GREAT FALLS – Saturday’s 72nd annual Montana East-West Shrine Game at Memorial Stadium was an absolute dandy. In a back-and-forth game the entire way, both sides waited for the other to blink. The West team finally did, and the East team walked away with a narrow 24-21 victory, marking its third victory in the past four Shrine Games.
“This is the fifth all-star game I’ve coached. I’ve never seen a bunch of kids support each other like this,” said East coach Levi Wesche of Bozeman. “I’m just extremely proud of everything they’ve accomplished. This has been one of the best weeks that I’ve ever had coaching, so it was fun.”
“I’m just excited. We were really out-sized in this matchup and we were kind of a little hesitant at the start,” said the East’s offensive most valuable player, Treyton Pickering of Sunburst. “But we started to believe in ourselves and were really sticking with it. We just really pulled through at the end there.”
Of all the players competing, it was a 6-Man star that made the play that decided the game, a 23-yard field goal by Westby-Grenora’s Jeremiah Paine with three minutes left that helped seal the win.
“Watching him in practice, I had no doubt in my mind (Paine) would make it. He made pretty much every one he kicked in practice,” said the overall MVP Garrison Rothwell of Great Falls CMR. “So when we got to that situation and knew he was going out to kick a field goal, I wasn’t nervous at all.”
Also representing 6-Man was Sunburst tight end Pickering. After hauling in big pass after big pass all night, Pickering was honored as the East’s offensive MVP, catching two touchdowns from Rothwell. The two seemed to be in sync all night.
“Oh, (Pickering) was huge. He was a great target for me. He ran his routes hard and blocked really well,” said Rothwell. “Basically I could throw it anywhere close to him and he got it for me, so it made my job a lot easier.”
“It was nice to play with Garrison. He’s always looking down the field, scrambling out of the pocket and he’s not afraid to hit some people,” said Pickering. “He’s just a really good guy to be with and it was fun having him throw to me.”
In fitting fashion, Rothwell won the game’s overall MVP by playing lights-out football in the final high school game in his hometown, connecting on almost every pass and tossing three touchdowns. It was a great performance all around.
“I think it’s even better, being able to win it at home, play my last game at Memorial (Stadium) and be the MVP on it, it’s just a huge honor,” said Rothwell.
With Saturday’s win, the East leads the all-time Shrine Game series 40-32.