July 18, 2015 

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History of the Montana East-West Shrine Game (Since 1947)


     Founders, who presented the first game on August 24, 1947, didn't have the slightest inkling that what they had started would turn out to be the "granddaddy of 'em all."  But that is what happened.  It is one of the oldest games of its kind-the Montana East-West Shrine Game is the longest continuous Shrine game in the U.S.


     The game began over 70 years ago when the "Big Red" of the West defeated the "Golden East" by a 33-13 margin with Missoula's Tommy Kingsford fancy-footing for the West.  The colors of the uniforms had been selected by the original Game Committee - red trimmed with gold for the West , and gold trimmed with red for the East - and these colors have been maintained to this day.


      After the first game was presented, under almost insurmountable odds and on a "break even" basis, the coaches urged that the Committee make the contest an annual project.  The Committee agreed and the game was incorporated by the late Roger Silvernale, the game's founder and first chairman.


      Incorporation didn't solve the myriad of problems that the game faced on the pitfall-laden road into the future.  But it welded the determination of the game's pioneers who fostered the determination and desire during even the darkest hours.


      From the standpoint of the contest itself, the game was on a pretty even basis for the first few years, but in the early 1960's the West began to dominate play.  The East battled back and the record now stands at East 37, West 30.


      Over the years the game rosters have read like a "Who's Who" of Montana football.  Great Falls' Joe Cloidt, who became an All-American for the Washington Huskies, starred in the first game.  Dick Gregory, former Billings flash, scored the East's lone touchdown in the second game while Gene Carlson, former coach at the University of Montana, and Bob Yurko, a Great Falls pharmacist, starred in Game No. 3.


      Big Ed Kalafat, cage star for the Minnesota Gophers and later the Lakers pro club, was a 1950 selection from Anaconda and Tom Parac of Lewiston, former athletic director of the Montana State Bobcats, also was selected.


      Butte's Jack Killingstad ran 90 yards for what he thought was a touchdown during the 1951 game, only to have it erased by an offside penalty.  Butte's Jim Janhunen and Fort Benton's Moe Embleton appeared in the 1952 edition.  With each passing year the crowds grow bigger and the total donation to the hospitals increased.


      Pat Monno of Anaconda scored three touchdowns in the 1953 game for 18 points - the most scored by an individual in the game's history.  This mark was later tied by Helena's burly Bob McCullough in 1958; Billing's West's Ken Hustad in 1968; and Jody Farmer of Libby in 1986. 


A star of the 1991 game was Dave Dickenson from CMR, who later became an All-American Quarterback for the Montana Grizzlies and an MVP in the Canadian Football League in 2000.  Future Montana Grizzlies and NFL stars Colt Anderson (Butte/Philadelphia Eagles/Indianapolis Colts) and Kroy Biermann (Hardin/Altanta Falcons) played in the 2004 game. All Pros Marc Mariani (Havre/Tennessee Titans/Chicago Bears) 2005 and Dan Carpenter (Helena/Buffalo Bills) 2004 participated in the game as well as Bobcat All-American Dane Fletcher (Bozeman/New England Patriots/Tampa Bay Buccanneers) 2005. The list goes on.


      In the 2006 game, Andrew Selle of Billings West and Matt Komac from Helena High staged a quarterback dual that tied a record for combined points scored (76).


      In 2007, Clark Cranford from Huntley Project capped a fourth quarter comeback for the East with a game-winning touchdown late in the game.


      It was in 1956 that Roger Silvernale, the man who planted the seed for the classic and nurtured it to maturity, turned over the reins to Leroy (Chink) Seymour who had worked on the contest from its beginning.


      In 1961 the game's founder died and in his name and in his honor, two fine young athlete's will be named for the the "Roger Silvernale Memorial Award."  The award established in 1965 is awarded to the contest's outstanding performers.


      The following were chairman and co-chairman:  E.F. Gianotti (1964);  Bill Loney, Pat Goodover (1970);   Bill Loney, Louis Rivera (1974);   Bill Loney, Jerry Evans (1987);  Dudley James, Jerry Evans (1989);  Jerry Evans; Don Bisgard (1990);  Jerry Evans (1993);   Ev Joslyn;  Jerry Evans (1999-2007);  Dale Gorman (2009);  AE "Turtle" Johnson (2010);  Dennis Lindsay (2011);  Bill Thomas (2012); AE "Turtle" Johnson (2013); Paul Lechner (2014)


      This year will be the 77th Annual Montana East-West Shrine Game - may it last forever!  The game has reached maturity without the loss of dedication by the countless, nameless people who share in making it a success.  Over one million dollars has been donated to the Spokane Shrine Hospital.


      And thanks to the young stars, coaches and officials - some of whom drive hundreds of miles for the honor of donating their services - the brilliance of the presentation has not diminished one iota from the "Good Old Days."



"Over 70 Years of Excellence"

Strong Legs Run, So Weak Legs May Walk






Shrine Game History

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