BC’s Connor McGree liking Shrine week

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.”

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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