By Bill Foley
The All-Star setting appears to be a natural for Bryan “Hugo” Holland.
The former Butte Central Maroon seems to be fitting right in as he practices with the West Side this week, gearing up for Saturday’s 74th Montana East-West Shrine Game.
“It’s been really a lot of fun. The guys are all great,” Holland said after a practice Tuesday morning at Butte High’s Naranche Stadium. “It feels like we’ve known each other for more than just the few days here. We’re coming together really well. We’ve only had four practices now, but it feels like we’ve been here for months.”
Holland, who signed to continue his football career and education at Carroll College in February, is the lone representative of Butte Central. He said that is an amazing honor, but he misses his former BC teammates.
“It’s kind of cool to represent my school,” Holland said. “I wish some of my other players were here, but I get to meet new guys and I’m with some of the other Butte guys.”
Aidan Lee, D.J. Jackson, Ty Raiha and Jake Olson will represent Butte High in the game.
The 6-foot, 190-pound Holland will wear No. 52 Saturday night. He will play defensive end, a position in which he will get a look at with the Saints. He could also play linebacker at Carroll.
“We’re bouncing around a little bit because we have limited numbers,” Holland said of the West defensive linemen. “We only have six. So, right now I’m playing mostly defensive end, but sometimes I move in and go to nose or tackle.”
Moving around is nothing new for Holland, a four-year football letterman who started both ways for three years at BC.
“I’ve played line,” Holland said. “I’ve played nose. I’ve played linebacker.”
Holland, whose nickname “Hugo” goes back to Spanish class his sophomore year, earned second-team all-conference accolades on both sides of the ball last season. That came in a year when COVID-19 hit the Maroons very hard, limiting the team’s schedule and exposure for postseason honors.
“I think we were able to prove what kind of players we were with the games we had,” Holland said, turning a negative into a positive point.
Holland’s quick transition to the All-Star practices is even more impressive when you factor in that he comes from a Class A school that is the size of a Class C school.
“We practice against freshman all the time,” he said. “You go from that to these practices and you’re going against guys who are just as good or even better than you. If there’s a JV game going on, we’ve only got 10, 11, 12 guys. That happens, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
Holland, a nine-time letter winner who was part of BC’s 2020 Class A state championship basketball team, said that work against fellow All-Stars is helping the West Side improve drastically from practice to practice and snap to snap.
“I think everyone is getting a lot better for it, too,” Holland said. “It’s the top guy at each position, so you’re getting a 100 percent rep every time.”
Holland is familiar with the Shrine Game and its cause. His uncle Bill Sprinkle, a Great Falls native who lives in Helena, played in the game. He also watched the last three games that were played in Butte, including the 2013 game at Naranche Stadium.
“I remember that one because the guy hit his head off the side,” Holland said, standing near the spot where West quarterback Quinn McQueary bounced his helmet off the brick following a late hit. “He hit his head off the wall.”
The game raises money for the Shriners Hospital for Children in Spokane, and the West Side players got talks from hospital patients this week to drive home the meaning of the game. That includes presentations from Sudah Davis Butte and Kasey Morley, a 10-year-old boy from Anaconda.
Since 2018, Morley has made an appearance at a West practice, busting a long touchdown run each time. (Click here to read about his first.)
“He’s coming later this week,” Holland said of Morley. “I’m sure he’ll show us a thing or two.”
“That’s what makes it, really, is little stuff like that,” Holland added. “It was really cool to learn their stories. It’s a really good cause. It was just cool to hear their stories and learn a little about what we’re playing for here. It feels good to give back and just help people out.”
Holland said it is also good to be playing football again, and he is eager to show why he was picked as on of Montana’s “best of the best.”
“I’m just having fun, and I just want to kick the East’s butt,” he said. “I’m going in that way, just showcase myself and kick some butt.”
— Butte Sports will profile the five Butte players on the West Side leading up to Saturday’s 74th Montana East-West Shrine Game in Billings. The other four players are Aidan Lee, Ty Raiha, Jake Olson and D.J. Jackson.