Size and speed will clash Saturday night in Laurel, and that could be the cognitive factor in determining who wins the 68th Montana East-West Shrine Game.
The East’s defense, with a front line that boasts a pair of 280-pounders in Billings Skyview’s Jalen Whitley and Colstrip’s Tucker Yates and a 270-pounder in Livingston’s Chris Emter, has designs on containing the West’s offensive skill, like Kalispell Glacier running back Noah James and wideouts Alex Mustard of Missoula Big Sky, Peter Granger of Butte and Connor Sullivan of Ennis.
And it starts with putting the clamps on a couple gunslinging quarterbacks, Butte’s Dallas Cook and Columbia Falls’ Jared Trinastich.
“The biggest thing for us is do your job,” said East linebacker Grant Collins of Bozeman. “If everyone does their job on defense we’ll be able to shut them down and do our thing. Create turnovers is also another big one. If we can get our offense the ball we can score some points.”
Cook threw for more than 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns last season. Trinastich had 2,886 passing yards and 34 TDs.
Can it be done?
“I think it should be a pretty good matchup,” Collins said.
The East’s offense, not short on speed and skill, wants to do its part by controlling the ball and winning time of possession, which didn’t work so well last month in the Badlands Bowl.
The East team has 15 players that were members of the Montana All-Star team that lost to North Dakota in overtime, including quarterback Will Weyer and running back Hunter Gappmayer of Bozeman, and tight end Eric Dawson of Great Falls CMR. The head coach again is Bozeman’s Troy Purcell.
Though Weyer threw for 285 yards and a pair of TDs, Montana’s all-stars netted zero rushing yards in the Badlands Bowl.
“We’ve got to run the ball,” said Dawson, who caught a first-quarter touchdown from Weyer in that game. “We’ve got to be able to pound the ball. You’ve got to have a balanced offense.”
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Weyer is likely to take all the snaps for the East’s offense, just as he did in the Badlands Bowl.
“It’s an awesome opportunity to get this one last game to play with the best guys in the state,” said Weyer, who has signed to play quarterback at Montana.
“We’ve been changing some stuff up (on offense), but it’s pretty much the same game plan. Coach Purcell has been coaching everyone up.”
The West All-Stars roared back to win last year’s Shrine Game 31-28 in Butte. The East leads the all-time series 37-30.
The West is coached by Dillon’s Rick Nordahl, who guided the Beavers to the Class A state title last fall.