West dominates in 45-13 Shrine Game victory over East

West’s Dominic Umile # 73 brings down East’s Jake Cassagranda in the first quarter of the 76th annual East Vs West Shrine game.

(Photo by John Robbins of Butte Sports.)

By Bruce Sayler

The West has a genuine win streak.
Excelling in all phases of the game and championing in the leadership of game MVP Jarrett Wilson, the West throttled the East 45-13 Saturday night at Naranche Stadium for its third straight win in the 76-year-plus history of the series.
The East still holds the overall advantage, 41-35.
Wilson, a Polson graduate headed for Montana Tech, quarterbacked the winners to 154 passing yards, including a 32-yard scoring hookup with Bryce Umphrey, who, with Canyon Sargent, were the first St. Ignatius players to compete in the game in 21 years.

Two former Bulldog teammates and a future MT Tech Oredigger Zach Tierney and future Montana Grizzly Cam Gurnsey await the teams next offensive possession with teammates Bryce Umphrey of Misson and Eli Taylor of Hamilton High. (Photo by John Robbins of Butte Sports.)

The TD throw to Umphrey ignited a 16-point third quarter for the West as it broke open the game. The West took leads of 5-0 after one quarter and 15-7 at halftime as running back Adam Jones of Missoula Sentinel scored the first offensive touchdown for his team.
Umphrey’s third-quarter touchdown was followed by a safety when a bad snap by the East bounced into the end zone and running back Rafe Longin of Great Falls hopped on it to prevent a West touchdown. The West’s other star quarterback, Florence’s Patrick Duchien then hit Eli Taylor of Hamilton for a 7-yard score and the West took a 31-7 bulge into the fourth period.
The put away continued as speedy Dillon wideout Eli Nourse, son of Montana Western head coach Ryan Nourse, took in a 27-yard TD pass from Duchien and quarterback-turned tight end-turned quarterback again Jace Stenson of Butte High took off on a 15-yard touchdown romp with a little more than two minutes left in the contest.
Stenson’s score made the difference 45-7 and the East scored immediately thereafter, Kade Boyde of Billings Central running the ensuing kickoff back for the last touchdown of the night.
Stenson was one of four Butte players contributing to the win. Two of his Butte High teammates, receiver Cameron Gurnsey and offensive guard Zach Tierney, and Butte Central defensive back Kyle Holter all saw plenty of action.

Butte Central’s Kyle Holter awaits his teams next possession with teammates Caden Hansen of Dillon and Colten Rice of Florence. (Photo by John Robbins of Butte Sports.)

“I was surprised to play quarterback,” Stenson said with some wonder in his eyes after the game. “I think the coaches just wanted us to be running the ball and killing time and so they put me back there.”
Stenson was Butte High’s starting QB the last two years, but was switched to tight end in Shrine Camp. His playing time increased when All-State tight end Hayden Opitz of Helena Capital was injured. Wilson limped off the field late in the game and the coaches moved Stenson into the QB slot.
“It might’ve been my longest touchdown of the year,” Stenson said with a laugh.
Rainy weather arrived for the game, too, and likely held down the crowd attendance, though a sizeable congregation of spectators filled the northside stands completely and filtered to the smaller southside and east end zone seats.

Bulldog QB and future Oredigger Jace Stenson talks with teammates Dylan Christman of Helena High and Reid Johnson of Twin Bridges. (Photo by John Robbins of Butte Sports.) 

In the unlikelihood of events department, the first three scores of the game were not touchdowns. The West gained a 5-0 leg up in the first quarter when Florence defensive end Colten Rice sacked Lewistown quarterback Gage Norslien of the East for a safety, then Dylan Root of Boulder kicked a 22-yard field goal.
Defenses ruled the early part of the first half. Offenses moved the ball, but the defenses walled them out of the end zones with big tackles and turnovers frustrating the attacks.
Root kicked a 36-yard field goal 3 ½ minutes into the second quarter and the West had scored three times but led only 8-0. Root was picked the West’s most valuable offensive player.
Rice was selected the team’s outstanding defensive player. The soon-to-be Oredigger gridder was unaware until being told in a postgame interview.
“We have a really good team and we did really good things tonight,” he said. “We just all came here because we play football and we’re the best at what we do. That’s why we were selected. We came together to play our best.”
The East threw its biggest scare into the West five minutes into the second quarter. Garrett Metrione of Belt broke on a Duchien out pass and picked it off for a 30-yard sprint before being caught at the West 1-yard line. However, Norslien bounced his way in on a keeper on the next play. Eli Groshelle of Great Falls C.M. Russell kicked the extra point and the East trailed by only a point, 8-7.

The West team waiting to kick things off Saturday Night. (Photo by John Robbins Butte Sports.)

It was as close as the East could get in a game marred by occasional skirmishes and flareups, especially on kickoffs.
The West put the Jones touchdown on the board just before halftime after Wilson engineered a drive highlighted by a long gain on a throw to 6-foot-6, 260-pound tight end Dylan Christman of Helena High. The soon-to-be Montana Western Bulldog proved to be tough to get on the ground and caught three passes totaling more than 90 yards in the game. Jones’ 5-yard carry finished the march.
Metrione and Norslien were chosen the East’s outstanding players for the game.
“In the first half we had to figure some things out in the offensive line and places,” West head coach Kyle Mihelish of Helena Capital said. “Defensively, we played pretty well.
“They had put some things we weren’t prepared for. We made out adjustments at halftime.”
Cornerback Zander Dean of Sidney intercepted a pass in the first half that stalled a West drive. The West seemed to spend the first half in the shadows of the East goalposts, yet were unable to cash opportunities for a large lead.

The East team waiting to kick things off Saturday Night. (Photo by John Robbins Butte Sports.)

The West struck back in the second half with a fumble recovery by Missoula Sentinel defensive end Dominic Umile for a stop on East.
The offensive stats were lopsided. The West rolled up 411 yards in total offense while its defense limited the East offense to 199 yards. Jones led the West on the ground with 89 yards and Duchien threw for 98 yards, twice as many as any of the East quarterbacks, sharing time with Wilson. Gurnsey was second to Christman in receiving with 43 yards on three catches.
Norslien led the East offense with 52 yards rushing and 49 passing. Boyde was the team’s leading receiver with 32 yards on three catches.
Metrione is slated to play for Carroll, Dean for Rocky Mountain, Norslien for Carroll, Umile for Montana Tech, Duchien for Montana State, Jones for Montana State and Gurnsey for Montana. Groshelle is headed to Rocky Mountain, Boyde to Montana.
Longin is going to Montana, Tierney to Montana Tech, Nourse to Montana Western, Umphrey to Montana Tech (for track) and Sargent will play football for Montana Western. Holter said he plans to attend Montana Tech and for the first time in his academic career not be competing in sports.
Proceeds from the game and accompanying fund-raising activities go to the Shrine Children’s Hospital. The game has raised more than $1 million for the hospital.
Next year’s Montana East-West Shrine Game is scheduled for Billings.