Expect a good one as Tech hosts Shrine Game

Expect a good one as Tech hosts Shrine Game
West coach Chad Ross of Whtiefish talks to his player at the end of a practice Thursday afternoon at Alumni Coliseum. (Bill Foley photo)

By Bruce Sayler

Of course, the players are new every year. The 2016 Montana East-West Shrine Game, though, features new head coaches for the game.

Both Mike Ludwig of Laurel and Chad Ross of Whitefish have strong coaching resumes, but are serving as head coaches in the country’s oldest game of this type for the first time. Ludwig is guiding the East and Ross has the controls to the West.

The East leads the series 38-31, including a 19-14 victory in Great Falls last years. After being held 1947-2009 in Great Falls, the Shriners decided to set up a three-city rotation to serve as hosts. Billings will be the host for next year’s game, actually likely to be played in Laurel, then it will go to Great Falls in 2018, returning to Butte 2019.

The game is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Saturday at Bob Green Field on the Montana Tech campus. TV coverage is planned statewide on the CW and locally on KXLF, according to station reports.

It marks the third time the classic has been held in Butte and the West squad is 2-0 in Mining City venues. Those West wins came in 2010 at Bulldog Memorial Stadium and in 2013 at Naranche Stadium.

The two previous Butte games have also generated almost a quarter of a million dollars for the charity game’s beneficiary, The Children’s Hospital in Spokane, which carries Shrine sponsorship.

Both Ludwig and Ross will also be coaching their sons in Saturday’s game. Connor Ludwig is a safety and Chaffin Ross, a defensive end who starred in their dads’ programs.

The #ItsAllForTheKids cause has been emphasized again and, again, the players seemed to have taken hold of the theme. Visits from Butte kids Tucker Thatcher and Sudah Davis, and Anaconda’ s Kasey Morley generated even more flame for the fire. Thatcher and Davis have been patients at the Spokane hospital, as has Morley, who is also this year’s patient ambassador.

Buffalo Bill safety Colt Anderson of Butte has also made a couple visits to the West team this week and offered motivational talks while instilling confidence and generally hanging out with the players.

So, the cause is great and those who will benefit are revered for their own personal fights with what they are trying to overcome. The coaches and players are honored to help.

However, they are also highly competitive players and athletes. So, they also want to win the game.

Expect a good one. Both teams look to have good size and quick-strike scoring capabilities. The ball figures to be in the air a lot. Ross said plans will be for West quarterbacks Luke May of Whitefish and Leif Ericksen of Kalispell Glacier to pass 60 percent of the time.

East QBs Tanner Mayer of Fairfield and Matt Blunt of Miles City may not throw quite so much. Blunt is probably the more likely to do so while Mayer is a quick-footer who is probably most dangerous when flushed from the backfield. The West’s May has a reputation for the ability to extend plays.

The Whitefish contingent experienced a state Class A championship last year.

Class AA Bozeman, Class B Fairfield, Class C 8-Man Chinook and Class C 6-Man Denton/Geyser/Stanford also won state titles in 2015.

The game looks to be chocked full of receiving talent. Will Hunthausen of Helena Capital and Nate Simkins of Dillon lead the West list. Cole Harper of Butte Central is another and is one of three Maroons in the game, joining defensive lineman Jake Michelotti and linebacker Kyle Schulte.

Schulte’s grandfather, Bob, played in the first Shrine Game and has been a spectator at West practices. Kyle Schulte will be the eighth member of the Schulte to play in the game, joining his grandfather, three uncles, two cousins and an older brother. Two of Bob Schulte’s nephews have also played.

East receivers should include Justin May of Chester-Joplin-Inverness, Jamison Hermanson of Great Falls High, Nate Rismon of Havre, Tyger Frye of Billings Senior, Ben Hardy of Fairview and Jacob Hadley of Billings Central.

There is definitely a good run factor, too. Nifty, shifty Wyatt Haldorson of Corvallis is a hard-to-grab scatback for the West, which also has Nick Winfield of Boulder and Thomas Trefney of Glacier to pack the ball. The East will answer with Sam Sparks of Billings Senior and bruising Conner Bokma of Denton-Geyser-Stanford.

Other Southwest Montana area standouts suiting up for the West are Sean Gallagher of Anaconda, Jered Padmos and Trase LeTexier of Boulder, Tracen Eggers of Twin Bridges, Kyle Finch of Dillon, Chase Barta of Manhattan and Dustin Wham of Ennis. Brett Carver of Dillon is an assistant coach, serving as offensive coordinator.

Cole Rosling of Helena Capital and Jace Lewis of Townsend have been two of the defensive standouts on a unit that performed superbly in the practices.

Noah Danielson of Great Falls C.M. Russell and Trace Bradshaw of Bozeman are two of the East’s top defensive players on another steadfast unit. Joel Beck of Fairfield is a strength up front.

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