DILLON – The roller coaster ride of a season for the Butte Central football came to a complete stop at Vigilante Stadium.
The defending Class A State Champion Dillon Beavers shook off last week’s loss to Hamilton – their only setback of the season – and rolled past the Maroons 53-13 in the first round of the playoffs on Saturday afternoon.
The Beavers relied on efficiency to build a first-half lead over the Maroons, needing just 14 plays on offense in the first half to build a 25-7 lead.
A first-quarter 53-yard touchdown pass from Coby King to Gabe Kirkley countered Butte Central’s Thomas McGree-to-Clay Fisher 36-yard scoring strike that came moments earlier.
The Beavers continued to go big from that point on.
Their first play of the second quarter broke the 7-all tie when King raced through and past several would-be tacklers on his way to a 60-yard touchdown run.
“I think we just came out and kind of laid an egg,” said Central junior Cade Holter. “We started out pretty solid but we gave up some big plays and couldn’t recover very well.
A 65-yard punt return from Brent Tezak and a 91-yard screen pass from King to Kirkley closed out Dillon’s scoring in the first half.
“After last week’s loss against Hamilton, we knew we had to push ourselves hard this week to get a win so we came out and just executed really well,” said Kirkley, who added his third touchdown of the game in the second half and kicked four PATs. “We usually have to grind it out a little bit harder with a lot more run game but we were fortunate on a couple of coverages that were blown so we were able to pick up some big yards on some pass plays.”
The Beavers picked off where they left off as the third quarter started. They received the second-half kickoff and needed just one play to add to their point total. This time it was 5-foot-11, 240-pound running back Graden Greenslade who got into the end zone by rumbling to a 68-yard touchdown run.
“It was disappointing,” Butte Central coach Don Peoples Jr. said of the Maroons’ defensive effort. “We had people in position to make plays but we just didn’t tackle well. It wasn’t that we didn’t have people there. In just about all of those long plays, we had opportunities to make tackles at the line of scrimmage and sometimes in the backfield. Give Dillon credit for making big plays, I guess.”
Dillon’s next possession resulted in a 22-yard touchdown run by Anders Westman, and Kirkley added a 24-yard touchdown reception – on fourth-and 6 – to increase the lead to 46-7.
“Central is a good team and they’re not going to go away,” Beavers coach Rick Nordahl said. “We knew that. Even at halftime when we were up maybe three scores or whatever, the game’s not over. We have to keep making plays and the kids did a good job of that coming out in the third quarter and putting more points on the board right away.
“We got a big advantage early in the third quarter. You just can’t let up against a team with Central’s athleticism. They’ve got a great bunch of young kids. Hats off to coach Peoples and those kids. They played hard getting into the playoffs. They’ve got a lot of youth and they’re going to be good for years to come.”
The big plays resulted in 182 passing yards for King (on five completions) and 177 receiving yards for Kirkley (on four catches).
The Maroons were forced to switch gears in the second half when Thomas McGree hurt his shoulder and Jared Simkins left the game with an arm injury.
Holter, who started the season at quarterback, returned to the position and tossed a 24-yard touchdown pass to Matt Simkins early in the fourth quarter but Maroons didn’t have much more after that.
“Difficult things happened but I’m proud of the kids,” Peoples said of his players. “They fought hard. I just think we had to play much better against a great team and we didn’t get it done. But I’m proud of our seniors for their efforts.”
The Maroons didn’t hesitate in looking forward to next season. The team knew it was going to take its share of lumps this season because it was so young but all of that is sure to pay off in the future.
“When you have all those sophomores out there, it’s exciting for the future,” Peoples said. “Our sophomore youth hurt us in the playoff arena. That was tough but the kids will learn from it and the beauty of it that we’ll grow and be better next year for that.
Added Holter, “We were young and I think we had a lot of young talent out there. They’re all going to have experience now and they’re all going to get bigger and stronger. We could be a good team next year if we continue to work hard in the offseason.”
The Beavers will travel to Sidney to play in next weekend’s quarterfinal round. Like the Beavers, the Eagles have just one loss this season.
“The east is pretty solid,” Nordahl said. “(Sidney is) well-tested and they’ve got some good running backs. They’ll run first, pass second, play aggressive defense.
“Our kids are going to prepare hard and get ready to go over there and go get a win and steal the home-field advantage. That’s our goal; to bring it back here so we can host a semifinal and see where it goes.”