Grizzlies lead from start to finish in home opening win over Highland

Grizzlies lead from start to finish in home opening win over Highland

EL DORADO, Kan. – The Butler Grizzlies have officially entered the win column in 2023.

The No. 13 ranked Butler Grizzlies defeated the Highland Scotties 38-13 in front of a packed crowd at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex on Saturday evening for the Grizzles home opener.

The Grizzlies (1-1, 1-1 KJCCC) picked up their first win of the season, second straight home opening win and 10th consecutive win over Highland (1-1, 1-1 KJCCC).

Butler put points up in a multitude of ways. A safety, a punt return for a touchdown, a blocked extra point returned for two points to go with three passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown.

Grizzly quarterback Tanner Murray (Houston, TX/UTSA transfer) bounced back nicely from the week one loss. He finished 15-of-24 for 158 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception. 11 different Butler players caught passes in the game.

Despite Butler being in control throughout the game, the Scotties outgained Butler 256-229 in total yards. The Grizzly defense stifled Highland all night, allowing just -18 net rushing yards as well as holding the Scotties to 19-of-41 passing for a 46.3% completion rate. With the Grizzlies taking a 22-0 lead into halftime and a 29-7 lead into the third quarter, Highland had no option but to sling the ball around the field in the second half.

It was tough sledding for both teams rushing attacks as Butler had 33 attempts for 30 yards, 0.9 yards per attempt. Highland rushed 27 times for -18 yards, -0.7 yards per rush.

Defensively, Butler's Marlin Dean (Elberton, GA/Georgia transfer) finished with three tackles for loss including forcing a Highland safety in the end zone after sacking the Scotties quarterback. Defensive back Ashton Levells (Dallas, TX) led Butler with five tackles.

Wide receiver Jamarion McDougle (Deerfield Beach, FL) finished with two receptions, both for touchdowns.

Butler got the scoring started in the first quarter with 5:40 remaining when Murray found wide receiver Justin Stephens (Maize) for a high flying 13-yard touchdown grab as Stephens elevated over a defender to make the grab.

Running back KJ Shankle (Richmond, TX/Kansas State transfer) capped off a 14-play, 63-yard Grizzly drive with a one yard touchdown rush, putting Butler up 14-0 with 12:43 remaining in the first half.

McDougle made the first of his two touchdown grabs a minute later following a botched snap by Highland's punt team that gave Butler the ball on the Scotties' 12-yard line. McDougle made the 12-yard grab from Murray on the next play, putting Butler up 20-0.

Wide receiver Russell Wilkey (Junction City) made possibly the play of the night with 13:49 on the clock in the third quarter. Highland's punter shanked a punt that only traveled about 20 yards and Wilkey, the punt returner, raced up in front of everyone to field the ball and took it 40-yards to the house, putting Butler up 29-0.

For the second week in a row, Butler blocked an extra point and returned it for a two-point conversion. Defensive lineman Jaden Roper (Charleston, SC) got his hand on the ball and defensive back Timothy Croskey (Buckeye, AZ) returned it 97 yards with 11:57 to go in the fourth quarter.

McDougle hauled in a 27-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Lin Johnson (Winter Haven, FL) to put Butler up 38-13 in the fourth quarter.

Highland scored all three of their touchdowns in the second half with one in the third quarter and two in the fourth.

Butler has an off week this coming week but will return to BG Products Veterans Sports Complex on Saturday, Sept. 16 for a 7 p.m. game with Independence.