Eight members of the Wildcats football team will be representing Columbia Falls in the 73rd annual Montana East-West Shrine Game this summer.
The oldest, continuous running high school all-star football game in the United States, according to a press release from the player selection chairman, the game has been played every year since 1947 to help raise awareness of the expert orthopedic and burn care available at the Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Spokane, Wash.
“I think they will represent our side really well. They are all really good ball players,” Wildcat head football coach Jaxon Schweikert said. “It can be tough for those who make the selections. Sometimes there are several kids across the state that are really deserving but they all play the same position. I know these kids will do really well and the will do a good job representing our school.”
The Wildcat players selected to the West team for this year’s game include running back Colten McPhee, who set the school record for rushing yards in a season this year with 2,003. McPhee also amassed 2,421 all-purpose yards while averaging 200.3 rushing yards per game and 10.4 per carry and scored 31 touchdowns.
“I think that it’s the goal of everyone who plays high school football in Montana to make the Shrine game, so it is an honor to be selected,” McPhee said about his selection. “I stayed up until 1 a.m. just to see if I got selected, so I was pretty stoked when I saw my name on the list.”
Tanner Gove was selected at the inside linebacker position, where he was second on the team in tackles this season with 73.
Tanner is the second Gove to play in the Shrine Game as his father, Jeremy Gove, was selected for the contest in 1991. Tanner says he can remember running around in his father’s Shrine jersey as a kid.
“That set the goal for me right there. I am extremely excited to be selected and have dreamed of this game,” he said.
Drew Morgan was selected as a corner, where he made 14 tackles and had two interceptions in 2018.
“I was a surprise to be selected, but it will be an honor to represent us in the Shrine Game,” Morgan said.
Gage Karlin was picked as a guard after providing excellent protection for Morgan at quarterback this season.
“I was shocked that I was nominated and I am super honored to get to play in the Shrine Game,” Karlin said about his selection. “I feel it’s not something every kid gets to be a part of and it’s a big accomplishment as well. I’m excited to play one last game with my classmates and support the Shriner’s Hospital.”
Alternates included tackle Jakob Beich, who had 33 tackles and three sacks last season. Outside linebacker Parker Greene was third on the team in tackles with 52 and also added 1.5 sacks, one interception and two fumbles caused and recovered. Inside linebacker Zach Pletcher had 26 tackles, was tied for the team lead in sacks with three and blocked two punts and safety Lane Sapa was fourth on the team in tackles with 43 and added one interception and two fumble recoveries.
In all, 40 Montana players are selected for each squad, with each side also having one player from Calgary, Alberta.
Mike Cutler of Flint Creek (Drummond/Philipsburg) will coach the West team while the East team will be coached by Les Meyer of Fairfield.
The game will be played July 20, in Butte.