When it comes to great sports years in the Mining City, it is hard to beat 1982 and 1984.

In 1982, Butte High’s boys and Butte Central’s boys and girls won State track championships. That came about six months after Butte High won the Class AA football title, too.

And, of course, the Bulldogs won their third of 13 straight wrestling titles. (Click here for the podcast version of this column.)

In 1984, Butte High’s and Butte Central’s boys won State basketball titles a week apart. The Maroons beat Billings Central at the Butte Civic Center on March 10. Then, on St. Patrick’s Day, the Bulldogs knocked off Great Falls High for the title in Missoula.

Butte High’s girls grabbed a track title, and, of course, the Bulldogs won their fifth of 13 straight wrestling titles.

When it comes to ranking the best Butte sports years of the last half a century, 2022 does not quite stack up to those two years.

But it was pretty darn good.

It was so good that Dougie People’s 27-foot buzzer-beater to give the Maroons a 61-58 win over Lewistown March 12 in Dahlberg Arena in Missoula had competition for the story of the year.

The game-winning shot went viral with hundreds of different videos of the swish hitting the internet. It was the biggest moment in Butte prep sports since Jake Dennehy’s field goal at the buzzer as Butte High beat Bozeman in the 2012 championship game.

Of course, some Montana Tech fans will point out that it was not the only buzzer-beater of the season.

Senior Drew Huse buried a 3-pointer as Montana Tech beat Carroll College 62-61 Feb. 28 at a packed and crazy P.E. Center in Helena.

As crazy as it sounds, Dougie’s shot is not the story of the year. In fact, it was not even the story of the game.

Peoples made the biggest play of the game with BC trailing 56-55. Dougie, who is not known for his defense, stole the ball and turned it into a three-point play.

His bucket and free throw put BC up 58-56 with 45.9 seconds left.

Lewistown tied the game at 58 on a bucket by Fischer Brown with 20 seconds left. But the Golden Eagles gave Dougie way too much time.

The game-winning shot capped a superhuman effort by Peoples, who scored 37 points in the title game. Then he capped the incredible night by becoming the first player to ever give me a hug following a post-game interview.

Peoples scored 629 points as the Maroons completed the championship season. Incredibly, he was not the leading score in the school on the season.

That distinction belongs to classmate Brooke “The Assassin” Badovinac, who tossed in 671 points to lead the BC girls to an inspired postseason run. No high school boy or girl in Butte has ever scored more points in one season than Badovinac, who scored 92 points in three State tournament games.

It was that legendary performance by Peoples in the championship game, however, that has to be the story of the year for Butte sports in 2022.

Since that statement might be somewhat debatable shows us just how great of a year we had.

The Maroons were not the only state champions from Butte in 2022, a year that saw the BC girls and Butte High’s boys’ and girls’ teams all qualify for State tournaments in the same year for the second time ever. The other came in 2013.

The same weekend in Missoula saw Meg Murphy’s legendary run as head coach of the BC girls come to an end.

A month earlier, Butte High junior Mason Christian beat Kalispell Flathead’s Noah Poe-Hatton 3-2 in a thrilling state championship match at 182 pounds in Billings.

By the way, Christian, who signed to compete at NCAA Division II power Liberty University of West Liberty, West Virginia last month, enters each home match to the song “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” by the band War. That is awesome.

In May, Butte Central track coach Dan McGree retired after Butte hosted the Class AA and Class A State meets at the Charlie Merrifield Track, which is inside the Gene Fogarty Complex.

The bet here is that his retirement is much like that of Charlie Merrifield, who is never far from a track.

Speaking of track, Becca Richtman, perhaps the greatest Oredigger of all, closed her incredible Montana Tech career as a 10-time All-American this spring.

A few months later, her former teammate and Butte High grad Hailey Nielson became an All-American for the first time in cross country.

The summer belonged to the Butte Miners, who ripped through the Class A and Northwest Region. The Miners went to Belgrade to bring home Butte’s first State American Legion title in any classification in 69 years.

The next week, they went to Vernal, Utah and destroyed the competition at the Regional tournament.

As good as the Miners summer was, however, it was how it ended that really stood out.

On the team bus home, the Miners heard word that Jim “Fonz” Hanley was on his last days. Fonz, of course, is one of the Legends in 3 Legends Stadium. 

So, the Miners’ bus made its first stop outside the assisted living center where Fonz was surrounded by his family. They unveiled their championship banner, and the team tipped its cap to the Butte legend.

Fonz mustered up enough strength to raise his arm and recognize the champions.

A few days later, Fonz left the world knowing that his Miners were on top. A better ending to his remarkable life could not have been written.

Also this summer, the Butte Sports Hall of Fame returned with a class that was long overdue.

The individuals who joined the Hall were the late Tony Banovich, Corey Bolton, Ron Collins Sr., Don Douglas, Deanna Dugdale, the late Hoot Gibson, Bob Given, Ray Jay Johnson, Gary Kane, Julie (Leary) Nadeau, the late Don “Lefty” Orlich, Tom Roberts, Debbie Silk and the late Ed Yeo.

Thanks to Harrison Ford, the ceremonies were moved to the Maroon Activities Center, which proved to be a perfect venue.

Butte High’s football team, which was led in part by freshmen Cayde Stajcar and Hudson Luedke, qualified for the playoffs and went to Great Falls High for a road playoff victory. 

Montana Tech swept Carroll College on the gridiron.

Sure, the Orediggers only played the Saints once, and Carroll went on to win the Frontier Conference title. But, hey, a sweep is a sweep.

In Bozeman, Butte’s pride and joy, Tommy Mellott, continued to be Tommy Mellot. That says it all.

The fall also gave us the story of Jack Prigge.

Prigge, a Butte High senior who will take his golfing talents to Occidental College in Eagle Rock, California, overcame a nine-shot deficit in the final round to win the Class AA State championship in Helena.

He capped the incredible comeback by beating Tyler Avery of Kalispell Glacier in a sudden-death playoff. In doing so, Prigge became the first Butte High boy to win a State golf title since Gary Koprivica in 1963.

Prigge’s title highlighted a performance that saw Butte High’s boys bring home a trophy from State for the first time since 1974. Like they did in the year of my birth, the Bulldogs placed third.

The retirements of Murphy and McGree could easily be the story of the year. The Miners could be the story of the decade, and Prigge’s comeback is one for the ages. Mellott’s interview following the Montana State win over Montana will melt your heart.

The retirement of BC grad and Olympian Brad Wilson, whose 12-year career closed with him ranked in the Top 10 in the World Cup moguls, is also a huge story.

Yes, the year 2022 was a great one for sports fans in the Mining City.

It took a super-human game by Dougie Peoples to walk away with the story of the year.

And he sealed that story with a hug.

— Bill Foley, whose moguls career did not end in the Top 10, can be reached at foles74@gmail.com.Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74Listen to the ButteCast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.