BUTTE — The turnaround of the St. Ignatius football program has been well documented over the past four years, and the accolades continue this week in Butte as two players from Mission in Canyon Sargent and Bryce Umphrey will suit up in the 76th Montana East-West Shrine Game.
It's a big moment for that community as those two players are the first guys from Mission to play in this game in 21 years. So when the news hit on Christmas morning that both Sargent and Umphrey were added to the Shrine roster, it tied a bow on an incredible four-year run.
"This is something that I've definitely wanted to do for a long time," said Sargent, who will play as a linebacker on Saturday. "I think at the beginning of the year we all had to write down team goals and personal goals and this was one of them. When we both realized we finally made it it was kind of a crazy experience but we're super glad to be here."
Both Umphrey and Sargent showed out two weekends ago at the 8-Man All-Star Game, and are hoping for a similar showing in their second all-star game of the summer.
"That was great. The Mission boys, they're just crazy," said Umphrey, who will line up at wide receiver this weekend. "We grew up together, we've been working hard together since we were little guys so it's awesome to finally be able to showcase that in front of the state against the 8-Man all-stars."
With Umphrey, Sargent, and many more talented players, the Mission football program saw a drastic turnaround over the last four years.
This past fall, the Bulldogs advanced all the way to the 8-Man state championship game where they ultimately fell to Belt, but this group found a way to climb that mountain and achieve success, and it stems from growing up together.
"We've been super close, like our whole senior class, we've been super close since we were little kids," Umphrey said. "I remember like sixth grade year our football team, we were 11-man back then actually, Canyon's dad, Sarge, he's telling us if you guys stick together, you guys work together, this could be the team to make it, to do it so we've known since we were little kids that if we put in the work we could be a pretty special team and we did that. Pretty good group of guys."
The power source of small-town community pride was also everywhere for the Bulldogs.
"I think the best thing is is the community is huge," Sargent said. "There's always going to be people there for you, there's always people before the game, after the game and at the game so having them and that town, it's great."
Now, Sargent and Umphrey are Mission's first representatives in the Shrine Game since 2002 as they continue to put their program on the map. Both will go their separate ways after the game, as Sargent will play football at Montana Western, while Umphrey will compete in track and field at Montana Tech.
And while friends and teammates, the competition has ramped up a bit this week between the two.
"It's great having him here but he's on the other side of the ball now so now I have to clamp him up a little bit," Sargent said with a smile.
"One on one, I'm cooking him on routes, but if we meet and tackle he'll probably flatten me," Umphrey added.
But regardless of who wins at practice, they'll enjoy one final ride together Saturday night.