Shrine calls off Montana East-West football game

By 
Jackson Mcmurrey
Thursday, April 30, 2020
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On Wednesday night of last week, the Executive Board in charge of the Montana East-West Shrine Game finally cut the cord on the entire production of the event, officially canceling the game that was to take place in July. In light of stopping the spread of COVID-19, the Shrine decided that the risk would not be worth the reward to try and make up for months of preparation already lost. Selection chairman, Dennis McSweeney, was one of eight members that had to break the news about the games’ cancelation over a series of disappointing phone calls to studentathletes recruited to play the game this summer.

“We do what we do for the children’s hospital,” McSweeney began to explain. “If something we put on put those children or people involved at risk … That’s anti-what we are about.” McSweeney mentioned how the Montana East-West Shrine Game has consecutively been the “number one Shrine game in the United States in terms of fundraising.”

The East-West Shrine Game is a tradition giving high school all-star athletes from Montana an opportunity to be recognized and play with athletes from different teams, but also doubles as a fundraiser for the Shriners Hospital for Children in Spokane, providing funds for research and financial aid to children in need. This year would have been it’s 74th yearin-a-row.

McSweeney continued about having to make the phone calls to the players, “That was so hard. Some I have talked to since they were little kids. Some of them seemed torn-up but they understand.” McSweeney’s sympathy became surface-level. “I feel so bad for the senior class. Getting ripped from the great memories that they have.”

The East roster contained two Locomotive football players who are graduating from Laurel this year. Cam Younger, as defensive end, and Ethan Renner, as an alternate running back. Austin Dennis, a senior from Park City, was recruited to the East roster as an alternate offensive guard. The press release promises a big comeback for next year and that efforts are being made to find new ways to honor the “best players Montana prep football has to offer” for this year.

“Due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, the Executive Board of the Montana East-West Shrine Game made the difficult decision to call off the 2020 Montana East-West Shrine Game scheduled for July 18.

In a conference call held Wednesday, April 22, board members expressed their concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, its influence on everyone’s lives, and the impact it has made on studentathlete’s preparations for the Montana Shrine Game.

The decision was also based on the latest information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and directives by the State of Montana.

Board members contacted the athletes via phone on Thursday, April 23 to inform them of the decision. Efforts will be made in the coming weeks to find new ways to honor the best players Montana prep football has to offer.

As one of the oldest Shrine Games in the nation, this was a difficult decision by the Board, but made in order to safeguard the health of the student-athletes, everyone involved in the Montana East-West Shrine Game, and the community of fans, friends, and supporters of the annual game.

Our cause is to provide needed medical services at Shriners Hospitals for Children to those in need, and the Board determined that the risks of COVID-19 do not align with the safety of the student-athletes and the public.

The game will be resumed in Billings in the Summer of 2021 for an event that will bring Montanans from across the state together again.”

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