By Bill Foley
Jake Michelotti has been eyeing Saturday night for several years.
The recent Butte Central graduate had his interest in the Montana East-West Shrine Game piqued when he watched as the game came to Butte for the first time in 2010.
He really started focusing on the game when Butte’s turn in the rotation came again in 2013, and the game was played at Naranche Stadium.
Saturday night, Michelotti will represent the West side and the Mining City in the 70th version of Montana’s premier all-star football game at Montana Tech’s Bob Green Field. Kickoff is set for 7pm.
“I’ve known since my sophomore year that it’s going to be in Butte this year, and I’ve been excited ever since,” Michelotti said after a practice Thursday afternoon.
So far, Shrine Week has been everything Michelotti had expected,
“It’s awesome. It has been fun getting to know the guys,” the 5-foot-11, 260-pound defensive end said. “It is kind of what I expected. This team is really great, though. Everybody is friends. I’m excited. We’ll be really good.”
Michelotti, who signed to play football at Montana Tech, said hearing from Shriners Hospital for Children’s patients Tucker Thatcher and Sudah Davis of Butte and meeting this year’s patient Ambassador Kasey Morley, a 5-year-old boy from Anaconda, brought even more meaning to the game he so longed to play.
Since the Montana Shrine Game was first played in Butte six years ago, the game has raised nearly $500,000 for the hospital in Spokane.
“I knew Tucker, but I actually didn’t know he went to the Shriners,” Michelotti said. “I didn’t know quite how much (the hospital) did for them. I didn’t know a lot about it, but it’s nice to know.
“They do a lot of really good stuff, and this helps them out a lot. It’s really nice to know that you’re helping people. It’s awesome.”
Michelotti was a key contributor to the Butte Central offensive and defensive lines the past three seasons. Each of those seasons came as the Maroons called the Bob Green Field their home turf.
Playing on that same field to close the book on his high school career about a month before he officially begins his college career is special to Michelotti, whose uncle Brian (1990) and cousin Matt (2012) also played in the Shrine Game.
“It’s so nice,” Michelotti said of the field. “I’m glad we’re playing here.”
Michelotti has hit the weight room big-time since closing his gridiron career with the Maroons last November. He has gained 20 pounds — apparently mostly muscle — since then. He has gained 15 since signing with the Orediggers in January.
While he will play defensive tackle for the West, Michelotti isn’t sure which side of the ball he will play at Montana Tech.
“I think they are talking about playing me offensive line,” Michelotti said. “That’s OK, I like that too.”
The former Maroon also likes that he will be playing in front of a large group of family members who will attend the game this week because, as coincidence would have it, the Kamperschroer family is holding a reunion in town.
“There’s a family reunion for my grandma’s family,” Michelotti said. “I think there’s like 30 of them. It will be awesome. I’m excited to see them.”
Michelotti hoped he would play in the game for years. He officially learned that he would early last Christmas morning when the rosters were officially released.
“I was really excited,” he said. “I woke up in the morning and my sister told me.”
Nearly seven months of anticipation has passed since that morning. Now, kickoff is just about here, and Michelotti is, at long last, ready to suit up for the West.
“I knew I wanted to play after I watched the one here. It was really cool,” Michelotti said. “I’m really excited to finally play.”