BILLINGS — The West all-stars snapped a three-game skid in the 74th Montana East-West Shrine Game as the West defeated the East 21-12 on Saturday evening at Daylis Stadium in Billings.
The win was the West's first since 2016 and first game since 2019, since the 2020 game was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Toby Veltkamp's pick-6 in the second quarter gave the West the lead for good and tacked onto the momentum the team needed after struggling early on in the contest.
Jackson Burckley, a Billings Senior grad, gave the East the lead in the first quarter with a 37-yard field goal. Not long after, Glasgow's Mayson Phipps blocked a West punt that resulted in a safety as the East led 5-0.
Photos: 74th Montana East-West Shrine Game
The damage wasn't done in the first quarter, as Ethan DeRoche of Great Falls High forced a fumble that Sidney's Brodey Skogen recovered. One play later, Billings West grad Jaymn Medlock punched in a 3-yard score to make it 12-0 at the end of the first quarter.
"It was one of the coolest experiences I've ever had," Medlock said about playing in the Shrine Game. "Seeing the kids and meeting a lot of new personalities. It was just awesome. This is just a huge game, biggest game I've ever played in and it's for the Shriners and the kids and there's a bunch of great athletes out here and it was fun to play against the best."
The West came alive and settled down in the second quarter. Missoula Sentinel graduate Dayton Bay found Butte's Jake Olson for an 11-yard touchdown to get them on the board. Bigfork's Cormac Benn tacked on a two-point conversion.
"We just needed good field position," West coach Dane Oliver of Missoula Sentinel said. "We were backed up that whole first quarter and it's tough to call plays when you're pinned in your own end zone so it was more a matter of settling in, relaxing, getting some field position, and our defense played lights out."
"We didn't start the way we wanted. After that safety and blocked punt, chins were down," Olson, a Griz football signee, added. "I wanted to get everyone together as a group and we started pulling each other up and we said we just have to play 100%. We had a long week of practice in the heat and it would be a shame not to give 100% on every down. It was for everyone. We just decided at that point to give it everything we had."
Then came Veltkamp's play of the game, as the Manhattan native took an interception back 45 yards to the house on the next drive to give the West the lead for good.
"I got lucky, I was in the right place in the right time," Veltkamp said. "I was free safety, I had no responsibility and I saw the running back leak out so I followed him. It felt great, I was really proud and it was awesome."
For their efforts, Olson and Veltkamp were named the offensive and defensive MVP's for the West. Medlock was named the offensive MVP for the East while West's Paul Brott, a Montana State signee, earned defensive MVP honors.
"It was a lot of fun, everyone was the best at their position and getting to play against them and see how good you really are is just amazing," Brott said.
Missoula Big Sky's Colter Janacaro added a 3-yard score in the third quarter for the game's final touchdown. The game, which was physical the entire evening, stayed the same way throughout as both defenses limited the opposing offenses. After starting quickly, the East was unable to get back into a flow on offensive down the stretch.
Bozeman's Brady Lang and Dillon's Jace Fitzgerald added interceptions for their respective teams.
Janacaro was awarded the overall Shrine Game award at the conclusion of the contest.
"It was awesome playing with a bunch of kids with different backgrounds," Janacaro, a Griz football signee, said. "That was a lot of fun and I made a lot of brothers playing out here."