The East team, coached by Fairfield’s Les Meyer, held off a late rally from the West at the 73rd annual Montana East-West Shrine Game held on the campus of Montana Tech to win 28-22.
It was a big night for Coach Meyer and the team that saw a number of key plays by the crew from Fairfield.
Meyer was joined on the sideline by a handful of assistant coaches, including four who are familiar coaches to the region: Fairfield assistant coaches R.J. Rogers and Chuck Brown, former Fairfield player and Lewistown assistant coach Derek Lear and Paul Schilling, who now coaches in Shelby. The Fairfield football field is named after Schilling’s uncle who coached in Fairfield.
Playing in the game were 2019 Fairfield seniors Derek Simmons, tight end; Ryder Meyer, safety and some at quarterback and wide receiver; Walker Heckman, defensive tackle and some as center; and Dawson Allen, wide receiver and returner.
Libien Becker from Fairfield helped on the sideline and shot videos.
Julie Shepherd, the cheer squad coach for Choteau High School, was once again in charge of the cheerleaders and was assisted by her daughter Faith Shepherd.
Simmons capped off his high school football career with two pivotal catches resulting in touchdowns. He was named the East offensive MVP player for his hard work.
“It was just an amazing game,” Simmons said Monday morning. He gave the credit to the East starting quarterback and the game’s MVP Mitchell Norslien from Lewistown for the great throwing ability.
Simmons caught a 44-yard pass in the first quarter that gave the East team the lead — one they never relinquished. His second touchdown came at the start of the third quarter when he caught an end zone pass in the opening drive. The tight pass thrown by Norslien was in a very narrow opening, forcing Simmons to battle for control.
“The quarterback did all of the work and put the ball in the spot for me to catch,” Simmons said. “We had practiced these and other pass routes during the week and during the game, I just happened to be the one open. I feel lucky to have been selected to play in the game to be there with my coaches and fellow teammates.”
Outside of the game, Simmons said the experience gave him the opportunity to play with some great players from around the state, fellow football players he will have a connection with for the rest of his life.
Simmons wasn’t the only Eagle to make it to the end zone. Ryder Meyer scored the East team’s other two touchdowns. The East added a second touchdown in the first half, scored by Meyer on an eight-yard run. Meyer then caught a pass from Norslien up the seam for a 39-yard touchdown. The touchdown came with 6:40 remaining to extend the East lead to 28-19.
The West team answered with a field goal to cut the lead to 28-22. They tried an onside kick, which East recovered, to run the clock down.
Fairfield’s Allen caught a few key passes in the contest and Heckman played strong on defense and took care of the ball under center for a few snaps.
J.J. Lindsay, a Billings West grad, was named the East team defensive MVP.
The week went really well, Coach Meyer said. “The kids came together as a team pretty early on and truly bought into the cause of the game,” he added. “We had Shrine kids attend most of the practices as well as the meals. Players and shrine kids interacted often and it helped the players understand the importance of the game and why it is played.”
Meyer said the Montana Shrine game is the oldest in the nation and last year, it was the number-one game and fundraiser in the nation. “The opportunity to coach with the coaches of various backgrounds was both invigorating and educational,” he said. “It was a fun, good group of guys to learn and teach with. The game was competitive from the start, but at the end of the game both teams appreciated the game and the competition.”
There were more than 700 tickets sold for a banquet held Friday night. “A great turnout,” Meyer said.
“The Fairfield kids played well in the game and each one had an impact on the game,” Meyer said. “It was fun to have one final hurrah with the boys and coach the game with my assistant coaches, Brown and Rogers. It was an honor to have the opportunity to coach the Shrine game with both of them, former player and now assistant coach Lear and other assistant coaches from the region.”