LAUREL — Playing in the shadow of big-time Class AA quarterbacks like Dallas Cook and Will Weyer, Columbia Falls’ Jared Trinastich proved himself a great signal-caller, too.
Trinastich was the best quarterback on the field Saturday in the 68th Montana East-West Shrine Game, throwing for 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the West All-Stars rolled to a 34-10 victory at the Laurel Sports Complex.
Trinastich completed 16 of 22 passes and was awarded the Roger Silvernale Memorial Award as the game’s most outstanding player.
“This whole week we came together as a team. This was the best way to come out and play this game,” Trinastich said. “It means a lot. This is such a huge game and this award is big deal. I’m really honored to receive it.”
Trinastich threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Richtmyer with 39 seconds remaining in the first half to put the West ahead 20-3 — and make the second half an uphill climb for the East.
Late in the first quarter Trinastich connected with Whitefish receiver Sean Foley on a 22-yard scoring pass. Rolling right, Trinastich put great touch on the ball and Foley ran under it at the front-corner pylon.
Trinastich and Butte’s Cook, the West’s other quarterback, made a living rolling out and delivering short passes to the outside.
“That’s one thing we looked at all week, hitting those short routes and letting our receivers do the rest,” Trinastich said. “We have really great receivers on this team, and they know how to get the ball. And luckily we were able to get them the ball.”
The East team made a nice opening drive that resulted in a 37-yard field goal by Billings West kicker Grant Linde. But that was all the scoring the East would muster until the game was out of hand.
Weyer, Bozeman’s 6-foot-5, 225-pound quarterback, and the East’s offense struggled mightily on third-down plays. The East only made one first down in the entire second half, and at one point failed to move the chains on five consecutive third-down plays.
“I thought our third-down defense was awesome,” said Dillon’s Rick Nordahl, the head coach for the West team. “Our linebackers penetrated well and our D-line demanded double-teams. And our secondary coverage was just outstanding. Our kids just battled. We bent a little bit but didn’t break.”
The East made the most exciting play of the night with 5:41 remaining when Weyer hit Red Lodge’s Levi Lynde for a 99-yard touchdown pass.
The play developed after West punter James Foote of Missoula Big Sky pinned the East inside its 1-yard-line. But East coach Troy Purcell called a play-action pass that the defense bit on and left Lynde wide open with no one around him within 20 yards.
“We call it ‘hide the ball,’” Purcell said. “That’s got to be a record. I don’t know if you’ll see anybody that wide open again.”
“No one thought we were going to throw the ball deep,” added Weyer. “We were in our heavy set with a fullback, and we did a good job of selling it.”
But it was otherwise a long night for Weyer, who was constantly flushed out of the pocket due to the West’s pass rush and forced to make hurried or errant throws. He was intercepted twice.
Cook threw for 147 yards and two touchdowns, including a 78-yard catch-and-run to Helena High’s Troy Arntson on a third-and-long play in the first quarter. Cook drilled Arntson over the middle, and the speedy wideout raced 55 yards to the end zone.
And the West’s passing game — which totaled 361 yards — never cooled down after that.
“I thought they did a real good job in the passing game,” Purcell said. “They game-planned and made stuff happen. Gosh, they played well.”
NOTES: The offensive MVP awards went to Cook (West) and Bozeman running back Hunter Gappmayer (East), while the defensive MVPs went to Whitefish’s Calub Thilmony (West) and Great Falls CMR’s Alex Thomas (East).