BUTTE – The Montana East-West Shrine Game brings the best football players from around the state to Great Falls to battle it out in one final high school game.
But it also brings together the most unlikely of teammates, the Montana State Bobcats and the Montana Grizzlies. On the West roster, there are three players committed to Montana State and four to Montana. Now there is definitely some bad blood between fans, but for the players it’s a bit different.
Just for this week, soon-to-be Cats and Griz players will be teammates, and they are having fun and treasuring those relationships.
“Going to college for the Brawl of the Wild, it’s a big game, but I’m excited to play against them. It will be a fun rivalry to play against for sure,” said Joe McElroy, a Missoula Loyola all-star and future Montana State Bobcat. “The coaches always preach that these are friendships you’re going to have forever in your life if you play in this game, and I’m starting to make friends. I’ve already made a couple friends here, and I hope for the rest of my life I know them.”
Some of those friends will end up being Cats players and others will be heading to the Griz. For now, the players have a joking sense of humor about how their next stops in life will affect those bonds.
“Joey (McElroy) and I have known each other and (Kaleb) Winterburn, who is going to the Cats, we’ve been friends for a couple years. And once they go to the Cats, I’m cutting those relationships off. No, I’m just messing around,” smiled Levi Janacaro, a future Montana Grizzlies fullback and all-star from Missoula Big Sky. “But, you know, I think we’ll be all right. I don’t necessarily hate Joey … yet. But in a couple of years that could change. Who knows, only time will tell.”
These future Brawl of the Wild competitors have been practicing all week at Montana Tech to prepare for one final high school game at Memorial Stadium in Great Falls. For now, the blue and gold and the maroon and silver are set aside, because everyone is joining forces when the East clashes with the West on Saturday.