BUTTE — Frenchtown and Butte Central went to the Maroons’ halftime homecoming celebration without a score and with a combined seven turnovers.
The defensive battle continued in the second half, the turnover total increased to 10, and Frenchtown improved to 6-0 with a 14-0 Southwestern A win in Butte on Friday night.
And as instrumental as Jace Klucewich was, scoring both an offensive touchdown and returning a late punt to extend the lead, field position is ultimately what kept the Broncs unbeaten on the season.
“Just seemed like early both teams were struggling on offense, neither of us could get anything going, and the turnovers obviously don’t help both sides,” Frenchtown coach Ryne Nelson said. “But we talked about it at halftime … we just had to execute and that’s what it came down to. We were able to in the second half and score a couple times to get the win.”
With a fresh set of downs on its own 29-yard line with less than two minutes left in the third quarter, a mishandled snap turned into the sixth Maroons turnover of the game.
And while the previous five turnovers had the Butte Central defense turn away the Broncs, this time Frenchtown’s running game began to chip away. Four running plays later, Klucewich went 12 yards around the end to score and give his side what was ultimately the winning touchdown.
Frenchtown had little success running in the first half, thanks in large part to the disruption of Butte Central end Jared Simkins. But adjustments at halftime and executed blocking opened a previously sealed up slot outside the tackles for the Broncs.
"We knew coming in they are from Butte, they’re going to play tough,” Klucewich said. “We started pushing it outside, their ends were eating us up … We were popping it outside, that’s how we were getting our yards (in the second half)."
Hitting on the field position victory again, Frenchtown downed a punt at the Central 1-yard line at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The Maroons did put together a seven-play drive, but it ended with Klucewich fielding a punt and taking it back for the final score of the night.
Clay Fisher, subbing at punter for an injured Braden Harrington, swept to his right to avoid immediate pressure and just got the kick off.
The Maroons were trying to avoid getting it to Klucewich, who nearly fair-caught the punt before electing to take his chances.
“I was thinking fair catch,” he said, “but then I’m just going to put a move on, follow my blockers, and I let them do the work and I just had to run it on in.”
Central staged a drive with under two minutes to play, but the fifth interception of the game allowed the Broncs to run out the rest of the clock on offense, and drop the Maroons to 2-3 on the season.
“I think our defense played well, our team played hard tonight,” Maroons coach Don Peoples Jr. said. “We just didn’t do a good job moving the ball. … We just didn’t consistently move the ball."
Peoples added: “They got field position and punched in a touchdown and we had to go to our backup punter there. We didn’t want to punt to Klucewich, (Fisher) did a good job to get it off and they took it to the house. Those two plays are the ball game.”
Though a rough night for Holter and the Maroons offense, a gritty series in the first quarter allowed the Maroons to stay within striking distance late.
Holter was intercepted by Frenchtown’s Ben Larson, and then caught Larson just before scoring at the 2-yard line. The Maroons’ defense forced two negative yardage plays on the ensuing series, and Holter himself intercepted the Broncs’ third-down pass in the endzone.
And for plays like that, Peoples noted how well his defense responded throughout the game.
“I’m really proud of the way we played defensively,” he said. “We made stops when we needed to and we just, offensively we didn’t move the ball effectively.”
For the Broncs, Cade Baker had two of the team’s five interceptions. Klucewich, who scored both touchdowns, had an interception on defense as well.
For Central, Luke Jensen and Fisher had the other two interceptions.
The Broncs host Dillon next week, while Butte Central heads to 6-0 Hamilton.