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Rivalry revisited: Bozeman-vs.-Butte matchup rekindles memories of 2019 title game

Tucker Winston
Posted at 12:43 PM, Aug 31, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-31 19:02:14-04

BOZEMAN — Before Belgrade moved up to Class AA and Bozeman Gallatin opened its doors, the rivalry that ruled high school football southwest Montana was Bozeman versus Butte.

The last time the teams met was in the 2019 state championship game, which Bozeman won.

“We were all there last time they played in Naranche (Stadium) in 2019," Hawks wide receiver and defensive back Rocky Lencioni said. "Hawks beat them for the championship, so obviously there’s tons of bad blood.

“It used to be the biggest rivalry, so it’s going to be so fun. Everybody talks about Narnache being the place to play, so we’re just so excited.”

Hawks coach Levi Wesche noted how the players were telling him they were in the crowd for the 2019 championship game.

“You know they were talking to me about what is was like to be in the stands for that 2019 state championship game, and I’m glad for that because they know it’s exciting," Wesche said. "It’s amazing how many of them remember that Butte was our major rival for the longest time.”

Both teams started their season with a win, No. 3 Bozeman beating Helena 21-14 and No. 4 Butte with a wild 21-17 comeback win over Billings West.

“They’re never out of the game," Wesche noted about Butte. "They scored 21 points in the fourth quarter. At one point they were down 17-7, and it was like with four minutes left. They forced a big turnover, go down and get a one-play score. They were able to win the game. Their defense was very stout, held West to 193 yards, so our work’s cut out for us for sure.”

What’s changed this season for Bozeman is its intensity. It’s something they’ve dialed in as they prepare for the Bulldogs.

“We just had more of an emphasis on practice intensity," Hawks offensive and defensive lineman Hudson Wiens said. "We wanted our practice to be intense because I feel like they weren’t that intense last year, and just overall things like that. We just want to get better everyday, so if we get one thing better every day, that means we’re moving forward in the right direction.”

Lencioni noted how key it's going to be to not let up against Butte, no matter how late in the game.

“Just keep our foot on the gas pedal," he said. "It kind of comes back to early season, the little things have to be right. So, special teams have to be perfect, and you just have to make the big plays at the right times.”

The teams will again play for the Homestake Trophy, named after the pass you must travel through to get to the Mining City with Butte's historic Naranche Stadium as the destination. Friday night promises to be electric.

“More than anything, I want them to understand there’s a really cool history here, and they should really enjoy this moment because there’s nothing like playing in Naranche," Wesche said. "It’s an amazing feeling and awesome atmosphere.”