LAUREL – A fast-clicking West team found its rhythm early on and ran away with a 34-10 win over the East in the 68th annual Montana East West Shrine football game Saturday at Laurel High School stadium.
The East drew first blood via a 37-yard field goal early in the first quarter, but the West rattled off the next 34 points to effectively end the game early. The Red team won its second straight and fifth out of six games, though the East still leads the overall series 37-31.
“This was a great team effort,” said Dillon head coach Rick Nordahl. “The guys dealt with some adverse situations here but they didn’t let it bother them. They stuck together and got it done. We got into the flow of the game and shored up our defense and they were sound the rest of the game.”
West’s offense was run by the game MVP, Jared Trinastich of Columbia Falls, as well as West offensive MVP Dallas Cook of Butte.
“The kids stepped up,” observed West offensive coordinator Tony Arntson of Helena High. “Jordan played such a great game. I love that kid. Anytime you have quarterbacks coming into a game like this they don’t have the checks, especially in a spread offense like this. But he did such a great job. And Dallas just makes plays. I found so much respect for him as a person this week and I really enjoyed coaching him. They both spread it around and we had a lot of catches. I think every receiver and tight end caught the ball tonight.”
The West team took the ball first, but a strong East run defense and a sharp defensive backfield led to the first of seven punts. Bozeman quarterback Will Weyer engineered a46-yard drive that ended in a 37-yard field goal by Grant Linde of Billings West.
Things looked even worse for the West when Bozeman cornerback Wyatt David picked off a Trinastich aerial, but the Red defense forced a three-and-punt possession for the Yellow, and the West offense went back to work. Cook found Connor McGree of Butte Central on a short out route that extended the drive, though a big sack left the West in a third-and 23 situation on their own 22.
Enter the Cook-to-Troy Arntson connection, which resulted in a 78-yard touchdown connection, and the West took the lead for good. Cook fired a bullet over the middle and Helena High’s Arntson turned on the burners to reach the end zone, also aided by a monster downfield block from Butte High’s Peter Granger.
“You know, a lot of kids would have bought a ticket and watched that play,” Nordahl recalled after the game. “Granger made sure he got there.”
The West defense got right back in business when the David Rizzolo of Whitefish snagged a Weyer pass to put the ball in Trinastich’s hands again. The 6-foot-4 standout, bound to play basketball for Montana-Western, completed six of six passes on the drive, capped by a nice 17-yard floater to the corner of the endzone and the waiting arms of Whitefish’s Sean Foley.
The East notched three first downs on its next drive, but Weyer was sacked for loss on fourth-and-7 by Tyler Sanders of Helena Capital. The change of hands on downs didn’t matter, as the next four possessions were punted away. Weyer was again intercepted, this time by Helena High’s Nick Amestoy, and Trinastich connected on four straight passes, the last of which was a 4-yard scoring strike to Missoula Sentinel’s Tyler Richtmeyer.
With a 20-7 lead at half, the West defense held fast and forced a trio of three-and-punt series for the East, while the Red team scored on two of its first three tries. Glacier’s Noah James put the exclamation point on a 69-yard drive that got a big boost from a 31-yard reception from Trinastich to Granger. West’s final scoring drive of the night came with 19 rushing yards from Cook followed by a 14-yard pass to Missoula Big Sky’s Alex Mustard, who danced in from a yard out.
“We knew once we got going it would work out,” Cook said after the game, passing credit to his teammates. “We’ve been with each other 24 hours a day for the last week. I love these guys to death.”
The East managed its only touchdown of the night late in the fourth quarter when Weyer helped get his team out of a jam. After being pinned on the 1-yard line, the Bozeman QB pulled off a perfect play-action pass in which everyone in the stadium was fooled into biting on a fake run up the middle. Standing in the back of the endzone, Weyer suddenly cocked and threw to Levi Lynde of Red Lodge, who was wide open and helped establish a new Shrine Game scoring play record for 99 yards.
That accounted for the lion’s share of the East’s offensive production.
“We came out, stepped on their throat and held ‘em down,” Butte High defensive end Johnny Walker said after the game. “That was a great time.”
McGree, headed to Carroll College for football, finished with six catches for 35 yards, while Maroon teammate Kale Guldseth had two receptions for 12 yards.
“Our team clicked all along,” McGree offered. “I don’t think that happens a lot in Shrine games, and it was a lot of fun.”
Dillon assistant coach Steve Vezina, an emotional leader for the team, said he was happy to see such a team have success.
“It took a little time to acclimate, but the difference in the game was that we played as a team,” he said. “The kids bought in early in the week and we were like a family. These guys were a pleasure to coach.”
West 13 7 14 0 — 34
East 3 0 0 7 — 10
East — Grant Linde 37 field goal, 8:53
West — Troy Arntson 78 pass from Dallas Cook (Brady Hislop kick), 3:40
West — Sean Foley 22 pass from Jared Trinastich (kick failed), 1:12
West — Tyler Richtmyer 4 pass from Trinastich (Hislop kick), :53
West — Noah James 1 run (Hislop kick), 4:07
West — Alex Mustard 15 pass from Cook (Hislop kick), :39
East — Levi Lynde 99 pass from Will Weyer (Linde kick), 5:41
First downs 19 11
Rushes-yards 36-43 34-120
Passing 25-43-1 12-26-2
Passing yards 361 187
Total yards 404 307
Penalties 9-50 2-20
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-0
Punts 7 8
RUSHING — West: Noah James 17-35, Wyatt Kingston 2-12, Dallas Cook 10-5, Jadyn Wilson 2-4, Sean Foley 3-3, Troy Arntson 1-(-4), Jared Trinastich 1-(-12). East: Hunter Gappmayer 9-40, Alex Picicci 8-38, Will Weyer 11-24, Kendall Austin 6-18.
PASSING — West: Jared Trinastich 16-22-1, 200 yards; Dallas Cook 8-20-0, 147 yards; Troy Arntson 1-1-0, 14 yards. East: Will Weyer 12-26-2, 187 yards.
RECEIVING — Tyler Richtmyer 6-79, Connor McGree 5-39, Sean Foley 4-42, Troy Arntson 3-83, Connor Sullivan 2-37, Alex Mustard 2-30, Kale Guldseth 2-10, Peter Granger 1-41. East: Eric Dawson 5-23, Levi Lynde 2-108, Hunter Gappmayer 2-23, John D’Agostino 2-15.