BUTTE – The 70th East-West Montana Shrine Game kicks off Saturday night in Butte and the 2016 contest will again be broadcast live by MTN Sports.

The premier all-star game in Montana, the East-West Shrine Game is one of the oldest of its type in the entire country. The game raises money and awareness for the expert orthopedic and burn care available from the Shriner’s Hospital in Spokane, Washington. The Montana East-West Shrine Game has raised more than $400,000 the past six years.

MTN Sports has been a broadcast partner of the East-West Shrine Game in recent years, and will again air the game live statewide on Saturday on the Montana CW.

Many athletes have never had their games televised, which makes Saturday’s contest even more exciting.

Story continues below

“That will be fun,” said Denton-Geyser-Stanford’s Conner Bokma. “Coming from 6-man and small Class C, we don’t have a lot of people at some of our games so that’s pretty cool.”

“You watch college football games and stuff on TV and to know this is going to be on TV, it’s awesome,” added Belgrade’s Tanner Campbell.

Some coaches may worry about their athletes performing on the big stage, but East head coach Mike Ludwig of Laurel, believes it will bring out the best in his all-stars.

“I think it’s awesome that you guys do broadcast the game,” Ludwig told MTN Sports on Monday. “I think when kids are on that bigger stage like that, I think it brings more out of them. I think they play a little bit harder and so I’m glad it’s on TV. I know I’ve watched it myself on TV a few times and these guys will get to showcase their talents.”

While the East all-stars continue to work out in Billings, the West athletes gathered in Butte over the weekend and began preparations for Saturday’s kickoff. The team, headed by Whitefish coach Chad Ross, held a mini-scrimmage on Monday in the Mining City. Though the scrum was limited contact and lasted only 30 minutes, coaches on each side of the ball – particularly defense – were pleased.

“We have an unbelievably athletic group of kids, especially our front seven,” said West defensive coordinator Brett Bollweg of Whitefish. “They’re putting their time in to learn the defense. It’s a freaky athletic group of kids and they’re going to make some havoc up front in a fun way this week if we keep progressing the way we are.”

All-star games, including the East-West Shrine Game, leave athletes and coaches with little time to prep for their opponents – typically less than a week of practices before kickoff. But Ross, who led Whitefish to the Class A state title last season, likes what he has seen early on.

“Just the energy on both sides,” he said. “The one thing I keep talking about is the chemistry. You really can’t coach chemistry. The kids on offense and defense, they just seem to really enjoy each other and it carries that energy to both sides. So that’s really good to see as a head coach. That’s an intangible.”

The defense may have shined Monday in the scrimmage, but West offensive coordinator Brett Carver of Dillon, believes his side of the ball will continue to gel in the coming days.

“Starting out, a little bit, it’s always the offense that’s a little behind the defense,” he said. “We’re going to learn a lot of film. The defense, I’ll tell you one thing – it’s probably the best in the state of kids that I’ve seen. But, you know, we’re starting to click. The kids learned a lot of plays. Really, I’m pretty impressed with our kids.”