BUTTE — Arie Grey isn't interested in dwelling on the uncertainty of the past months or the ambiguity of the near future.
As of Thursday, with his team on the eve of its first football game of the 2020 Class AA season, the Butte High head football coach has a singular focus — preparing the Bulldogs for the task awaiting them on Friday.
"It's exciting. This is what the kids have worked so hard for since the end of last season," Grey said on Thursday. "They're ready to roll and they're excited to play over in Helena against a really good football team."
Following the cancelation of non-conference games — which saw Butte's contests against Belgrade and Great Falls CMR eliminated — the Bulldogs are at long last set to open their season on the road against the Bengals as the Class AA season finally gets rolling. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Helena is ranked No. 3 in the 406mtsports.com rankings while Butte High is unranked.
After a summer in which Montana athletes were left wondering whether they'd even be able to participate in falls sports, it's safe to presume that the Bulldogs are eager to storm the field at Vigilante Stadium following a season in which Butte steamrolled its way to a state runner-up finish.
"The kids are chomping at the bit," Grey said.
Among them is senior quarterback Blake Drakos who has been handed the reins from Tommy Mellott who was named the Montana Gatorade Football Player of the Year following a 2019 season in which Mellott, now with Montana State's football team, accounted for 46 touchdowns.
Mellott, who was the Bulldogs' starting quarter his sophomore through senior seasons, set a high standard. Grey is confident Drakos, who saw limited action in three games last season, is ready to take up the challenge.
Drakos will dual against Helena High junior quarterback Kaden Huot on Friday. Huot, who threw for 1,799 yards and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore, is heading into his second season as the starting signal caller.
"He's put in his time and has done a great job taking a leadership role," Grey said. "We're excited for Blake, he's waited quite a few years for this opportunity."
On defense, the Bulldogs will be anchored by a trio of senior talent in Tanner Huff, Tucker LeProwse and Aiden Lee. During the 2019 season, the three combined for 122 tackles and six sacks.
"We've got some veteran guys coming back," Grey said. "The leadership they've shown has been outstanding."
Butte's special teams will return first-team all-state kicker Casey Kautzman who is now a junior. As a sophomore, Kautzman connected on 6-of-8 field goals, 64-of-70 PAT's and logged 26 touchbacks on kickoffs. He'll also begin handling punting duties this season.
The Bulldogs' season is set to begin with no shortage of potential distractions, from a two-week delay, to concern over what kind of potential roadblocks COVID-19 might throw up, to the fact that Butte was snubbed in the Treasure State Media Preseason Poll a season removed from advancing to the championship game.
"All we can control is today," Grey said. "We haven't worried about anything in the past or the future. We have a great group of young men with a great attitude and great work ethic. We're excited for the 2020 season."
DILLON (2-0) at BUTTE CENTRAL (0-2)
With a reduced postseason field this year meaning that there will be two less Western A spots available, the Maroons already need begin looking for a change of fortune if they want to lock up a return trip to the playoffs.
Central arrived at its current 0-2 mark after electing to forfeit its Week 1 opener against Hamilton and then falling to Frenchtown in its home opener 43-12 after holding the Broncs to six points in the first half. Maroon quarterbacks Luke Garrison and Drew Badovinac each accounted for touchdown passes in their first games.
No. 2 Dillon will roll into the Mining City with an unblemished record a week after dismantling Stevensville 47-0. Jace Fitzgerald accounted for four touchdowns in the shutout win before being rested in the second quarter.
Other area games
In other high school football games, Jefferson will take on Columbus on the road after being defeated by Whitehall 18-6 in a non-conference opener last week while the Trojans will be on a bye week...after having last week off Anaconda will open its Western B conference slate on the road against a 1-1 Florence team. The Copperheads were routed by Salmon 36-7 in the week one opener...Twin Bridges will host Absarokee with the Falcons ranked at No. 2 and with a 2-0 record after earning wins against Great Falls Central and Sheridan to start the season.