BUTTE — After a one-year hiatus, the Butte Civic Center is once again poised to host a crosstown rivalry that began over a century ago.
The 2020 iteration of the Crosstown Classic between Butte High and Butte Central's boys and girls teams never materialized after Class AA imposed a rule that season prohibiting its teams from scheduling non-conference games. Butte, a AA program, was precluded from adding Class A Butte Central to its itinerary.
The two programs, which had met every year since 1918 — the final year of World War I — saw that streak come to a pandemic-induced end.
"It was such a disappointment to miss out on it last year," said Butte High head boys basketball coach Matt Luedtke, who coached his first crosstown game in 2019. "We're just really excited and really looking forward to it."
In most other Class AA towns in Montana, crosstown clashes are a fairly commonplace occurrence. But Butte's two high school are in different classifications, so the two programs don't meet in football. Central doesn't field a soccer or swimming team, so that sport is ruled out as well.
The annual non-conference battle on the hardwood is the lone event each year in Butte that draws a sizable crowd — half decked out in purple, the other in maroon — to root for either the Bulldogs or Maroons in a game whose longevity has permanently etched its place into the town's history.
"It's a rivalry game," Luedtke siad. "So we know it's not just another game."
Luedtke will be heading into his second crosstown game. And first-year Butte High girls coach Bryan Arntson will be experiencing his first crosstown game as the head coach of the Bulldog girls.
On the other end of the spectrum are Central coaches Meg Murphy and Brodie Kelly, who each have decades of experience in the crosstown game as both head coaches and players. Murphy, Central's girls basketball coach, first played for the Maroons in the late '70s and Brodie Kelly in the early '90s.
The last crosstown game was on December 23, 2019. The Butte girls rolled to a 50-24 win and the Central boys held on for a 72-66 victory. All of the starters from those games have since graduated and the four teams that take the court at the Civic Center on Thursday will be writing a new chapter in this century-long tradition.
The Butte girls (2-0) and Butte Central boys (5-0) will be looking to maintain their undefeated starts to the season. The Butte Central girls will head in at 3-2 while the 0-2 Butte boys will be looking to earn their first victory of the season.
The girls game will tip off at 5 p.m. and the boys game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.