By Bill Foley
Ty Raiha’s final week as a football player could not be happening in a better place.
Raiha is playing right guard for the West Side in Saturday’s Montana East-West Shrine Game in Billings. The week of preparation for the game is being held in the Mining City, and all practices are taking place at Butte High’s Naranche Stadium.
“I thought we were practicing at Tech,” Raiha said after the first of two practices Sunday at his old stomping grounds. “The fact that I get to practice on Naranche … there’s no better way to go out.”
For years, the West side has practiced at Montana Tech. With the Knights of Columbus Badlands Bowl signing off, the Shrine Game is moving up a month in the calendar.
Montana Tech’s Bob Green Field is busy hosting football camps, so the Shrine practices have moved to the Naranche.
That is A-OK with Raiha, a recent Butte High graduate who started three seasons on the offensive line for the Bulldogs. Raiha is one of five Butte players representing the Mining City on the West Side. The others are former Bulldogs Jake Olson, D.J. Jackson and Aidan Lee and Butte Central grad Bryan “Hugo” Holland.
During Raiha’s run on the offensive line for the Bulldogs, Butte High went 20-11. That includes an 11-1 campaign that saw Butte High advance to the Class AA title game in 2019.
Over those past three seasons, Raiha and the Bulldogs went 12-5 at Naranche Stadium.
Raiha said he is weighing in at about 280 pounds for the Shrine Game. He is standing about 6-foot-1. Well, almost.
“In my spikes at least,” he said with a laugh. “And the cowboy boots.”
He played center until his sophomore year, then slid into the guard position when a varsity spot opened up. The rest, as they say, is history. While playing guard, Raiha helped pave the way as the Bulldogs ran for nearly 6,300 yards over the past three seasons.
Raiha said he had so much fun playing for the Bulldogs that he already has plans for the next generation of Raihas to also don the purple and white.
“I want to leave Butte for a little bit, but not too long, though,” he said. “I definitely want my kids to play here. I wouldn’t have asked for a better high school to play for anywhere.”
While the lineman definitely left his mark on the program, Raiha’s career will come to an end when the West meets the East on the turf of Daylis Stadium in Billings.
Raiha found himself part of the COVID squeeze. With so many football players taking advantage of their extra season granted by the NCAA and NAIA because of the pandemic, many members of the class of 2021 have found themselves on the outside looking in.
That includes Raiha, who thought he would have a chance to play at the next level.
“I’m not saying I’m a four-star athlete, by any means, but I probably would have gone and played if I had an opportunity,” he said. “It’s hard.”
Instead, Raiha will go to Montana Tech and focus on his education. He said he is planning to study civil engineering, but added, “it can change at any time.”
Raiha, who graduated Butte High with a 3.3 GPA, likes the kind of math it takes to be an engineer, and there is no better school around than the one right up the street from his old high school.
“I like that kind of technical math,” Raiha said. “I don’t like all this weird math. When you can see it, it’s a lot easier to do math. It’s fun.”
Raiha said he is planning to make the most out of the Shrine Game, which raises money for the Shriners Hospital for Children in Spokane.
“It hasn’t hit me yet that I won’t play again,” he said. “This will be my last game. I’m just going into like, ‘Just leave it all out there.’”
Raiha is also determined to make the most of a week of practice on the field he plans to watch his children play on some day. So far, so good.
“It’s a fun experience,” Raiha said. “I already like everybody here.”
— 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 Jake Olson, Bryan Holland, D.J. Jackson and Aidan Lee.