With all of the talent on the field at one time, all-star games can always go either way. But after the West had won three straight Montana East-West Shrine games, it was time for the Eastern squad to reclaim the bragging rights.
Saturday the annual Shrine football game returned to the Memorial Stadium in Great Falls. The East hadn’t recorded a win since 2008, but dominated this contest, defeating the West 23-12. The matchup always proves to be well balanced, as the last 12 matchups have been evenly split, but overall, the East leads 37-29 in the series.
To start, it looked as if the 2012 Shrine game was going to be a defensive battle. The score was tied at 6-6 after the first quarter, and both squads had given up multiple turnovers in the first half.
But as things got rolling, the East was able to keep producing and left the West playing catch up.
Quarterback Brady Gustafson was key in the Eastern win. Gustafson passed for 192 yards and two touchdowns. Gustafson also had three interceptions, but was still named the offensive MVP for the East. Chad Newell of Billings Senior also rushed for 67 yards and touchdown, and was named the overall MVP.
The defense was stout on both sides of the field, and Robert Naleweja of Miles City was honored, being named the defensive MVP for the East.
For the West, Kyle Shaw of Butt was named the offensive MVP, and A.J. Wilson was named the defensive MVP. Shaw scored the very first touchdown of the evening, making the East pay for their first possession turnover. Shaw scored on a 21-yard TD pass from J.T. Linder at the 13:20 mark in the first quarter to give the West the Early, but short lived 6-0 lead.
The East also received a field goal from Fairfield's Collin Allen, while Jayce Van Zee reeled in a 24-yard TD pass of his own for the East.
George Sherwood also reeled in a 64-yard TD pass from Vince DiGiallonardo for the West.
But while the local talent didn’t get a whole lost of spotlight on Saturday, they did all play crucial roles.
Havre High’s Joey DeVries was the starting center for the East team, and was big time in the trenches as the offense pounded the ball through the ground game and aired it out for plenty of big time plays. Fellow Blue Pony Casey Schaub was also key, but made his mark on the defense as a linebacker. Schaub was part of the Eastern defense that limited the West to just 12 points. Schaub was in on several tackles, but harassed the opposing quarterbacks, including forcing a hurried throw in the first quarter, that was a split second away from being a big time sack.
Chinook’s Jorrell Jones and Ben Stroh were also key players in this years Shrine game, both on the defensive side of the ball.
Jones was picked to play for his outstanding defensive lineman play, and made it clear why he was picked in the second quarter. Jones blasted through the line on special teams and blocked a punt attempt by the West that led to an East touchdown one play later. Stroh, trying not to be outdone, also had a big game individually. Just like Schaub and Jones, Stroh was also in on several tackles and plays, sparked the defense early. Just minutes in to the first quarter Stroh charged right up the middle and sacked the West’s quarterback, also showing why he was chosen for his outstanding linebacker play.