buy this photo Walter Hinick / The Montana Standard Butte Central’s Phill Antonioli goes up in double coverage to score the Maroon’s 5th touch down late in the first half during their Class A playoff game with Polson in Memorial Stadium Saturday evening. Photo by Walter Hinick/Montana Standard
Butte Central junior running back Zach “Spook” Kasperick wasn’t taking credit for everything in the Maroons’ 49-14 swashbuckling of the Polson Pirates on Saturday. He wasn’t even sure he was deserving of what he did accomplish.
Kasperick and senior quarterback Jonathan Richards were the headliners in the BC quarterfinal-round victory of the state Class A high school playoffs game played at Bulldog Memorial Stadium.
The game’s start was delayed a half-hour to 4:30 because of the Polson bus breaking down at Ramsay. It was already planned for a later than the usual 1 p.m. playoff game kickoff so as not to conflict with the Carroll-Montana Tech college grid clash that took place earlier Saturday afternoon in Butte.
“I didn’t know I had that many,” Kasperick said about his four touchdowns. “Throwing the ball opened up the middle and, in the second half, it seemed like I had a lot of room to run.”
He gained 104 yards on 13 carries, including touchdown packs of 1 and 20 yards, and caught three passes for 68 yards, including scoring aerials of 39 and 23 yards. However, he didn’t recover the fumble that set up BC’s fourth touchdown of the game, a 3-yard carry by Andy Ritter.
“No. It wasn’t me,” Kasperick said after being told players on the sidelines credited him with the recovery.
“It was a fun game,” Kasperick, a linebacker on defense, said. “We haven’t played that well almost all year. It was good to do that coming into the playoffs”
Richards threw three TD passes while completing 16 of 20 throws – 80 percent – for 297 yards. He was intercepted once, but more than squared that with a 38-yard TD interception return of his own at the beginning of the second half.
Besides the scoring passes to Kasperick, Richards also lobbed one to Phil Antonioli just before halftime that went for 38 yards. It was a fourth-and-13 play, and Antonioli jumped between two defenders to gather in the ball, then tumbled over them and across the goal line for the touchdown.
Kasperick, several times in conversation after the game, dished credit to the blocking of senior guard Tom Markovich and the rest of the regular members of the offensive line – Dan Thatcher, Jake Simkins, Alex Ritter and Kiel Podgorski.
“There’s nobody I’d rather run behind,” he said.
Polson’s touchdowns were both keyed by talented, elusive junior quarterback Vince DiGiallonardo. He threw to Kyle Bagnell for an 8-yard TD pass, and kept for a 10-yard scoring scurry. Butte Central defenders picked him off three times on plays by Jason Johnston and Ritter to go with the one interception Richards took back for a touchdown.
“It was a great effort by our kids and coaches,” Don Peoples Jr., the Maroons’ head coach, said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more focused group of kids in practice for a week. Then they took the focus and intensity and put it on the field, today.
“Offensively, we had a great game plan. They (the Pirates) blitzed hard and put a lot of guys in the box, so we went to the pass. The kids did a great job of executing that.”
The BC defense limited DiGiallonardo to 73 yards rushing and 101 passing, and denied him the big plays that Polson has used to put together a successful season.
“Defensively, we did a great job on DiGiallonardo,” Peoples said. “He is a great player who made some plays, but, for the most part, the kids did a great job of containing him.”
Butte Central jumped out to a 28-0 lead as Kasperick scored the first three touchdowns of the game before Ritter tallied his. The Pirates scored after Bagnell picked off Richards at the Pirates’ 6-yard line, denying the Maroons a fifth straight TD. The Maroons did tally, however, just before halftime on Antonioli’s acrobatic catch.
Richards’ interception for touchdown made the clock run continuously under the 35-point difference rule early in the third quarter. DiGiallonardo got his TD and the Kasperick’s last touchdown sped the clock, again, through the last two minutes.
“They’re a good football team and well-coached,” Polson head coach Scott Wilson said of the BC bunch. “We had a hard time getting started in the first quarter and they took advantage of our lapses. ”
He said he didn’t think the bus problems the Pirates experienced had anything to do with their falling behind early in the game.
“Unfortunately, we lost our bus on the way over, but Chad (Petersen, Butte Central activities director), allowed for us to have the game start a half hour later and we were able to get our full pregame (workout) in. We just played a great football team tonight and we wish the best of luck to them the rest of the playoffs.”
Nathaniel Loomis kicked all seven Butte Central extra points and broke up a pass while playing linebacker. Alex Ritter, Thatcher, and Aschan and Jonathan Richards led a torrid effort from the Maroon defensive front while Kasperick, Loomis, Simkins and Markovich filled the holes and helped out on coverage in shutting down Polson’s offense. Antonioli, Kiley Miller, Andy Ritter and Johnston kept the Pirate receiving corps in check.
Jonathan Richards and Andy Ritter both left the game momentarily with what were termed minor injuries by Peoples, and both returned to the game. He said he thought both would certainly be available for next week’s semifinal-round game against top-ranked, undefeated Billings Central. The Bishops’ Bowl rematch is to be held at Bulldog Memorial Stadium, probably at 1 p.m. Billings Central, which edged the Maroons 17-16 in overtime in Billings in September, beat Stevensville 53-15 in another quarterfinal Saturday.
“We’re excited,” Peoples said. “It was great to have a big Butte crowd show up for us today. Billings Central’s tradition certainly speaks for itself, so we’ll have to be even better next week.”
Fourth-ranked Butte Central is 9-1 for the season. Polson completed a 7-3 campaign.
Polson 0 7 7 0 – 14
Butte Central 14 21 14 0 – 49
BC – Zach Kasperick 1 run (Nathaniel Loomis kick), 10:09.
Drive – 68 yards, 5 plays. Key – Phil Antonioli 21-yard pass from Jonathan Richards to Polson 7-yard line.
BC – Kasperick 39 pass from Jonathan Richards (Loomis kick), 5:41
Drive – 70 yards, 7 plays. Key – J. Richards 12-yard run to Polson 37-yard line.
BC – Kasperick 23 pass from J. Richards (Loomis kick), 11:48
Drive – 51 yards, 9 plays. Key – Phil Antonioli 12-yard pass from J. Richards to Polson 26-yard line on 3rd-and-9.
BC – Andy Ritter 3 run (Loomis kick), 8:17.
Drive – 38 yards, 7 plays. Key – Butte Central recovered Polson fumble on Polson 38-yard line.
POL – Kyle Bagnell 8 pass from Vince DiGiallonardo (Bagnell kick), 3:57.
Drive – 70 yards, 10 plays. Key – Louis Mohr 15-yard pass from DiGiallonardo to Butte Central 22-yard line on 3rd-and-8.
BC – Phil Antonioli 38 pass from J. Richards (Loomis kick), :29.
Drive – 67 yards, 6 plays. Key – Scoring play on 4th-and-13.
BC – J. Richards 38 pass interception return (Loomis kick), 10:40.
Drive – none. Key – Scoring play.
POL – DiGiallonardo 10 run (Bagnell kick), 3:52.
Drive – 68 yards, 7 plays. Key – Louis Mohr 25-yard pass from DiGiallonardo to Butte Central 14-yard line.
POL – Kasperick 20 run (Loomis kick), 1:54.
Drive – 59 yards, 5 plays. Key – Jason Johnston 24 pass from J. Richards to Polson 20-yard line.
First downs 13 19
Rushes-yards 27-139 29-141
Passes 9-25-3 16-20-1
Passing yards 101 297
Total yards 240 438
Return yards 24 68
Punts-avg. 2-40.0 0-0
Fumbles-lost 2-1 3-1
Penalties-yards 2-20 5-40
RUSHING – Polson, Vince DiGiallonardo 14-73, Sheldon Fisher 5-31, Taylor Pitts 2-18, Will Davey 3-11, Jake Skelton 3-6. Butte Central, Zach Kasperick 13-104, Jonathan Richards 10-23, Wyatt Kingston 4-13, Andy Ritter 1-3, Team 1 -(-2).
PASSING – Polson, DiGiallonardo 9-25-3-101. Butte Central, J. Richards 16-20-1-297.
RECEIVING – Polson, Louis Mohr 5-62, Kyle Bagnell 3-28, Brock Bleazard 1-11. Butte Central, Phil Antonioli 4-90, Ritter 5-78, Kasperick 3-62, Jason Johnston 2-40, Aschan Richards 2-27.