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Seniors lose shot at all-star game


April 30, 2020

First there was no softball or track and field. Now there will be no all-star football games either, all thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.

And coaches, athletes and fans all over the country are hoping that the sports seasons beyond this summer are not similarly affected later on this year.

Montana’s all-star football games potentially affecting Sanders County athletes – the 24th annual 6-Man All-Star game at Highwood May 30, the 30th annual Bob Cleverly 8-Man All-Star game at Montana Tech in Butte June 6, and the granddaddy of them all, the 73rd annual Montana East-West Shrine Game in Billings July 18 – have all been cancelled. Not surprising to the folks that are involved, but disappointing, nonetheless.

Thompson Falls coach Jared Koskela was set to be an assistant coach in the 8-Man game. He sees football coming back full tilt next fall. “We expect football will happen,” he said. “I can’t fathom that not happening after all of this and the reopening stages we will be going through.”

Selected as an assistant coach for the 6-Man game, Hot Springs coach Jim Lawson has similar thoughts. “I sure feel bad for all the seniors right now, they are losing things they can’t get back,” he said. “It would be nice to get back to normal sometime soon, hopefully by fall anyway.”

As we navigate our way through COVID-19 situation in the coming months, Trey Fisher, Nate Wilhite and Jack Jacobsen of Thompson Falls, Rylan Weltz and Michael Antonich of Noxon, and Brandon Knudsen of Hot Springs have all been denied their chances to play in the all-star games this year.

Fisher, Wilhite and Jacobsen were all selected to play in the 8-Man game, and Weltz, Antonich and Knudsen were set to play in the 6-Man tilt. Hot Springs coach Jim Lawson was to assistant coach for the Red Team in the 6-Man game and Koskela for the North team in the 8-Man game.

No Sanders County gridders were named to the Shrine team roster this year, although Knudsen was honored as an alternate.

State 6-Man champions in 2012 and 2016, the Hot Springs Savage Heat have been well represented in the Shrine game over the years.

Following the 2012 championship season, Mike Gray and Dave Carr played in the 2013 Shrine game, Tanner Hoff played in the 2015 edition and Kane Lawson capped his senior season playing in the 2017 Shrine game.

Jim Lawson also served as an assistant coach for the Shrine game in 2016.


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