One playoff opponent down, one defending state champion upcoming.
Naranche Stadium was treated to another display of offensive excellence as Butte took down Kalispell Glacier 51-14, but not before the Wolfpack created an air of concern in the Mining City.
In a first quarter that saw Bulldogs quarterback Tommy Mellott fail to complete a pass, a botched Glacier punt earn a first down, and saw Butte enter the second quarter down a touchdown, the first playoff game in Butte since 2012 did not have a storybook start.
However, Bulldogs head coach Arie Grey said that an early punch in the mouth was something that Butte needed, and that he was pleased with his team’s response.
“It was good,” Grey said. “Glacier had a game plan and punched one in, and we didn’t. Defensively, we played good early, but we couldn’t sustain drives offensively. The second quarter was big for us, and then you see what we we’re able to do in the second half.”
After a first quarter fumble, Butte’s senior running back Kameron Moreno responded in the second quarter with two touchdowns in less than 4 minutes to establish the Bulldogs first lead. Mellott’s first touchdown of the evening, a nine-yard rushing score, extended Butte’s lead to 20-7 heading into halftime.
Glacier head coach Grady Bennett admitted that the start was what the Wolfpack had planned for, but that the quality of the Bulldogs was going to require a near-perfect performance.
“I thought we started well,” Bennett said. “But this was simply one of those games that we had to play very well and hope they were a bit off. We started good, but we ended up getting sloppy, and once Butte got going, you could sense that it was over.”
Mellott’s opening rushing touchdown was followed up by two more in the third quarter and fourth quarters, as well as a 13-yard passing touchdown to receiver Ryan Neil, as the quarterback’s offensive firepower continued to separate the Bulldogs from the Wolfpack.
The senior QB totaled 203 yards on the ground and 123 in the air, seeing the Montana State-commit drive his offense with his legs rather than his arm.
“Whatever a team tries to take away, we’re going to do the other thing,” Mellott said. “Tonight, they tried taking away the pass by playing deep, but we’re a three-headed monster between running, passing and screens. Tonight, we dominated on the ground and that’s what you got to do.”
Glacier was led by quarterback JT Allen, who threw for 144 yards and two TDs, but also threw two interceptions, the first being to Mellott and the second coming as a pick-six late to Butte corner Billy Kelly.
Bennett mentioned that the difference between the first matchup between the Bulldogs and Wolfpack, a 55-28 loss for Glacier, and tonight’s matchup was the progress the Butte defense has made.
“We had to keep going on offense,” Bennett said. “We wanted to score first and did, but we had to stay out in front. I think their defense is much improved from the first time we played Butte, they’ve grown in that area and that’s why I think they’ll win the state championship.”
While Glacier packs up their season after a respectable playoff run, Butte looks forward to hosting defending state champions Billings West this upcoming Friday.
It represents a symbolic challenge, but it also a rematch for Butte, who exited the playoffs last year at the hands of the Golden Bears in a 45-27 loss in the quarterfinals.
Mellott scored four touchdowns against West in that game, but was not focused on who was next for the Bulldogs after Friday’s win. Instead, he talked about the faith and work that his team put in to reach this point.
“We prepared for tonight,” Mellott said. “Everything has already been done. We didn’t have to do anything extra, because we’ve put in the work, the hours in the summer and throughout the season. We trust each other and what we done, we just have a really close group.”