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July 19, 2014
Northwest Montana A Conference


East, West set to clash in Shrine battle

Updated: July 18, 2014 

BILLINGS – Montana’s East and West Shrine teams met for the first time Friday evening at the event banquet at the Al Bedoo Temple auditorium in Billings, as players, coaches and other VIPs were introduced in anticipation of Saturday’s big game.

The 68th annual Montana East West Shrine football game will take place Saturday at 7 p.m. at Laurel High School Stadium, as the West will try to close the gap on the East’s 37-30 series lead with a win.

In addition to introductions, the “Most Inspirational” awards for each team were announced. It was no surprise that East player Koni Dole of Huntley Project garnered his team’s award, as the standout athlete has excelled despite the partial amputation of his right leg. The winner of the West’s John C. Richards Most Inspirational award was center Jake McElroy of Missoula Loyola.

“I just want to say something real quick,” McElroy said to the capacity crowd as he accepted his plaque. “We do it for the kids!”

There was plenty of inspiration in the room, as representatives and patients from the Shriners Hospital in Spokane were on hand, while additional money was raised for the charity through a silent and live auction.

West coach Rick Nordahl of Dillon, who led the Beavers to an undefeated State Class A championship season in his first year as head coach at Beaverhead County High School, said his team has its work cut out Saturday night.

“We understand the East has some great players and that they have seven Bozeman players and three Bozeman coaches,” in addition to head coach Troy Purcell, Nordahl said. “That’s an advantage for them because they know the schemes very well. It’s also kind of an advantage for us because we had a lot of our players on the same team with them for the Mon-Dak game. The guys understand their schemes and they know what kind of talent they’re going to see.”

The West has a bit of talent as well, as Butte’s Dallas Cook and Jared Trinastich from Columbia Falls both bring solid skills and leadership to the quarterback position.

“Both of those guys come from the same style of offense and Coach (Tony) Arntson is really utilizing their talents,” Nordahl said. “They both throw a great ball and have good vision downfield.”

Cook and running back Noah James of Kalispell Glacier will serve as the West offensive captains, while linebacker Troy Scott of Dillon and Glacier defensive back Evan Epperly will represent the mountain side on defense. The vote for captain was a close one, Nordahl said.

“There were 30 different guys who could have been captains,” he said. “The vote was that close, but it shows that we really have leadership on the field by committee. These guys are all out there just doing their jobs, and I think they were really playing sound football by the end of the week.”

Nordahl said he’s been pleased with the progression of his offensive line, which he called one of the toughest groups to get together as a unit.

“They come from a lot of different programs, but coach (Joe) McElroy has done a great job bringing them together,” he said. “The East has a big defensive line and linebackers and our guys are going to need to take care of their assignments to give our running backs a chance to find a crease.”

In addition to third-generation player Connor Schulte of Butte Central, the West will look to linemen McElroy, Zach Dennehy of Glacier and tight end Connor McGree of Butte Central to have a good game. Maroon running back Wyatt Kingston will join James out of the backfield in search of yards on the ground.

“If they pack seven in the box, then we’ll have to get the ball to our receivers, and I think we have a great crew,” Nordahl said, referring to Ennis standout Connor Sullivan, Butte Central star Kale Guldseth and Butte High’s Peter Granger.

The West defense is led by a solid defensive front, including Butte High defensive end Johnny Walker.

“We’ve got some big ol’ boys up there who demand doubles,” Nordahl said. “We can put up a 4-3 or 3-4 front and it’s going to take a good offensive team to block them. Our secondary has progressed this week. The East has good receivers with size, and it should make for a great game.”

Nordahl lauded his staff, pointing to their genuine care for their players. Steve Vezina of Dillon joins Arntson of Helena, McElroy of Missoula Loyola, Jay Fredrickson of Ennis and Butte Central’s Pat Schulte as assistants. Trainers Steve Gross and Lindsay Kambich and manager Bryan Prendergast also drew praise from Nordahl.

The team came together from the get-go said West team coordinator Jeff Hartwick of Butte’s Baghdad Shrine.

“These guys meshed from day one,” Hartwick said. “It doesn’t usually happen that early, but after the first meetings they all gathered in the same room and hung out together. There weren’t any cliques, and you can see that they work well together.”

The players showed plenty of class at the banquet as well, giving Vezina – who is undergoing chemotherapy in a battle with cancer – a standing ovation. Many of the players were also decked out in fancy tuxedo-wear.

“On their own, these guys went to Thomas’ and worked a deal where the proceeds from renting the clothes would be donated to the Hospital,” Nordahl said. “These guys are all great football players, but they’re all so humble. There’s no one acting like a superstar.

“These guys are all great humans. I think these kids are already winners.”


Shrine Game teams ready for battle: No hard feelings between ex-Butte High, Glacier players on West squad

2014-07-19T00:45:00Z Shrine Game teams ready for battle: No hard feelings between ex-Butte High, Glacier players on West squadBy Al Balderas The Montana Standard Montana Standard

The football stadium at Montana Tech is once again quiet.

The talented players who used the university’s Bob Green Field for its final set of rehearsals have arrived in Laurel and are set for one final battle.

It’s East vs. West, Montana Style, better known as the Montana East-West Shrine Game. The top football players from the state will get together tonight in Laurel for one final hurrah. Kickoff is at 7.

The players will come armed with a history of success on the football field. Some will bring egos. All will bring pride. They will come with compassion, taking time out of their carefree summers to support the Shriners Hospitals for Children. Proceeds from this game will go toward the Shriners Hospital in Spokane, Washington.

“This game is for a very good cause and that’s part of the reason I wanted to play in it,” said quarterback Dallas Cook, who ended his career at Butte High School as the owner of 14 state records.

Cook and his fellow Bulldogs were bounced out of the quarterfinals of the 2013 Class AA playoffs following a wild 62-55 loss to eventual runner-up Glacier. The loss was disappointing but Cook doesn’t have time to hold grudges. He, along with Butte teammates Peter Granger and Johnny Walker, are sharing spots on the West Team’s roster with Noah James, Evan Epperly, Zach Dennehy who played for that same Glacier team.

“That’s all in the past,” Cook said about the season-ending loss. “There are a few guys from Glacier on this team and we all get along great. We’re all friends.”

The West team spent the past week going through the rigors of a football camp this past week at Montana Tech. The players became roommates. They practiced together – multiple times a day. They ate together, laughed together, traded “war stories” and had a chance to bond. PlayStation and Xbox were available for the players to get their minds off of football, if only for a few hours.

The Montana East-West Shrine game was first played on Aug. 24, 1947. Missoula’s Tommy Kingsford led the West Team to a 33-13 win over the East in that contest. West teams dominated the early Shrine football games in Montana but the East has since come back and now holds a 37-30 edge in the series.

Bozeman quarterback Will Weyer will do everything in his power to increase that advantage to 38-30. Weyer led Bozman to the State AA Championship this past season – over Glacier – but is still feeling the sting from a 25-22 overtime loss in the Badlands Bowl last month.

“That’s the motivation for us this week because we have a lot of the same guys on this squad,” Weyer told the Billings Gazette. “We’ve been working hard this week and doing everything we can.”

From a head coaching standpoint, each team has one of the best. The West will be led by Dillon coach Rock Nordahl, who guided the Beavers to second place in the State A Championship. Troy Purcell, who led Bozeman to the State AA Championship with a 24-14 win over Glacier, is coaching the East.

The importance of this game, and the good it will bring to children who need it, has not been lost to those who will be playing in tonight’s game. But then neither has the chance to notch one more win.

“I always want to win,” Cook added. “I have no doubt about that. We’re here mainly for the Shrine Hospital but we also want to win the game. If there are guys on this team who don’t want to win, they shouldn’t be here.”

68th Annual Montana East-West Shrine Game

July 19, in Laurel

East roster

Seth Adams, Harlem, RB; Jacob Bakken, Wibaux, CB; Thomas Bear Robe, Billings Skyview, OT; Brock Beede, Joliet, TE; Chase Bertelsen, Wibaux, DE; Zeb Bloom, Simms, S; Grant Collins, Bozeman, LB; John D’Agostino, Bozeman, WR; Ben D’Alton, Billings Central, OG; Wyatt David, Bozeman, CB; Eric Dawson, Great Falls CMR, TE; Koni Dole, Huntley Project, DE; Chris Emter, Livingston, DL; Jory Fisher, White Sulphur Springs, WR; Zane Fox, Huntley Project, C; Hunter Gappmayer, Bozeman, RB; Colton Gavne, Livingston, OG; James Gaetz; Calgary, LB; Jimmy Grinde, Great Falls CMR; OT; Luke Gunderson, Glasgow, OT; Cody Henderson, Great Falls, LB; Ben Herzog, Miles City, S/QB; Trevor Hopf, Billings Skyview, OG; Mitch Kaufman, Laurel, LB; Austin Kendall, Sidney, RB; Kelin King, Malta, DL; Grant Linde, Billings West, K; Levi Lynde, Red Lodge, CB; Weston Marsh, Billings Central, C; Jackson Marsh, Plentywood, WR; Mason Melby, Baker, SPEC; Zach Molyneaux, Chinook, WR; Tyler Pfennigs, Great Falls CMR, LB; Alex Picicci, Billings Skyview, RB; Shawn Purcell, Hardin, S; Luke Schwagler, Forsyth, WR; Alex Thomas, Great Falls CMR, DE; Will Weyer, Bozeman, QB; Jalen Whitley, Billings Skyview, DL; Tucker Yates, Colstrip, DL.

Head coach: Troy Purcell, Bozeman. Assistant coaches: Dan Wirtzberger, Havre; Shawn Joyce, Billings Skyview; Levi Wesche, Bozeman; Jeff Renevier, Bozeman; Lou Saucedo, Bozeman.

West roster

Nic Amestoy, Helena, LB; Troy Arntson, Helena, WR; Matt Bachmeier, Helena, OG; Adam Bradley, Kalispell Flathead, OT; Alex Burnett, Jefferson, WR; Tristen Clark, Deer Lodge, WR; Dallas Cook, Butte, QB; Zach Dennehy, Kalispell Glacier, OT; Evan Epperly, Kalispell Glacier, CB; Sean Foley, Whitefish, SPEC; James Foote, Missoula Big Sky, OT; Carlo Gallota, Calgary, LB; McBride Galt, Helena, S; Zach Gavlak, Stevensville, DE; Peter Granger, Butte, WR; Kale Guldseth, Butte Central, WR; Brady Hislop, Polson, LB; Zach Hollenback, Missoula Loyola, CB; Donovan Hucke, Dillon, C; Noah James, Kalispell Glacier, RB; Wyatt Kingston, Butte Central, RB; Dillon Koffman, Helena Capital, OG; Tony Madsen, Missoula Loyola, LB; Jake McElroy, Missoula Loyola, C; Connor McGree, Butte Central, TE; Alex Mustard, Missoula Big Sky, WR; Mick Paffhausen, Dillon, S; Ethan Reich, Anaconda, LB; Tyler Richtmyer, Missoula Sentinel, TE; David Rizzolo, Whitefish, CB; Tyler Sanders, Helena Capital, DL; Connor Schulte, Butte Central, OG; Troy Scott, Dillon, LB; Connor Sullivan, Ennis, WR; Kole Swartz, Missoula Hellgate, DE; Caleb Thilmony, Whitefish, LB; Jared Trinastich, Columbia Falls, QB; Daniel Van Dyke, Helena Capital, DB; Johnny Walker, Butte, DE; Derek Wham, Ennis, OG; Jaydn Wilson, Missoula Sentinel, DL.

Head coach: Rick Nordahl, Dillon. Assistant coaches: Steve Vezina, Dillon; Pat Schulte, Butte Central; Tony Arnston, Helena; Joe McElroy, Missoula Loyola; Jay Frederickson, Ennis.


68th East-West Shrine Game: Big plays key in Laurel

Mark D. Robertson 11:07 p.m. MDT July 18, 2014

Troy Purcell wants to make lightning strike in Saturday's 68th annual Montana East-West Shrine Game.

Offenses, the Bozeman High head coach said, don't seem to gel quite as quickly as defenses in all-star contests like the Shrine Game, so big plays are key.

"You don't get those 15 and 16-play drives," Purcell said.

It's the big-yardage plays, which sometimes come few and far between, that win games. Otherwise, defense usually prevails.

"Who knows?" the reigning Class AA champion laughed. "It might be 100 to 100."

Purcell's East team has been working out in Billings all week to prepare for the legendary game, a contest that marks the end of high school careers and previews some of the Treasure State's top college-bound athletes. The emphasis has been on the fundamentals this week.

"Offense, defense, special teams and turnovers," he listed. "If you can win three of the four of those, you've got a good chance to win big games."

But having the right personnel helps, too. Purcell boasts Bozeman's all-state quarterback, University of Montana-bound Will Weyer, in his arsenal. Weyer was Montana's starting signal caller in last month's Badlands Bowl, where his (and Purcell's) team lost to North Dakota's finest in a 25-22 overtime thriller. He said the Shrine Game has a different atmosphere.

"We kind of have buddies on both sides," Weyer said. "It's not like the different sides are against each other all the way. It's more for the Shriners."

His coach agreed.

"It's a completely different game," Purcell said. "… It's pretty exciting for the fans. You don't want to lose it, but it's exciting and good for the cause. That makes it fun."

Though it is a more friendly environment, Weyer said he wouldn't mind heading to Missoula in the fall with bragging rights over some of the West team's Grizzly commits like Glacier defensive back Evan Epperly, who was also a Badlands Bowl comrade.

"I'll try to throw a couple passes over Epperly," Weyer said. "I'm sure they're all out to get me, too."

While Weyer's arm is certainly a weapon, Purcell is excited about what he sees from the East team's ground game as well. Hunter Gappmayer (Bozeman), Austin Kendall (Sidney) and Alex Picicci (Billings Skyview) are all threats out of the backfield.

"I guess it all depends on what (the West) give(s) us," Purcell said. "… Their defense kind of dictates what we're going to do on offense."

For quite a few players, the game represents a chance to further prepare for college careers. It's a chance to play with and against top talent from around the state.

C.M. Russell High's Eric Dawson, a Carroll College commit, is one of those cases.

"You get used to playing with a high level of competition every day," said Dawson, who also played in the Badlands Bowl. " … Everybody that's going on to the next level needs to be prepared to see other athletes."

Apparently Dawson stood out pretty well from those athletes. He and Weyer were both voted East team captains along with Bozeman's Grant Collins and Colstrip's Tucker Yates.

Dawson earned the title despite he and his teammates missing the first day of practice to attend former coach Jack Johnson's retirement celebration in Great Falls. The preparation has been similar to that for the Badlands Bowl, though, so he wasn't far behind.

The teams have formed a sense of camaraderie, too, to the point that there has been "some friendly trash talking," Dawson allowed. They came face-to-face for the first time Friday when they had lunch at the Shrine Auditorium in Billings.

Purcell said it's no surprise that the teams have bonded the way they have.

"We've got the same goals and ambitions," the coach said. "They're pretty much the same kids, just with different colors on them."

Dawson is evidence of that. The senior is pretty pumped up despite having never been to a Shrine Game.

"I like a packed house," he said. "I like when there are a lot of people there, and I expect the East to win."


Guldseth makes final appearance as a Maroon

Updated: July 18, 2014 
Butte Central graduate Kale Guldseth tries to break free from Dillon graduate Troy Scott during practice for the Montana East-West Shrine Game this week at Montana Tech. Butte Central graduate Kale Guldseth tries to break free from Dillon graduate Troy Scott during practice for the Montana East-West Shrine Game this week at Montana Tech.

Kale Guldseth has embodied the spirit of Butte Central Catholic High School for basically his entire life.

Since he could walk, Guldseth has been a fixture at Butte Central sporting events — as a fan and then as a student-athlete. When he was in third grade, he routinely sat on the bench during BC boys’ basketball games with his father, assistant coach Todd Guldseth.

Saturday night when the Montana East-West Shrine Game kicks off in Laurel at 7 p.m., Guldseth will represent the Maroons one final time.

The game is one of two major appearances this week for Guldseth, who will play receiver for the West team.

On Wednesday night, Kale Guldseth gave a speech in front of a large crowd at the Maroon Activities Center during Butte Central athletics’ 100-year celebration gala. He was selected to give that speech as a representative of his generation at BC.

“Pat Kearney asked me to do it, and I couldn’t say no. I was excited he asked me,” Guldseth said. “I talked about the MAC and how I basically grew up in it. I was basically the first generation that got the opportunity to do that.”

The 5-foot-10, 160-pound Guldseth more than grew up in the MAC. He starred there as a three-year contributor for the Maroons, earning All-Conference honors last season.

His biggest moment there came when he stole the ball and scored the game-winning basket in BC’s thrilling semifinal win over Dillon in the 2013 Southwestern A divisional tournament.

That was probably the biggest moment for the BC boys’ basketball team since the MAC opened.

Guldseth wasn’t far away from the spot of his winning basket in what was almost the most significant moment in the history of the arena. That was when Alex Murphy’s game-winning 3-pointer just missed at the buzzer in the 2006 heart-stopping loss to Butte High.

“I remember Murph missing the shot,” Guldseth said. “Even Jeff Staudinger (a 2004 BC graduate), as early as that, I watched him at the Butte Civic Center and always wanted to be a Maroon.

“I’ve been around it for so long. I just grew up in there and looking up to all those people and athletes. To be considered an alumni like (Wednesday) night, it really kind of hit me that I’m done. My career’s over.”

Guldseth will continue his legacy in the Mining City when he plays basketball for Montana Tech. He signed with the Orediggers shortly before his senior season.

That signing came shortly after completing his remarkable football career at BC.

Guldseth, who graduated as a valedictorian with a 4.4 GPA, leaves BC as, at least statistically speaking, the best receiver in school history.

He is far and away the career leader with 158 receptions for 2,080 yards. He is tied with Shrine teammate Connor McGree for first in BC history with 21 receiving touchdowns.

He owns the top two receiving seasons at BC, catching 67 passes as a senior and 63 passes as a senior. Guldseth is tied for No. 1 in school history with 11 catches in one game, and his four TD receptions in a game is a school record.

Guldseth could have played football at Montana Tech or Carroll College. He opted for basketball, so Saturday’s game will be his farewell to the gridiron.

“It’s one last shot to play football,” Guldseth said. “This is it.”

The BC star said the talent on the West team, which practiced Saturday through Thursday at Montana Tech, is unreal.

“Practices are competitive because everyone here is top of the line. It’s tough to get open,” Guldseth said. ” The (defensive backs) are quick. It’s a different level coming from Class A. It’s a little different going against freshmen and sophomores every day (in high school practice) to coming out here and going against All-State kids. Most of these kids are going to go play college football. There’s only a couple of us going to play basketball.”

Guldseth said he has thoroughly enjoyed being back on the football field. It isn’t enough to make him rethink his college hoops career, however.

“I’m really looking forward to that,” Guldseth said of playing basketball at Tech. “I love football, don’t get me wrong. There’s just something about basketball that I don’t want to give up. I don’t want to give up football either, but it’s one or the other.

“I’ve been working in the offseason pretty hard,” Guldseth said. “I’m not sure if I’ll redshirt or play. Either way, I’m just happy to get an opportunity. I’m just thankful, honestly, because that’s what I wanted to do is play basketball. If need be, I’d have played football.”

In his final football game, Guldseth will be representing more than Butte Central. He will also be playing for the patients — current, past and future — at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Spokane. Last year’s Shrine Game in Butte raised $146,000 for the hospital.

“We watched a (Shriners Hospital) video at the Red Zone,” Guldseth said. “It kind of brings a tear to your eye that we make that much of a difference and raise that much money for these kids who just aren’t as lucky as us to be out here playing.”

That gives the players on each side a little extra motivation heading into their final high school football game. It isn’t like the NFL Pro Bowl. Both sides want to win, and win badly.

“It’s a football game,” Guldseth said. “You think Shrine game and you think all these players taking it easy, but we haven’t taken it easy all week. We want to beat the East as much as they want to beat us.”

A victory would be the perfect way for Guldseth to cap his career as a Butte Central Maroon.

“It’s football game for charity, not a charity football game,” Guldseth said. “It’s one last one. I’m just going to give it my all.”


Zach Hollenback: From Ram to Shrine Game to Griz

Former Loyola star hopes his star shines in Laurel on Saturday, and with Montana after that

2014-07-17T22:15:00Z 2014-07-17T23:35:17Z Zach Hollenback: From Ram to Shrine Game to GrizBy FRITZ NEIGHBOR of the Missoulian missoulian.com
10 hours ago  • 

He was a big-play receiver for the two-time State B champions, and he’s an East-West Shrine Game legacy who’ll get to play one last game with a couple of his Loyola Sacred Heart mates.

And if things work out as planned Zach Hollenback will be running out of the tunnel at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

Hollenback, along with two teammates from the Loyola Sacred Heart football team, is practicing in Butte this week ahead of the 68th Shrine game, set for 7 p.m. Saturday at the Laurel Sports Complex.

The 6-foot, 170-pounder had a nice enough career at Loyola – he caught 40 passes for 804 yards and 12 touchdowns last fall – to draw notice from Montana-Western, Carroll College and Rocky Mountain College. But when University of Montana Grizzlies coach Mick Delaney offered Hollenback a chance to walk on, he took it.

“I definitely looked at the other schools,” said Hollenback, who’ll report to the Griz on Aug. 21. “But that’s always been in my mind, to play at the U. I don’t know – it seemed right and that’s what I decided.”

* * * * *

The prospect of running out of that tunnel is preempted by this weekend’s game. A trio of Rams will bolster the West squad, including Loyola lineman Jake McElroy – who, like Hollenback, is a legacy to the game.

In 1987 their fathers were Shrine Game teammates: Joe McElroy came out of Kalispell and Shawn Hollenback made the roster out of Superior. A quarter-century later their sons helped the Rams win 23 straight games and two straight State B crowns.

“Jake played center and nose guard,” said Zach Hollenback. “Not the most glamorous positions; he did a lot of stuff nobody saw. But he was key in everything we did, and he didn’t get a lot of credit.

“He has a motor. He has a big heart and is a really good player.”

* * * * *

There’s more from Loyola. Tony Madsen, a fullback and linebacker for the Rams, was one of a half-dozen late additions to the West squad.

“They called Matt (McHugh) too, but he couldn’t go because of Mavs (Legion) baseball,” Hollenback noted.

The quartet – Madsen, McHugh, McElroy and Hollenback – go back years. Hollenback remembers being a youngster on the sidelines in 2006 when Loyola lost the state title to Malta, and his friends weren’t far away.

“We always talked about how we were going to win one, one day,” he said. “It just so happens we ended up doing that, and then winning two. Pretty awesome.

“Not many people get an opportunity to play in two state championships, let alone one. It was pretty amazing to win both of those – and experience that with most of the buddies I grew up with.”

At least part of the same crew went to the Griz games. Hollenback says he’s only missed them when the Grizzlies’ schedule conflicted with his Rams’. The highlight many times was running patterns on the field afterward.

“When we were younger we kind of wanted the games to be over,” he said. “That was always the best part.”

* * * * *

Hollenback will see a few buddies at UM. The Grizzlies signed former Ram Josh Janssen to play receiver in 2013, and Loyola Sacred Heart product Kevin Burland, who came to UM as a walk-on, will be a senior wide out this fall.

“It’s kind of crazy to get one year with him,” Hollenback said.

Rams’ assistant Troy Waters has coached all three receivers and rates Hollenback highly. He points toward an overtime win over Forsyth in last year’s playoffs, when Hollenback had 11 catches for 169 yards and three touchdowns, as the prime example of his gifts.

“Forsyth went in at halftime and basically decided they were going to double-team Zach,” Waters said. “And he still made plays.”

Waters had seen plenty of play-makers even before joining Loyola’s staff seven years ago. He played at Idaho State and caught six passes when the Bengals beat the Griz in 1994, then scored a TD at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in 1995.

“What I can tell you is Zach just understands how to be a wide out,” he said. “He knows when to sit in a zone, when to run away from man coverage and he catches everything you throw at him.

“That’s hard for a lot of young kids to figure out and he’s got it pretty well mastered.”

Obviously there’s work to be done. Waters points out that Hollenback’s top-end speed and upper body strength will need to get better. A red-shirt year is likely for the incoming freshman.

“But he’s shifty about getting open and can catch the football,” Waters said. “Teams usually find a place for a guy like that.”

That’s what Hollenback is planning on: Finding a spot on a championship team that has a couple of buddies on it.

That would, in two words, be pretty awesome.


Montana football players prepare for Shrine Game

Steve Schreck, sschreck@greatfallstribune.com . MDT July 16, 2014

Troy Purcell and Rick Nordahl once walked the same hallways at Helena Capital High. They were Bruins in the early 1980s, wearing the same colors, rooting for the same team.

In 2013, both hoisted state championship trophies for their respective schools.

On Saturday at 7 p.m., Purcell and Nordahl will be wearing different colors, on different teams, walking the sidelines of Laurel High School’s football stadium in the 68th annual Montana East-West Shrine Game.

“Maybe we can just tie and call it good,” laughed Purcell, who will coach the East squad and led the Bozeman Hawks to the Class AA state championship this past season.

Nordahl, who was an assistant to Purcell in 2011 on the West team and led Dillon to a Class A state title this past season, has no problems with that.

“It really would be (a good outcome),” said Nordahl, West’s head coach, on the prospects of a tie. “I have a lot of respect for their coaching staff and their players, and I think the same thing comes from them. We have such great players in Montana, great football players I think on both sides of the state, all around the state. I wouldn’t mind playing to a tie at all. We’re going for the win, but by God if it ends up in a tie I’d be happy.”

Don’t kid yourself, though: both are trying to win. The first step in that process: practices, which started Saturday and happen two to three times a day leading up to game day. Although these are some of the best talents in the state, it’s not always easy getting them all on the same page in a week’s time.

“Yeah, you know, it’s always shaky at the beginning,” Purcell said, laughing. “You have a lot of kids that came from a lot of different programs. And terminology is kind of the biggest thing. As the week progressed, we just started playing faster and faster because kids don’t have to think anymore.”

Purcell says they will prepare just like a regular season game, adding that “you have to scout Helena High; you have to scout Dillon” and “you have to make sure you have your kids in the right spots for the best chance to be successful.”

Tony Arntson, Helena High’s coach, is the offensive coordinator for the West.

This is the fourth time Purcell will assume a coaching position at the Shrine Game, winning as a head coach in 2011 and 2005, and losing as an assistant in what he thinks was 1996.

Nordahl, who is the head coach for the first time at the Shrine Game after being an assistant on four separate occasions, is happy with his team’s progression, saying that “after about two practices, I think they pretty much got it.”

Nordahl says it’s not about teaching any technique — “the kids are so knowledgeable,” he says — it’s more about getting them lined up in the correct places.

“The kids have been really working their tails off,” Nordahl said. “We have a great bunch of kids over here and no one is trying to be a superstar or anything. They are all gelling together and they are supporting each other and taking care of each other.

“It’s really been a lot of fun. The practices have been going great and a lot of the credit goes to the assistant coaches.”

It hasn’t been all football all the time, though. Both teams are having some fun. On Monday, Nordahl granted his team the afternoon off to visit the local Country Club to swim and hangout, but most of all, relax. Wednesday, they had a pizza party to select their team captains. Purcell and his squad went to a waterpark on Tuesday.

Several Electric City athletes will be in Laurel this weekend, including Eric Dawson, Tyler Pfennigs, Alex Thomas and Cody Henderson, the lone player from Great Falls High. Jimmy Grinde, who is on the roster, will not play due to injury, Purcell said.

Much of this game, and the weeks and days leading up to it, is focused on raising money for the Shrine Hospital for Children in Spokane.

“I just want them to enjoy the experience,” Nordahl said. “And I want to make sure that they don’t miss anything along the way and understand the importance of what they are doing for the hospital.”

Visit montanaeastwestshrinegame.org and locate the Events Itinerary tab at the top of the page to find out more about everything leading up to Saturday night’s matchup.


Weyer, Dawson continue to develop all-star chemistry

2014-07-16T20:21:00Z Weyer, Dawson continue to develop all-star chemistry The Billings Gazette
July 16, 2014 8:21 pm  • 

During Montana’s lackluster offensive performance in the Badlands Bowl against North Dakota, Eric Dawson shined as one of the bright spots.

Dawson, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound tight end from Great Falls CMR who is going to Carroll College to play linebacker, finished the game catching six passes for 103 yards and the game’s first touchdown. He built a strong chemistry with Bozeman quarterback Will Weyer that was evident that game, and it's continued to the East team’s practice for Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game in Laurel.

“Eric’s the man,” Weyer said. “He’s an unreal tight end. He’s kind of our go-to guy. I can pretty much throw the ball up to him, and he’ll go get it.”

There were a couple plays like that at the Badlands Bowl in Dickinson, N.D., and Weyer has an obvious comfort level with Dawson. On one possession at a Tuesday practice, Weyer, who will play college football at Montana, completed three passes. Two of those went to Dawson.

“It’s nice to have somebody that can give you the ball when you’re open,” Dawson said. “And even when you’re not, he’ll put the ball up and let you make a play.”

The chemistry developed between the two during the Badlands Bowl has already proved beneficial this week. Dawson was late getting to Billings for practice, as he was celebrating Jack Johnson’s retirement last weekend.

Johnson stepped down as the CMR coach following last season. He manned the sideline for 41 years, winning 340 games and 13 state championships.

“(Johnson) had said if we had another good year, he was going to hang it up,” Dawson said. “Going to the semis again, it was his time. He’s a great coach, one of the greatest guys I’ve ever been able to have coaching me. I wish him the best, and I think he’s made a real impact on everybody’s life that he’s ever coached.”

Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/sports/high-school/blogs/gazprepsports/football/weyer-dawson-continue-to-develop-all-star-chemistry/article_43f4a7c5-9145-5a57-9717-2801595b45b2.html#ixzz37pf7NZdZ


Weyer and Co. look to remedy Badlands loss in Shrine Game

2014-07-15T20:00:00Z 2014-07-16T16:08:06Z Weyer and Co. look to remedy Badlands loss in Shrine GameBy GREG RACHAC grachac@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette
July 15, 2014 8:00 pm  • 

East quarterback Will Weyer of Bozeman throws during preparation for the 68th Montana East-West Shrine Game on Tuesday at Colton Field.

The Badlands Bowl didn’t swing their way, so this weekend’s East-West Shine Game gives Will Weyer and others a chance for a reprieve.

Not that the Shrine Game, now in its 68th year, is only about winning. The event does too much good for it to exclusively concern football, with 91 percent of its proceeds benefitting Shriners Hospitals for Children.

But there’s pride in the outcome. And Bozeman’s Weyer, the East quarterback who took all the snaps in the Montana All-Stars’ 25-22 overtime loss to North Dakota on June 21, hopes this one turns out differently.

The Shrine Game kicks off Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Laurel Sports Complex.

“Everyone saw how the Badlands Bowl didn’t go as well as we wanted it to,” Weyer said before practice on Tuesday. “That’s motivation for this week because we have a lot of the same guys on this squad. We’ve been working hard this week and doing everything we can.”

“I don’t know if I can point one or two things out” that went wrong, Weyer added. “Overall, myself playing better as a quarterback, and maybe being able to run the ball a little bit better. If we just sharpen everything up, everything’s going to click.

Weyer is one of 15 players on the East team that played in the Badlands Bowl. Bozeman coach Troy Purcell, who is heading up the East squad, was also the coach for the Badlands game.

Weyer threw for 285 yards and two touchdowns against North Dakota but was picked off three times. The Montana team lost both the turnover battle and field position, and was beaten on special teams as Minot, N.D., kicker Ben Love made six field goals, including a 36-yarder to win it in OT.

“These all-star games, just like that one, there’s a lot of big plays,” said Purcell, who guided Bozeman to the Class AA state title in November. “If you can make more big plays than them and keep down the turnovers then you’ve got a chance.”

Filling a role

Montana’s Badlands Bowl team was without a true placekicker. The East’s Shrine squad is not.

Grant Linde of Billings West will handle kickoffs, field goals and punts for the East. And he’s confident that if the game comes down to the wire he’ll deliver.

“I’m taking a lot of responsibility,” said Linde, whose career-long field goal is 45 yards. “It’s a needed part of the game. People overlook that part. But I’m here to fill it and do it to the best of my ability.”

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Linde will kick collegiately at Jamestown University in North Dakota. Linde was a second-team Class AA all-state selection last season.

The Montanans were plagued primarily by offensive struggles in the Badlands Bowl — they netted zero rushing yards — though having a specific placekicker might have made a difference.

“You can always do the shoulda, coulda, woulda stuff,” Purcell said. “We were in a lot of in-between situations where we didn’t have a chance to really kick a field goal. (North Dakota) just had a great kicker that did a good (job). It is what it is.”

Northern exposure

The East team is joined by middle linebacker James Gaetz of Henry Wise Wood High School in Calgary, Alberta. Gaetz is one of two Canadian players participating in the Shrine Game. Linebacker Carlo Gallotta of Notre Dame High School in Calgary is playing on the West team.

“I never thought I’d be down here during the summer to play football,” Gaetz said. “I’ve been down here plenty of times, and every time Montana has given me such a great experience. Being here for about four days now, I can call these people my family.”

Gaetz is not unfamiliar with American football, but is working this week to adjust to a narrower and shorter field, and playing 11-on-11.

“You guys have four downs and we only have three, and that’s completely different,” Gaetz said. “You guys run (the ball) more compared to passing. For us we do one run (play) and then it’s passing pretty much the entire game. But I love run-football. That’s the way the game should be.”

Meet the West

What you should know about the West All-Stars:

 The team is headed up by Dillon coach Rick Nordahl, who coached the Beavers to the Class A state championship victory over Billings Central last November. Nordahl was a longtime assistant under previous Dillon coach Terry Thomas.

• Butte’s Dallas Cook and Columbia Falls’ Jared Trinastich are the West’s quarterbacks, and both amassed huge statistics last season. Cook threw for 4,145 yards and 40 touchdowns. Trinastich had 2,886 passing yards and 34 TDs.

• After last year’s 31-28 come-from-behind victory in Butte, the West looks to cut further into the East’s all-time series lead, which stands at 37-30

Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/sports/high-school/football/weyer-and-co-look-to-remedy-badlands-loss-in-shrine/article_f8ee8342-6f6b-5700-870b-2b517e6e8ab1.html#ixzz37peHyBEh


Dillon coach proves Shrine Game matters

Updated: July 15, 2014

Coach Steve Vezina squeezes Dillon star Mick Paffhausen during a break in the West team's practice Saturday night at Montana Tech. Coach Steve Vezina squeezes Dillon star Mick Paffhausen during a break in the West team's practice Saturday night at Montana Tech.

Ten years ago I found myself in a pretty heated argument about Colt Anderson.

The recent Butte High graduate was a key member of Butte Miners American Legion baseball team. He was also, as we know by seeing him play in the NFL, a really good football player.

Anderson was selected to play in the Montana East-West Shrine Game in July of 2004, and he decided to play in the prestigious football game. That meant he would miss a couple of conference games for the Miners.

I argued with a coworker who also was an assistant for the Miners. He didn’t think Anderson should leave the team to play in a game that was “just an All-Star game.”

I won the argument and changed the mind of my counterpart by telling the story of Pat Ryan in 1986.

P.R., as we call him, was an All-State center for Butte High in 1985, and he earned a spot in the Shrine Game. However, earlier in the summer of ’86, P.R. busted his ankle sliding during a softball game at Stodden Park.

The ankle would not be completely healed in time for the game. Acting against his doctor’s advice, however, P.R. used some garden shears to cut off the cast so he could play.

If the Shrine Game was merely an All-Star game, there’s no way P.R. — or anybody, for that matter — would have cut off his cast to play.

Whenever that topic came up, I always played the P.R. Card, as if last year’s $146,000 raised for the Shriners Hospital for Children in Spokane wasn’t proof enough.

Whenever I hear about Legion coaches not allowing players to miss time to play in the Shrine Game, I get really mad. Then I would hop on top of a soap box and tell the world about my buddy P.R.

This week, though, I have officially retired the P.R. Card forever. For now on, my go-to argument will be the Vezina Doctrine, which makes P.R.’s broken ankle seem like a mosquito bite.

Vezina is a long-time coach from Dillon who is also one of the top 10 people who ever lived. Probably No. 5 or 6. With a bullet.

Coach Vezina, who is affectionately known as ‘Viz’ around the state, is one of the assistant coaches for the West team in Saturday’s Montana East-West Shrine Game in Laurel. The West team is practicing for the game, like always, in Butte.

Vezina was at practice Saturday and Sunday. He had to miss Monday to go to Bozeman for chemotherapy treatment. He plans to be back with the team on Tuesday.

Vezina was diagnosed with prostate, liver and colon cancer last football season. He began treatment at the end of the Dillon Beavers’ Class A state championship run.

Going through chemo is nothing short of pure hell. At least that’s what I’ve been told. Most people don’t have the strength to watch football during chemo, let alone coach it.

Vezina, though, made it a priority to be on the sidelines for the Beavers title-game victory over Billings Central in Billings.

Even though the Beavers had the best bullpen coach in the history of football in Terry Thomas — who came out of retirement to fill in as offensive coordinator — Vezina knew he had to be there for his team.

Being there for the Beavers is what Vezina does best. He is known for his “Game Day” songs, poems and raps to inspire his players on to victory.

Vezina is about as animated as it comes on the sideline of a football field. He is always — always — the first person to signal touchdown for the Beavers. Sometimes the raising of the arms comes when the Dillon player is still 70 yards or so away from the end zone.

Above all, Vezina is as positive as a person can be in all walks of life.

Even with words like “terminal” being thrown around after his diagnosis, Vezina has always been extremely upbeat. The attitude that defeat isn’t an option that benefited him so well as a coach is also apparently working wonders in his fight against the nasty disease.

Vezina doesn’t look the part of a cancer patient. He looks like somebody who is living life to his fullest, and he is almost always wearing a smile that can make everybody feel better.

He has long touched the lives of the students and players that were lucky enough to have him as a teacher and coach. Viz also touches the hearts of those of us who were not.

When the diagnosis came down, the school made a “Game Day” for Vezina video featuring the Katy Perry Song “Roar.” The entire student body and faculty made the amazing video that went viral before it was apparently removed from YouTube because of those pesky copyright violations.

When fellow teacher Megan Conrow started a fund on at gofundme.com, the stated goal to raise for Vezina’s fight was $5,000. As of now, that fund is at $33,200 because to know Steve Vezina is to love him.

The video hit YouTube on the eve of the state championship game. This time around, Dillon had a better football team than Billings Central, but it didn’t matter.

The inspired Beavers probably could have beaten the Seahawks that day. Vezina just has that affect on people.

This weekend in Laurel, Vizena gets the chance to once again be a part of the Shrine Game.

Whether the Westside boys win or lose, the mere fact that an animated and smiling coach from Dillon will be on their side line on Saturday night proves that Shrine Game is indeed a game that really matters.

All future arguments are now settled.


Butte father, son tackle Shrine Game together

Updated: July 15, 2014 

Pat Schulte, left, and his son Connor will represent Butte Central in the Montana East-West Shrine Game Saturday in Laurel. Pat Schulte, left, and his son Connor will represent Butte Central in the Montana East-West Shrine Game Saturday in Laurel.

Saturday’s Montana East-West Shrine Game in Laurel has been 42 years in the making for Pat Schulte.

Though the 1971 Butte Central gradate was good enough at football to go onto play at Carroll College, he wasn’t selected to play in the 1972 Shrine Game.

“There were all kinds of Maroons in that Shrine Game,” Schulte said. “Bobby Burns, Buddy Walsh, Jimmy Regan, Bernie Brophy, the list goes on. There wasn’t enough room for me anyway.”

This year, Schulte was selected as an assistant coach for the West team.

“It’s absolutely one of the nicest things that’s ever happened to me, especially with the tradition we have in our family and our involvement in the Shrine Game,” Schulte said. “It’s a real honor to be out here.”

Schulte, who was the public address announcer the two times the game was in Butte (2010 and 2013), is the fifth member of his immediate family to participate in the game. His father, Bob, played in the first game in 1947. His brothers Mark (1974), Steve (1979) and Joe (1981) also played in the game.

Also,  Pat’s oldest son, Connor, will play guard for the Westside on Saturday night. Connor graduated from Butte Central in May.

“With my son playing,” Pat said, “that makes it twice as nice.”

The family tradition and importance of the game has long driven Connor Schulte, who learned he was selected as an alternate for the game on Christmas Day.

“This was my biggest goal after I got my surgery,” Connor said, referring to a knee surgery that severely impacted his senior season.

Schulte, a two-way starter for the Maroons, tore the ACL in his right knee during BC’s Oct. 4 win in Anaconda. He missed a total of one game before returning to the lineup solely as an offensive player.

“We told (Dr. Nick) DiGiovine what our goals were, and the Shrine Game was about the seven-month point from my surgery,” Connor said. “He said that’s doable if you work hard.”

Connor put in the work along with Kari Williams, BC’s athletic trainer through Montana Sports Medicine.

“She was there every day and worked him,” Pat said. “She did a great job.”

“It’s kind of nice having your own personal trainer,” Connor said with a laugh. “The first couple of months were really hard, getting off the crutches after surgery and then getting back into shape. That was really hard.”

It was also hard playing through the painful injury to help the Maroons advance to the playoffs, where they lost at Whitefish.

“It hurt a lot, actually,” he said. “Once we got to the Whitefish game I tore my meniscus, and that made the whole deal a little bit worse.”

Still, the 6-foot, 250 pounder signed to play football for coach B.J. Robertson at Montana Western. He’ll major in history with a goal of becoming a teacher.

“Western just seemed like to be the place for me,” Connor said.

The Shrine game is also the place for him. He knew that since 2010. That was the first year the prestigious game was played in the Mining City.

“I was sitting up in the stands,” Connor said of the game that drew a huge crowd to Bulldog Memorial Stadium. “I was just, ‘Wow, I want to play that.’”

That was the first game Connor remembers attending. It probably wasn’t his fist one. There has probably been a Schulte at all 67 of the previous Shrine Games.

“I know there were a lot of trips in the car to Great Falls when I was little,” Pat said. “My dad has been to every banquet, I think.”

The game has always been important to Bob Schulte.

“It’s something he really looks forward to and really cares about,” Pat said. “A lot of his friends played in that game, and a lot of them are gone. He tries to be everywhere he can to support the kids and have one more Shrine Game every summer.”

Pat Schulte is coaching in the game for the first time in about 25 years of coaching on and off.

He coached at Carroll and Browning before joining the BC coaching staff four years ago.

“I’ve got a couple more to go,” he said. “I’ve got a junior (Kyle) coming up.”

Connor said having his father on the coaching staff made his high school football experience something special.

“It’s really an amazing thing,” he said. “It’s like being coached by your best friend. It’s just a really cool feeling.”

Pat started his coaching career after playing for coach Bob Petrino at Carroll. He was an undersized guard before becoming an undersized tight end.

“I started out as an offensive guard. Then my sophomore year during doubles we lost three tight ends, and I was informed by Bob Petrino that I’d be suiting up at tight end,” he said. “I think I have a record at Carroll. I think I’m the only tight end they ever had that never scored a touchdown.”

Connor got the long-awaited call about three weeks ago from West team coordinator Jeff Hartwick. He was no longer an alternate.

“He asked me if I wanted to play,” Connor said. “I said, ‘Absolutely.’ I was waiting. I was sitting by my phone.”

Thanks to his family ties to the game, Connor also has a firm understanding of what the game is all about. Last year’s game raised $146,000 for the Shriners Hospital for Children in Spokane.

“We crank in a lot of money that goes to the kids,” Connor said. “Last year we helped Sudah (Davis) get some new legs.”

Pat said all of the players come to understand that by the end of the week.

“I was blown away the other day, and I think Connor was too,” Pat said. “We have a young gentlemen from Butte, Tucker Thatcher (a long-time patient at the hospital), and he laid it on the line. If you didn’t have a tear in your eye, you don’t have a heart in your body. Tucker did an amazing job. He was absolutely amazing.

“I think this whole process funnels down to what this game is all about,” Pat said. “Everybody wants to win and do their best, but I think in the grand scheme of things there’s a dollar figure there that goes to help the kids.”

Then, of course, there’s the incredible talent in the game that pits the best of Eastern Montana against the stars of the Western Montana.

As an assistant coach, Pat Schulte gets a first-hand look at that every day as the team works out at Montana Tech.

“There’s not one weak spot on the whole field,” he said. “That’s unheard of.”

It’s every father’s dream to see such talent include his son. So for Pat Schulte, the 42 years was well worth the wait.

“I’m proud every snap,” Pat says. “Of course, I’m proud of him every day. He’s a good boy, not just a good football player.”


Dallas Cook ready for his last game in Montana

Updated: July 17, 2014

Butte High graduate Dallas Cook looks for a receiver during West team practice Thursday at Montana Tech. Butte High graduate Dallas Cook looks for a receiver during West team practice Thursday at Montana Tech.

Dallas Cook is looking at Saturday’s Montana East-West Shrine Game as almost a family reunion before he even leaves home.

Cook, the recent Butte High graduate, will leave at the end of this month for the North Dakota State College of Science, a junior college in Wahpeton, North Dakota that is a 13-hour drive from Butte, to play quarterback for the Wildcats.

First he will captain and quarterback the West team in Saturday’s showdown with the East in Laurel.

“It’s probably one of the last times I’ll play in front of my whole family,” said Cook, who has two younger brothers to carry on his legacy in Butte athletics. His brother Dylan will be a junior at Butte High, and he is also a quarterback.

“Dylan plays on Fridays and Saturdays it’s a long drive every week,” Cook said. “It’s an insane drive to do every weekend, so it’s probably the last time I’ll play in front of them. I’m pretty excited about that.”

Dallas Cook is also looking forward to the game that will likely be his finale in the state of Montana.

Cook and the NDSCS Wildcats open the season Aug. 23 at Itasca Community College in Minnesota. He will presumably be the starter for the team that runs basically the same offense that Butte High runs.

It is also the same offense run by Washington State, and that is no coincidence.

Cook signed with NDSCS with an eye on making a quick transfer to WSU to play for coach Mike Leach. NDSCS coach Merle Johnson has ties to Leach, who recruited Cook out of Butte High.

Cook also talked to Oregon before signing with the junior college. He could have signed with other schools, but he knew Washington State was the fit for him. However, Cook said when a scholarship fell through when quarterback Connor Halliday decided to stay in Pullman for one final season, he was directed toward the junior college.

“The only reason I didn’t get the full thing from Washington State was because, I think, Connor Halliday decided to stay for his fifth year,” Cook said. “If he would have left, it would have been me. But he decided to stay so I had to go somewhere and play.”

It didn’t take long for Cook to realize that Leach, an offensive guru, was the coach he wanted to play for.

“I finally found a coach who wasn’t just saying the same stuff to others. He just wanted me,” Cook said. “Leach is a funny guy. When we went on our visit there, he came in and talked to us and had just hair everywhere, shorts and a shirt.”

Cook drew the attention of the coach by basically rewriting the record book at Butte High. It would take less time to say which records he didn’t break than the ones he did.

In 2012, Cook led Butte High to the Class AA state title, earning Class AA MVP honors along the way.

Last season he was named the Offensive Player of the Year for Montana by the USA Today.

As a senior, Cook put up unreal numbers, passing for 4,145 yards and 40 touchdowns. He also ran for 866 yards and 16 touchdowns.

His final game in a Butte High football uniform saw Cook registered 446 total yards in a 62-55 playoff loss at Kalispell Glacier. He rushed for six TDs and threw for one.

Making those stats even more impressive is the fact that Cook played the entire 2013 season with multiple injuries to his foot.

He suffered a turf toe and then a stress fracture in the side of his foot.

“I got turf to so I walk like this,” Cook said, demonstrating walking on the outside of his left foot. “In the first game I ran like that, so that bone just kind of gave. I was in a walking boots during the week, and on Friday night I’d put on cleats.”

Cook said the injury didn’t slow him down, though.

“It hurt after the play and in some games it would just bug me,” he said. “During the play, it’s the last thing you’re thinking of.”

Still, that is a lot to go through for a quarterback who is as deadly with his legs as he is with his left arm.

“I like running the ball,” Cook says. “I won’t do it first off if I don’t have to. I just do it when I have to.”

Mobility in the pocket is perhaps the strength of Cook’s game.

“I think just being able to move around in the pocket,” he said. “You can get of the pocket and you can still create enough to get a receiver open and throw the ball to him.”

It was his mobility that took his game to the next level in Butte High’s 2012 semifinal win over Great Falls Russell at Naranche Stadium.

Cook ran for two touchdowns, ran for a 2-point conversion and passed for another 2-point conversion to erase a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit and force overtime.

In the first overtime, Cook ran for a TD on a draw for the victory.

“It was a great ride. It was pretty fun,” Cook said. “I didn’t know it would be that fun. Even if we didn’t win it junior year it was enough getting to that semifinal game. I thought that was the best game I ever seen that Saturday. Then Friday (the state title game) comes along and it’s just ‘Wow.’”

Cook said the Bulldogs finally got used to playing in the cold in the semifinal game revival. They also let the words of coach Arie Grey hit home.

“His half time speech really set hard,” Cook said. “He said, ‘It’s your guys’ choice. This could be our last game and we can go on with our lives or we can play another week.’ It kind of set in.”

After playing at NDSCS and possibly Washington State, Cook has his sights set at playing in the National Football League.

Cook, who stayed humble even though the yellow “Honey Badger” hairdo the last two football season, likes his chances of accomplishing that goal.

“If I just play like I know how to play, I should have no problem,” Cook said. “I try not to sound cocky right now. You just have to play your game and you should be fine.”

Cook said he strives to stay grounded despite his success on the football field.

“My parents always tell me to stay humble and respect, and that’s what I do,” he said. That is evident in the fact that his teammates voted Cook as one of four captains for Saturday’s game.

As practice winds down for the Shrine Game, Cook also seems like a good fit in coach Tony Arntson’s offensive scheme. Arntson is the head coach of Helena High.

“It’s not really so much different, it’s just different terminology,” Cook said of the offense. “Once you break the terminology barrier, it’s fine. He’s made it as easy as possible. We maybe have 100 plays, and he’s only opened up about 20 percent of his play book.”

So Cook is expecting big things in the game with his parents and brothers in the crowd Saturday night.

“I’m pretty excited,” he said. “It’s going to be a fun game.”

NDSCS plays its first home game on Thursday, Aug. 28, against Maryville Junior College. The next night, Butte High plays its season opener at Billings Senior.

“I think that’s the only game my parents go to,” Cook said.

A few years from now, Cook is hoping the travel plans will be a lot easier for his family to get together when he plays on Sundays.

“That,” Cook said, “has been my goal since I was like 4.”


Cook, Epperly, James, Scott named captains

Updated: July 16, 2014

The four West team captains pose for a photo before appearing on KBOW Overtime Wednesday night at the Metals Sports Bar & Grill. They are, from left, Troy Scott, Noah James, Evan Epperly and Dallas Cook. The four West team captains pose for a photo before appearing on KBOW Overtime Wednesday night at the Metals Sports Bar & Grill. They are, from left, Troy Scott, Noah James, Evan Epperly and Dallas Cook.

The West team on Wednesday picked four captains for Saturday’s 68th Montana East-West Shrine Game in Laurel.

Dallas Cook of Butte High and Noah James of Kalispell Glacier will captain the West offense, while Evan Epperly of Kalispell Glacier and Troy Scott of Dillon will lead the defense.

West team members voted on the captains on Wednesday night. The four captains were announced on KBOW Overtime. The West team is practicing this week at Montana Tech.

Cook is a 6-foot-4, 235-pound quarterback. He led the Bulldogs to the 2012 Class AA State title, earning Class AA Offensive MVP honors along the way. He will play at the North Dakota State College of Science this fall.

James is a 6-2, 200-pound running back from Kalispell Glacier. He signed to play football at Montana State.

Epperly, is a 5-10, 185-pound cornerback from Kalispell Glacier. Epperly will play football at the University of Montana.

Scott is a 6-3, 215-pound outside linebacker from Class A state champion Dillon. Scott signed to play basketball for Montana Western.


BC’s Connor McGree liking Shrine week

Updated: July 16, 2014

Butte Central graduate Connor McGree practices for the Montana East-West Shrine Game this week at Montana Tech. Butte Central graduate Connor McGree practices for the Montana East-West Shrine Game this week at Montana Tech.

As he prepares for Saturday’s Montana East-West Shrine Game, Connor McGree has learned one thing he never thought possible.

Zach Gavlak of Stevensville is actually a pretty good guy.

For the last four years, Gavlak excelled as the role of Yellowjacket villain in the Stevi-Butte Central rivalry. The future Montana Tech defensive end had a remarkable career in basketball and football, and Butte Central players and fans did not much like him.

“We’ve been battling in basketball,” McGree said. “He’s D end and I’m tight end in football. We’ve been at it a while.”

During the week of practice at Montana Tech, McGree and Gavlak have been dorm roommates.

“It’s kind of funny. You always play Stevi, you have Gavlak, and you always think Gavlak is whatever,” McGree said. “He’s my roommate now. He’s a great guy. He’s quiet, reserved”

The new friendship is one of several things the 6-foot-3, 215-pound McGree is liking about Shrine Week.

“It’s a lot of fun,” McGree said. “A lot of good memories, a lot of good friendships. I think we’ve got a pretty good team.”

The Shrine Game is also letting McGree close out his high school career with three teammates. Connor Schulte, Wyatt Kingston and Kale Guldseth are also members of the West roster.

“It is cool,” McGree said of being one of four Maroons in the game. “You don’t notice as much when you’re playing with the Maroons. But it’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun to walk off the field with Kale, Schulte and Wyatt. You don’t think about it a lot the last four years.”

Playing with the best of the best on the west side of the state is another one of the perks of playing in the Shrine game. It is also one of the scariest. The talent is so good that the Carroll College-bound tight end wasn’t sure he’d be able to get open, even during practice.

“Once you get into the roll of it, it elevates your game and everyone else’s,” McGree said. “You don’t even think about it anymore.”

McGree figures to get plenty of chances on Saturday. He’s one of two tight ends on the West roster (Missoula Sentinel’s Tyler Richtmyer is the other), and coach Tony Arntson’s offensive scheme calls for lots of plays with two tight ends.

“I thought we were going to rotate a lot, but the way the scrimmage went we put a lot of two-tight stuff in,” McGree said. “So I’m going to play a lot, which is a lot of fun.”

That’s good news for McGree and the Westside. The three-year starter — on offense and defense — racked up 1,591 yards and 21 touchdowns in his career at Butte Central. That includes 32 catches for 452 yards and six scores as a senior.

He ranks third in career catches and fourth in yards at BC. His touchdown total is tied with Guldseth for tops in school history.

It was that kind of production that earned McGree a recruiting trip to Washington State before he eventually signed to play at Carroll College, where he is carrying on a rich family tradition on his mother’s (Erin Lacey) side of the family.

In the Shrine Game, McGree will also be continuing a tradition started by his father, Jim, who played in the game in 1981.

“We got our numbers yesterday,” Connor McGree said. ” I didn’t get my first choice of 22, but I got my dad’s high school number 40. That’s pretty cool.”

That’s the number Jim McGree wore when he was a three-year contributor for the Maroons.

“I told him last night,” Connor McGree said. “He was pretty excited.”

McGree added that he won’t be the only McGree wearing a Shrine shirt on Saturday. Laurel and Billings had better be ready for a bit of a McGree invasion.

“I haven’t been to a Shrine Game since my cousin Nick played, and he graduated college in 08,” McGree said. “I always looked forward to it. It was always a goal. All my family is going down. I think they ordered like 25 shirts and a block of hotel rooms.”

McGree, who will major in engineering or business in Helena, reports to the Carroll football team on Aug. 12. He said he isn’t sure if he’ll play as a true freshman, but he’s holding out hope that he will.

“They haven’t told me yet,” he said.”They redshirt 99 percent of the kids. I’m assuming a redshirt, but you go in there, compete and hope for the best. Their tight ends are big. Really big. They’ve got about 30 pounds on me and a couple of inches.”

Gavlak, a 6-4, 220-pounder, is a strong candidate to play for Montana Tech as a true freshman. So at some time in the next few years, there’s a good chance that McGree and Galvak will line up against each other in a rivalry that is considerably more intense than that of BC-Stevi.

When that happens, though, McGree will have new perspective on his old enemy.

“He’s a good kid,” McGree said of Gavlak. “I like him a lot now, which is weird to think.”


Johnny Walker looks to go out with a bang

Updated: July 14, 2014 
Butte High graduate Johnny Walker will play on the defensive line in Saturday's Montana East-West Shrine Game in Laurel. Butte High graduate Johnny Walker will play on the defensive line in Saturday's Montana East-West Shrine Game in Laurel.

Life isn’t always easy when you grow up with a name like Johnny Walker.

“Everyone calls me black label, red label, blue label or whatever label they want to call me,” Walker said, referring to the brand of whisky that shares his name.

When he first meets people, they often think he’s making his name up.

“I’m like, ‘No, seriously, it’s Johnny Walker,’” he said.

It’s even tougher to be Johnny Walker when you play nearly an entire football season with a broken wrist. Maybe even two broken wrists.

Walker, who is a third-generation Johnny Walker, played through injury without complaint for most of his senior season on the defensive line at Butte High.

Walker thinks he broke his right wrist in the second game of the season at Helena Capital. He noticed his left wrist was really hurt early in wrestling season. Both were, in fact, broke, requiring surgery — the right one in February and the left in April.

He has a large, obvious scar on the top of each wrist as he prepares for Saturday’s Montana East-West Shrine Game in Laurel. Walker is a defensive lineman for the West team, which is practicing at Montana Tech.

The injury will probably mean the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Walker won’t play college football following a season when he earned an honorable mention at defensive end on the Class AA All-State team.

“I’m going to go to the Highlands College, and I’m going to be a lineman for the power company,” Walker said. “I broke both my wrists, and I didn’t really want to risk that. I’ve got to deal with that my whole life.”

He hasn’t completely ruled out playing football, though. Since beginning practice for the Shrine Game on Saturday, Walker has felt rejuvenated on the football field.

“I’m still debating about it, actually,” Walker said. “Playing right now on this field is fun. It’s really giving me motivation.

“I was talking to my dad last night, and I was like, ‘Dad, I miss it. I really do,’” Walker said. “He said, ‘Well, call coach Robertson.’”

B.J. Robertson is the head coach at Montana Western. He recruited Walker to be a Western Bulldog. The coach might eventually get his wish.

“I like Western’s program, I really do,” Walker said, clearly torn about his next move. “But they don’t have the lineman program down there. College football would be awesome to play.”

College football isn’t something Walker grew up dreaming about. Wearing a Butte High uniform was his ultimate goal on the gridiron.

“I liked playing for Butte High. That was my thing,” Walker said. “Growing up I wanted to be a Butte High Bulldog. I didn’t want to be a Tech Oredigger.”

Walker got to be a varsity Butte High Bulldog as a junior. Well kind of.

“I didn’t play much,” he said. “I played probably 60 plays all year. I didn’t get much playing time because they had (senior defensive linemen) Billy Robinson and Daniel Kloepfel. They didn’t really need me.”

Of those 60 or so plays, one of them was the biggest of the season and, perhaps, school history. Walker played right guard on the field goal team, and he blocked for Jake Dennehy’s 46-yard field goal as time expired in Butte High’s 38-36 victory over Bozeman in the state championship game.

“I actually played in the state championship, so that’s all that matters,” Walker said. “I got five or six plays. That’s more than most of the kids. I was on the field goal unit, too. It was crazy.”

Walker played both ways during his days on the sub-varsity teams at Butte High. He played on the offensive and defensive lines early in his senior season. Then coaches decided to play him only on defense.

“Defense is my first love,” Walker said. “I love defense. You’re in the trenches and … I can’t even describe it. It’s just wait for that guy to move and then kill him.”

Playing exclusively on defense, Walker broke out in a big way. He was maybe the best player on the Bulldog squad most of the season, even though he clearly wasn’t playing at 100 percent.

“I was talking to coach (Arie) Grey and he said he noticed I wasn’t playing as good the last couple of games,” Walker said. “They (the wrists) were bugging me.”

This week he’s been practicing with a brace and tape on his wrists, which have to hurt.

“It does every once in a while, but for the most part I have enough adrenaline to go,” Walker said.

The injury wiped out most of the wrestling season for Walker. It also meant he couldn’t suit up for the Bulldog track team like he did when he threw the shot put and discus the last three years.

“I was pretty bummed about that because track was one of my favorite sports,” Walker said.

Instead, Walker set his sights on playing in the Shrine Game. The only problem was that he was only selected as an alternate for the game.

“I didn’t know if I would play in this,” he said. “Just in case, I wanted to make sure I was ready to go. I was working out every day for the past two months to get in shape for it.”

Walker got the call to play in the game last Wednesday, bringing the number of Butte players on the West roster to seven.

“I was so proud of that,” said Walker, who said the Shrine Game is worth the risk of reinjuring his wrists. “I’d rather play this week and hurt myself than not play.”

Saturday, Walker plans to go out with a bang and play the Shrine Game like it’s his last football game, weather it is or not.

“I’ve got a lot to prove,” Walker said. “I’ve got to impress my dad, my grandma and my brother, just to make sure they know I was a good football player.”

In short, Walker plans on living up to his name.

“It’s the best of the best, so I guess we’ll find out who’s the best,” Walker said. “All of us are studs. That’s why we’re here.”

Shrine game a final audition for Wyatt Kingston

Updated: July 13, 2014 
Butte Central graduate Wyatt Kingston takes a knee after practice for the Montana East-West Shrine Game Sunday morning at Montana Tech. Butte Central graduate Wyatt Kingston takes a knee after practice for the Montana East-West Shrine Game Sunday morning at Montana Tech.

For about as long as he can remember, Wyatt Kingston has wanted to play football for the University of Montana.

“I was about eight years old and we were under the ‘Got Milk?’ sign,” Kingston remembers about his first trip to Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula. “I remember looking down and I told my mom, ‘I’m going to go to school here.’”

For the 2014 Butte Central graduate, though, there was one major problem when it came to his goal of playing college football. He hardly got recruited.

That is a crazy thought for fans of the Maroons who watched Kingston rush for 1,177 yards and 16 touchdowns during his senior year.

Not only did Kingston not hear a word from the Grizzlies, he never even got a scholarship offer from Montana Tech or Montana Western. He had opportunities to walk on at both schools, but he held out in hopes of pursuing his dream at UM.

At 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, maybe coaches thought the running back and key defensive player was too small?

Kingston, who is practicing with the West team at Montana Tech for Saturday’s Montana East-West Shrine Game in Laurel, says it was more likely a lack of exposure.

“I think maybe it was because it was my senior year that I broke out,” Kingston said. “I didn’t play running back my junior year. I didn’t have those two good years that they were scouting.”

Kingston resigned himself to the fact that he wasn’t going to play college football and enrolled at Montana Tech as a student only. Not wanting to experience a lifetime of regret, though, Kingston had a late change of heart.

“I was going to go to Tech, and I didn’t really have to pay for much,” Kingston said. “Then on the last second, about three or four weeks ago, I was like ‘I got to go to Missoula.”’

So Kingston, who graduated with a 3.92 GPA and will study radiology or nursing, switch gears and enrolled at UM.

“I lost a few scholarships I could have applied for because I was going to go to Tech.,” Kingston said. “I was kind of bummed out because nothing was really going on. I was like, ‘I guess it’s just not going to happen.’

“I started lifting really hard and working out for the Shrine Game,” Kingston said. “I talked to my cousins and parents and they just told me it’s worth a shot, you’ve got nothing to lose. If you make the team, you make the team. If you don’t, you don’t. You’ve got nothing to lose so you might as well give it your best shot.”

Kingston sent a highlight tape to the Grizzly coaching staff, and Butte Central head coach Don Peoples Jr. sent off a letter. Kingston is waiting — and hoping — he’ll hear something back.

“We’re going to hopefully get a call back soon,” Kingston said.

Kingston is also hoping the Shrine Game will push him over the top to get him a Grizzly uniform when preseason camp opens next month in Missoula.

“That’s what I’m hoping,” Kingston said. “Hopefully I’ll have a good game, a solid game, and they can see it.”

He’ll line up at running back and in the slot for the Westside. That might be the kind of versatility that will open some eyes in his final game to garner some attention.

Kingston played running back from Little Guy football through eighth grade. He moved to receiver as a freshman, and he posted 59 varsity receptions for six touchdowns. He switched back to his favorite position as a senior and really took off. He earned All-State honors and was named offensive co-MVP of the Southwestern A.

“I played X, then I played H and played running back,” Kingston said. “On defense I played linebacker and strong safety. So, I have a little bit of versatility.”

Kingston says his vision on the field is probably his strength.

“I think so,” he said. “That and my first three steps off the ball to get me into the open are pretty quick.”

Even though he was only a running back for one season, Kingston ranks seventh all time rushing for the Maroons He trails only Brian Morris, Buddy Walsh, Don Ueland, Matt Ueland, Don Ueland and Seth Schutte. He ranks in the top 10 for most TDs in one season with 17.

Kingston, who also chalked up four interceptions last season, is one of those few players who actually seems to be faster when he dons football pads. He’s not going to post a 4.2 40, but he has the kind of speed to run away from defenders.

“For track I run the 100 and it seems like not too fast,” Kingston said. “On the field, when I have pads on, I feel a lot faster, stronger and quicker. It’s one of those things.”

That was evident when he busted an 85-yard run against Anaconda last season. In that game at Mitchell Stadium, Kingston ran for 272 yards. That ranks fifth best in school history behind Steve Schulte, Clint McGee, John Driscoll and Morris.

Those are the kind of numbers that you’d think would get you a chance to play at the next level.

For Kingston, though, it isn’t just about the next level. It’s about playing for the Grizzlies.

“Cool stadium, great fans,” Kingston said. “When we went down for our playoff game we got to practice down there (at Washington-Grizzly Stadium). There weren’t even any fans, and you just feel like you’re this small down on the field. It’s just an incredible feeling.”

Kingston would like to feel that feeling when every seat is filled with rabid Grizzly fans.

“Hopefully it works out,” he said. “I’m really hoping.”

Year of football paid off for Peter Granger

Updated: July 12, 2014
Butte High graduate Peter Granger listens to the play call during practice Saturday night on the Bob Green Field at Alumni Coliseum. Butte High graduate Peter Granger listens to the play call during practice Saturday night on the Bob Green Field at Alumni Coliseum.

On the night Butte High won the 2012 Class AA state football title, junior Peter Granger knocked over a few people at Naranche Stadium.

That’s because Granger was one of the thousands of Bulldog fans who rushed the field after Jake Dennehy booted the game-winning field goal as time expired in the 38-36 win over Bozeman.

“I was running out on the field,” Granger remembered. “I was in the first row, and I remember knocking a few people over running out to celebrate.”

A year later, Granger spent a lot more time on the grass at Naranche Stadium.

For the first time since he was in seventh grade, Granger played football full time, and he thrived in the high-octane Butte High offense.

Granger caught 64 passes for 899 yards and six touchdowns for the Bulldogs, earning him a first-team All-State selection.

It also earned him a spot on the West roster in next Saturday’s Montana East-West Shrine Game in Laurel.

“I was expecting to do good,” Granger said after Saturday night’s practice on Montana Tech’s Bob Green Field. “I always expect a lot out of myself, but I didn’t expect to do as good as I did. Dallas (Cook) helped with that a lot. Coach (Arie) Grey helped me out with a lot of stuff.”

Granger, who was the lone Butte player selected to play for Montana in last month’s Knights of Columbus Badlands Bowl, also caught the eye of college coaches. He was offered a preferred walk on to play for Montana State.

After long consideration, Granger decided to pass on college football. Instead, he will study computer science at Montana Tech.

“I was going to take the walk on at MSU,” said Granger, who left Butte High with a 3.7 GPA. “It’s a lot of time with school and football, and I just want to concentrate on school.”

Granger also passed on a chance to play football at Tech so he could focus on his studies. Of course, he’s known for changing his mind when it comes to football.

For now, though, Granger is planning on the Shrine Game being his farewell to football, a sport he originally gave up for baseball in eighth grade. That’s when Granger starting playing fall ball for Big Sky Baseball.

“I liked football in seventh grade,” said Granger, who excelled as a pitcher and catcher, making the decision to walk away from football an easy one.

Granger even considered college baseball and talked to coaches about doing that when he was younger. When the American Legion program in Butte lost its field at Alumni Coliseum, though, Granger lost his passion for the sport.

In 2013, the Butte Miners didn’t play at the Class AA level and Montana Legion Baseball wouldn’t let them play in Class A, leaving the team in no-man’s land. That didn’t sound very fun to many players, including Granger.

“I didn’t want play to A, or not even A,” he said. “You don’t play for anything, really.”

This year, the Miners are a contender in the Class A, but Granger’s baseball days are behind him.

Granger actually joined the football team late in the season as a sophomore. He didn’t play enough, however, get him out again as a junior.

He didn’t really start considering playing football again until that magical November night in 2012.

“That’s when I was like, ‘Man should I play football next year?,’” Granger said. “Then I thought about it all year.”

Granger had some encouragement from the members of the state championship team.

“They all talked to me after they won the championship,” he said. “‘Don’t you wish you a ring?’”

It wasn’t until last summer when boredom overtook Granger, and he official made the decision.

“It was summer and I was just sitting at home and had nothing to do,” Granger said. “All my friends were at football, and I was like ‘I got to get out there and play.’

“So I texted coach Grey and he said be at weights tomorrow, 6 a.m. I said, ‘I’ll be there.’”

His success on the football team led to a better player on the basketball court. Granger started two seasons for the Bulldog varsity team. As a senior, he averaged 10.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.

“I thought I was more physical,” Granger said of playing basketball after a season of football.

Football also opened Grangers eyes to the plight of patients of the Shriners Hospital for Children in Spokane.

On Saturday, the West team members got a talk form some patients. That included some words from Tucker Thatcher, a teammate of Granger’s on the Butte High basketball team.

“He spoke to us about the disease he has in his hip and how we’re lucky to be out here,” Granger said of Thatcher’s speech. “He told us about some of the kids he saw at the Shrine Hospital.”

The West team also learned the amount of money that was raised and presented to the Spokane hospital from last year’s game in Butte.

“That’s what it is for,” Granger said. “They said they raised $146,000 for the Shrine hospital last year, which is awesome.”

Those kind of numbers make Granger know that he made the right decision when he decided to return to the gridiron as a senior.

“I’m really glad I played football,” he said.


Note: ButteSports.com will profile all seven Butte players on the West roster before Saturday’s Montana East-West Shrine Game. Other Butte Westside players are Peter Granger, Johnny Walker and Dallas Cook from Butte High, and Wyatt Kingston, Connor Schulte and Kale Guldseth  from Butte Central.

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