straight Southwestern A Conference Regular Season Championship with a 45-21 Friday night at Bob Green Field.
While the game didn’t go as the Maroons had hoped there was certainly a reason for that on the opposing sideline, which Head Coach Don Peoples Jr. talked about after the game, saying “I think our kids didn’t quit and that’s a positive. We didn’t come out with confidence and that’s a little disappointing for sure but they fought hard. Dillon’s a great team, give them a lot credit, they’re one of the best teams in Class A, there’s no doubt about that.”
Central celebrated Senior Parent Night, bidding farewell to ten seniors who will need some playoff magic to earn another home game.
Butte Central seniors for the 2016 season are Blake Burton, Sam Johnston, Tanner Kump, Chay Bouchée, Nate McGree, Ryan Ashby, Jared Schneider, Ryan Richards, Archie Petritz and Paul Thomas LaFleur.
Dillon had a simple game plan and ran it to perfection, rushing the ball straight at the Maroon defense. The ploy resulted in four touchdown drives in four tries in the first half along with an RJ Fitzgerald interception return score to make it 35-0 with about 8 minutes left in the second quarter.
Dillon Beaver Head Coach Rick Nordahl spoke about his team’s reasoning for the game plan they installed.
“The offensive line dig a great job of opening up holes,” he said after the win. “They were loading the box and blitzing a lot against Hamilton so we figured it we could break some arm tackles with the running backs they could get to the second level and have some big gainers.”
Those big gainers come early and often as the Beavers had five runs go for at least 20 yards and six for the game.
The Maroons mounted two long drives in the first half, the first one bogging down deep in Dillon territory and the second resulting in a 5-yard Sam Johnston touchdown reception on an untimed down following a Dillon penalty with all zeroes on the scoreboard clock.
At the break Dillon rushed for all 266 of their yards as their All-State quarterback Troy Andersen misfired on all four passes.
Andersen’s passing struggles were at least partially due to the respect Coach Nordahl had for the backend of the Maroon defense. “Their strength is in their secondary, their speed and they were man covering us tight. There was no need to try to force it in to the man coverage. We just relied on the o-line and the three headed monster of running backs (Fitzgerald, Greenslade and Walker) and away they went. It was just fun to watch them execute as they did.”
Fitzgerald was the leading rusher but had plenty of help. He rushed 8 times for 99 yards in the first half including three runs of at least 25 yards and would finish the night with 11 carries for 103.
The late Maroon touchdown took the running clock off the start the third but Dillon got an interception from Patrick Griffin to open the third and set up a perfect example of why Andersen will be playing for Montana State next fall.
The Beavers took over at the Maroon 35 and Andersen ripped a 29 yard run to the 1. On the play it appeared Andersen had some sort of equipment problem with his helmet and came out of the game.
Sophomore Michael Haverfield came in to attempt to cap off the drive but a low snap had him scrambling to avert disaster and he managed to jump on the loose ball but not before he lost 14 yards.
Andersen came back in and was facing a long goal-to-go eventually up against fourth down at the seven.
On the decisive play Andersen rolled out to his right looking for one of the three receivers on that side running routes but the Maroons had it covered well. There didn’t seem anywhere to go as the entire Central defense converged but Andersen deftly cut back and somehow slipped through for the touchdown that put the game away.
Coach Peoples certainly appreciated the Dillon QB’s abilities, saying “That Troy Andersen is a great player. We had numerous times we had him tackled and he’s just a bit stud with great speed so give him credit.”
Dillon would see four players rush for at least 50 yards for the game as they rolled up 329 yards on the ground of their 342 game total.
Central was able to almost match that total, putting up 298 yards total, with Johnston leading the team from his receiver position with 8 catches for 115 and two touchdowns.
Kump also had a strong game, especially in the second half where he was 10 for 12 and two scoring passes. On the game he was 21-34 for 233 yards and three touchdowns.
The Maroons had their strong run game limited by both the stout defensive front of the Beavers and the need to pass throughout the final three quarters.
McGree’s 18 yards led the team on his carries out of the wildcat formation. Burton managed 17 hard-earned yards rushing to go with three catches for 15 more yards.
The major issue was field position as the Beavers were able to take advantage of the shorter distances they had to go, especially in the first half.
The Maroons put together their biggest spurt of the game late in the 4th as they got touchdowns 8 seconds apart.
Central got a 15-yard TD catch on a pass from Kump to McGree. After Ryan Moodry knocked throw the PAT McGree executed a perfect onside kick that bounced high in the air and was caught by Clay Fisher.
On the next play Central went deep to Johnston, who ran under the perfectly thrown pass inside the 5 and was behind the Beaver defense for the well-executed touchdown play. A fitting possible final play at home for both of the 2 year starters.
McGree again made it interesting on the next onside kick, which was identical to the first. Dillon was a bit more prepared but it was uncertain who had possession when Clay Allison finally emerged from the scrum with the ball.
Dillon was able to gain a first down and run out the clock but never felt comfortable enough to take out their starters as Andersen knelt out the final two plays.
With the win Dillon earns a much needed bye to go with the No. 1 seed out of the Southwest. The Bears will almost certainly get a tough quarterfinal game as they will likely see the Laurel Locomotives according to Coach Nordahl’s prediction after the game. Laurel fell to Billings Central 28-10 Friday night after trailing only 14-10 at the half. Billings Central lost to the Beavers 20-16 earlier this season.
The Maroons will almost certainly return to Hamilton next Saturday based on Coach Peoples’ statement after the game. The Broncs knocked off Whitefish 33-20 Friday night, in a game that was likely closer than most would’ve expected as the defending champion Bulldogs struggled after being hit hard by graduation from their title team last year.
“We can’t turn it over six times and we can’t give up five touchdown passes over the top when we’ve played great defense for plays before that, Coach Peoples said when asked about a likely rematch with the Broncs. “Hamilton’s well coached, Travis (Blome) and his guys do an incredible job over there so they’re not going to be an easy foe for sure.”
The Class A Playoffs will be wide open as there isn’t an undefeated team and several have shown to be strong contenders, including Columbia Falls, Polson, Sidney, Billings Central and of course Dillon.
“We did get some confidence at the end, we didn’t quit” Peoples said about the Maroons starting the second season. “We’ll be ready to play next weekend.”
Dillon 21 14 7 3 — 45
Butte Central 0 7 0 14 — 21
DIL — Fitzgerald 3 run (Nordahl kick)
DIL — Greenslade 1 run (Nordahl kick)
DIL — Walker 64 run (Nordahl kick)
DIL — Andersen 9 run (Nordahl kick)
DIL-Fitzgerald 35 interception return (Nordahl kick)
BC — Johnston 5 pass from Kump (Moodry kick)
DIL — Andersen 7 yard run (Nordahl kick)
DIL — Nordahl 35 field goal
BC — McGree 15 pass from Kump (Moodry kick)
BC — Johnston 47 pass from Kump (Moodry kick)
RUSHING — Dillon (39-229), Fitzgerald 11-102, Greenslade 9-94, Walker 10-87, Andersen 7-50, Lemieux 1-10, Haverfield 1-(-14). Butte Central (21-59), McGree 4-18, Burton 7-17, Moodry 4-13, Kump 4-11, Fisher 2-0.
PASSING — Dillon, Andersen 2-8-0-13. Butte Central, Kump 21-34-2-239.
RECEIVING — Dillon, Walker 1-7, Griffin 1-6. Butte Central, Johnston 8-115, McGree 4-44, Moodry 5-37, Schneider 1-22, Burton 3-15.