Even though the Butte High Bulldogs (0-8) are out of the playoffs and haven't won a game all season, Friday night's contest against Billings West at Bulldog Memorial Stadium has a whole lot riding on it.
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
First, the game is Butte's last of the season and the senior players and their parents will be honored before the game.
The 2003 seniors on the Bulldog roster in numerical order are (asterisk denotes starters): Cody Lacey, Josh McGurk, Barry Mitchell*, Cal McQueary*, Brenton O'Connell, Ken White, Brian Bertoglio, Randy Hazlett*, Colt Anderson*, Cole Salo*, Jason Rixford*, Chad Moore*, Marcos Lira, Josh Fellows*, Scott Boehler, Zach Yates*, Chad Jonart*, John Loberg*, Kyle Breen*, Mark Nugent, Wayne Cunningham*, Josh Robinson*, Matt Enrooth*, Carter Briggs*, Caelen Anderson*, Jeff Brown, Casey Briggs*, Aaron Lasky and Skip From.
Second, the Golden Bears (4-5) are in a must-win situation in order to earn one of the last available AA playoffs spots. West's second-half comeback against town rival Billings Skyview fell short last Friday, with the Falcons winning the Billings City Championship, 34-28.
And finally, although it's customary to say a losing team has "nothing to lose" in situations such as the Bulldogs are in on Friday, nothing could be further from the truth.
The 2003 Bulldogs are playing for pride. Not just for the pride of their seniors, who are finishing their high school careers on Friday. But for all of Butte High School and its 103 years of football on record.
A loss to Billings West would give this team its most losing single-season in Bulldogs history.
Twice, in recent years, the 'Dogs have lost eight in a season, but never have they lost every game.
And the last time a Butte High
See 'DOGS, Page B6
team finished the year without a victory was in 1906, when the Bulldogs finished 0-4-1.
So if pride isn't enough for the Bulldogs on Friday, maybe the ghosts from yesterday will be able to scare them into the win column.
Speaking of scary, the Bulldogs have not beat Billings West since 1991, losing their last 11 contests with the Bears.
Butte is a frightening 6-27 against the three Billings Class AA schools combined in that same period.
"I think we're looking OK," said Butte High head coach Greg Salo on his team's level of play going into its last game. "Friday is Seniors night, and I think that helps.
"Then there's that infamous tag on us winning a game and we can play the spoiler for Billings West.
"So there's a lot of positive things that could happen."
Coming off a 7-3 defeat to Great Falls Russell (4-5) last week in which the Butte offense was limited to only 100 total yards, the Bulldogs will have to do better when they have the ball on Friday.
A Bears' squad that has had defensive troubles might be the prescription the Bulldogs offense needs.
"We've struggled on defense and that concerns us," said West coach Paul Klaboe, a former Butte High Bulldog. "Butte is a good team with good athletes and they've been close in every game.
"It's been a tough-luck year for them, but I think they're as good as just about any team.
"I think it's going to be a tough game for us, knowing they want to win."
Despite Butte's record, the Bulldogs boast the top-ranked passing defense in the state with a secondary led by Salo, Anderson, junior Ryan Dennehy and Mitchell.
Also showing up as of late on defense for Butte is Enrooth, who has seen starting time at both defensive line and linebacker.
West will counter the Purple defense with running back Michael Tucker, who rushed for 106 yards in last week's loss and quarterback Casey Chaffin, who passed for 270 yards, completing 20 of 31 attempts.
"They're more run than pass," said Salo of Klaboe's offense. "But they've been effective when they put the ball in the air."
On offense, the 'Dogs look to quarterback McQueary to lead the charge, handing off to Anderson and Hazlett first.
West, which allowed Skyview 422 yards rushing last week, is in contention with CMR and Kalispell for the last playoff spots.
"We have a different incentive than West," Salo said on his Bulldogs spoiler role. "I've told these kids that it's going to take a win to get over that hump. You just never know when that's going to be. It might be tomorrow night.
"Hopefully, the ball will bounce our way."