After mere hours together as a team, the West squad of the 2014 Montana East-West Shrine Football game got in its first scrimmage Monday morning at Bob Green Field at Montana Tech.
Under the watchful eyes of the all-star coaching staff, including head coach Rick Nordahl of Dillon, the mountain-side Shrine team hit hard for about an hour, giving the handful of fans on hand a look at the team that will try to give the West its second win in a row Friday night at 7 p.m. in Laurel.
It’ll be the first time in the head coaching position for Nordahl, who recently spent his first season as head coach at Beaverhead County High in Dillon, where he led the Beavers to a State Class A title win over rival Billings Central. Of course, coaching is nothing new for Nordahl, who spent the last 23 seasons as an assistant in Dillon.
Nordahl also served as an assistant coach in four previous Shrine games, and is well aware of the events coming up this week.
“Oh, this is a blast,” he said of the experience. “It’s very special to get to work with coaches and players of this caliber. These guys are all all-state and I’ll tell you it’s nice to have some of the opponents on our team for a change.”
A couple of the more visible players in Monday’s scrimmage were quarterbacks Dallas Cook of Butte and Jared Trinastich of Columbia Falls. Visible, not only due to their position, but to their stature as well. Both athletes stand 6-foot-4, with Trinastich weighing in at 190 pounds and Cook at 235 – more than a number of his all-star offensive linemen.
“They’re both gunslingers,” Nordahl observed of his QBs. “And with their size they have the vision to see downfield over their offensive linemen.”
They don’t have to look too hard, as the West boasts some big targets including Connor Sullivan of Ennis, who checks in at 6-4, 230, and Butte’s 6-4 Peter Granger. Missoula Big Sky’s Alex Mustard brings sizzling speed with his 6-1 frame as well.
Size isn’t a prerequisite for the position, however, as Whitefish standout Sean Foley is only 5-9, but showed the West defenders speed and moves when he hauled in a pretty 35-yard TD pass from Trinastich early on in the scrum.
Other spots boast big, strong kids as well.
“We’ve got some pretty physical-looking tight ends and defensive ends,” Nordahl said. “A lot of these kids came in very strong. You can tell they’ve been putting in the hours in the weight room. Our offensive line has some real monsters and I’ve been very impressed with our defensive linemen. They’re demanding double (teams) and they’re letting our linebackers run.”
Nordahl points to the three father-son pairs on the team, including Tony and Troy Arntson of Helena High, Joe and Jake McElroy of Missoula Loyola along with Pat and Connor Schulte of Butte Central.
“That’s really a special side of the game,” he said.
The West team comes into the game trying to get its second win after the Arie Grey-led squad pulled off a wild come-from-behind win over the East last July at Naranche Stadium in Butte. The East holds a 37-30 edge overall, although the West has won four of the last five meetings.
Winning isn’t the main focus of the event, Nordahl said.
“As long as we raise some money for the kids,” he said of the young patients at the Shrine Hospital in Spokane. “That’s really what it’s all about.
“But we’re going to do everything we can to win.”