The Badlands Bowl didn’t swing their way, so this weekend’s East-West Shine Game gives Will Weyer and others a chance for a reprieve.
Not that the Shrine Game, now in its 68th year, is only about winning. The event does too much good for it to exclusively concern football, with 91 percent of its proceeds benefitting Shriners Hospitals for Children.
But there’s pride in the outcome. And Bozeman’s Weyer, the East quarterback who took all the snaps in the Montana All-Stars’ 25-22 overtime loss to North Dakota on June 21, hopes this one turns out differently.
The Shrine Game kicks off Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Laurel Sports Complex.
“Everyone saw how the Badlands Bowl didn’t go as well as we wanted it to,” Weyer said before practice on Tuesday. “That’s motivation for this week because we have a lot of the same guys on this squad. We’ve been working hard this week and doing everything we can.”
“I don’t know if I can point one or two things out” that went wrong, Weyer added. “Overall, myself playing better as a quarterback, and maybe being able to run the ball a little bit better. If we just sharpen everything up, everything’s going to click.
Weyer is one of 15 players on the East team that played in the Badlands Bowl. Bozeman coach Troy Purcell, who is heading up the East squad, was also the coach for the Badlands game.
Weyer threw for 285 yards and two touchdowns against North Dakota but was picked off three times. The Montana team lost both the turnover battle and field position, and was beaten on special teams as Minot, N.D., kicker Ben Love made six field goals, including a 36-yarder to win it in OT.
“These all-star games, just like that one, there’s a lot of big plays,” said Purcell, who guided Bozeman to the Class AA state title in November. “If you can make more big plays than them and keep down the turnovers then you’ve got a chance.”
Filling a role
Montana’s Badlands Bowl team was without a true placekicker. The East’s Shrine squad is not.
Grant Linde of Billings West will handle kickoffs, field goals and punts for the East. And he’s confident that if the game comes down to the wire he’ll deliver.
“I’m taking a lot of responsibility,” said Linde, whose career-long field goal is 45 yards. “It’s a needed part of the game. People overlook that part. But I’m here to fill it and do it to the best of my ability.”
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Linde will kick collegiately at Jamestown University in North Dakota. Linde was a second-team Class AA all-state selection last season.
The Montanans were plagued primarily by offensive struggles in the Badlands Bowl — they netted zero rushing yards — though having a specific placekicker might have made a difference.
“You can always do the shoulda, coulda, woulda stuff,” Purcell said. “We were in a lot of in-between situations where we didn’t have a chance to really kick a field goal. (North Dakota) just had a great kicker that did a good (job). It is what it is.”
The East team is joined by middle linebacker James Gaetz of Henry Wise Wood High School in Calgary, Alberta. Gaetz is one of two Canadian players participating in the Shrine Game. Linebacker Carlo Gallotta of Notre Dame High School in Calgary is playing on the West team.
“I never thought I’d be down here during the summer to play football,” Gaetz said. “I’ve been down here plenty of times, and every time Montana has given me such a great experience. Being here for about four days now, I can call these people my family.”
Gaetz is not unfamiliar with American football, but is working this week to adjust to a narrower and shorter field, and playing 11-on-11.
“You guys have four downs and we only have three, and that’s completely different,” Gaetz said. “You guys run (the ball) more compared to passing. For us we do one run (play) and then it’s passing pretty much the entire game. But I love run-football. That’s the way the game should be.”
Meet the West
What you should know about the West All-Stars:
• The team is headed up by Dillon coach Rick Nordahl, who coached the Beavers to the Class A state championship victory over Billings Central last November. Nordahl was a longtime assistant under previous Dillon coach Terry Thomas.
• Butte’s Dallas Cook and Columbia Falls’ Jared Trinastich are the West’s quarterbacks, and both amassed huge statistics last season. Cook threw for 4,145 yards and 40 touchdowns. Trinastich had 2,886 passing yards and 34 TDs.
• After last year’s 31-28 come-from-behind victory in Butte, the West looks to cut further into the East’s all-time series lead, which stands at 37-30.