HIGHWOOD -- There are certain “Montana moments” that are only possible in small towns.
Take for example the scene in Highwood on Wednesday during practice for the 6-Man All-Star game.
While the players were running drills and taking care of serious business, there was a commotion across the street as a group of spectators made their voices heard.
These weren’t your typical rowdy fans, but rather a herd of cattle being ushered across the highway adjacent to the football field. Their bellows drowned out the instructions from the Red Team coaching staff.
“Only in Montana,” said one of the players.
But if you think the cattle are excited for the return of the annual 6-Man showcase, they have nothing on the players and coaches. The 32 players and eight coaches are thrilled to have a chance to compete after a lost all-star season in 2020.
“I know I've been a little bit nervous about it,” said White Sulphur Springs coach Travis Novark, who is coaching the Blue Team. “I don't want to screw it up for these kids, but I'm blessed to be on the field with a bunch of stars.”
“I think everyone's just got that double level of excitement to get out here and compete for a week,” said Blue Team coach Mitch Ward of Shields Valley. “You know, we haven't been doing football for six, seven months now and now it kind of finally feels back to normal this week."
For some players, like Froid-Medicine Lake’s Walker Ator, who plays on the Red Team, this is the last time they’ll ever strap on the pads..
“It’s really exciting to have this last opportunity to play with friends and make new friends,” Ator said. “I think there's going to be quite a few community members making the long seven-hour drive from northeast Montana to watch.”
Ator and the Redhawks won a 6-Man state championship back in November, and the three members of that team competing this week bring a championship pedigree to the Red Team.
But the star power on the Blue Team is just as strong.
Sloan McPherson of Savage is playing his final game at the 6-Man level. The all-state lineman will play 11-man football for the first time next month at the Montana East-West Shrine Game and then will join the Montana Grizzlies football team in the fall.
“Yeah, this'll be the last time playing 6-Man,” he said “It’s pretty crazy because the only thing I've ever known is 6-Man. So moving up to 11-man will be huge change for me.”
The formula for Friday is simple. There are 32 talented players that are working hard, competing in one of the most traditionally exciting games of the year, at one of the best venues in the state.
A year after the 2020 all-star game was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this has the makings of an unforgettable night.
“It’s just a neat thing to be part of this with these boys,” said Red Team assistant Tom Tranmer of Power-Dutton-Brady. “Hopefully Friday night, they all come together, and they all have a good time.”
There are sure to be some human fans in attendance when the game kicks off Friday at 7 p.m. in Highwood.