BILLINGS — For a player named defensive MVP of his team, Manhattan’s Toby Veltkamp was fairly low-key, helmet in hand, downplaying the role he played in the West’s victory over the East in Montana's annual Shrine football game Saturday night.

As he stood on Wendy’s Field at Daylis Stadium, explaining what was, if not a game-changing play, at least the lead-changing play, Veltkamp redirected time and again given a chance to puff out his chest.

Instead, the defensive back deflected praise to his teammates, unlike the pass from East quarterback Carson Hunter that Veltkamp hauled in and returned 49 yards to give the West the lead for good in an eventual 21-12 victory in the 74th version of the all-star game.

“I got lucky,” Veltkamp said. “I was in the right place at the right time. I’m not the MVP of this team, that’s for sure.”

Those who voted for him — and those West teammates who cheered his name when the award was announced — felt otherwise. But that’s kind of how things go in a game that features the best senior football talent in Montana.

There was plenty of praise, and other awards to go around, even if there weren’t a ton of big plays in a game where defenses from both sides had most of the say.

Butte’s Jake Olson was the West’s offensive MVP for catching a touchdown pass, a two-point conversion, and a couple of other timely receptions that helped his team maintain possessions. He caught four passes for 48 yards, the highest yardage of any receiver.

His 11-yard catch in the end zone from Missoula Sentinel quarterback Dayton Bay and subsequent two-point grab on a pass from Bigfork’s Cormac Benn put West on the scoreboard and brought them within 12-8 early in the second quarter after the East dominated the first.

“We didn’t start off as fast as we exactly planned,” Olson said. “But, you know, that didn’t matter because our defense just absolutely killed it.”

Billings Senior’s Jacksen Burckley got the scoring started with a 38-yard field goal midway through the first quarter. A couple possessions later, a handful of East defenders swarmed over West punter Dexter Tedesco in the end zone, with Glasgow’s Mayson Phipps getting his paws on the ball for a block.

Tedesco, of Helena High, was able to plop on the ball, but the resulting safety gave the East a 5-0 lead.

Next, Sidney’s Brodey Skogen recovered a West fumble and one play later Billings West’s Jamyn Medock rumbled in from three yards out, giving the East a 12-0 lead, all in the first quarter.

Things looked dire for the West. But as Olson pointed out, the defense pitched a shutout after that.

“Obviously, we struggled to move the ball and sustain drives,” said Red Lodge’s John Fitzgerald, the East head coach. “And when we’d get some progress, we kind of stepped on our own toes. We just didn’t execute when we needed to.

“But I’m not going to take anything away from the West. They’re well-coached and did a great job. Their staff did a great job. It was just a hard-fought game and it didn’t fall in our favor.”

Leading 15-12 at the half, the West essentially sealed the game with a 63-yard scoring drive on its first possession of the third quarter.

Missoula Big Sky quarterback Colter Janacaro engineered most of it, completing one pass and running seven times, the final one for three yards and the 21-12 lead with 5:00 left in the third quarter. Those were the final points.

“We kind of realized we’d been sacrificing this whole week,” said Janacaro, who rushed for 53 yards on 13 carries and was named the game’s overall MVP. “We came together as a family and got it done.”

Bay threw for 141 yards on 20-for-32 passing and his TD to Olson, and Billings Central's Marcus Wittman completed 13 of 24 for 79 yards to lead the East. Medlock, who was the East’s offensive MVP, rushed eight times for 19 yards and caught four passes for 29 yards, and Billings Senior's Junior Bergen caught eight passes for 42 yards. Paul Brott of Billings West had four solo tackles, six overall, and was tabbed the East’s defensive MVP.

The West’s victory ended a three-game losing streak — there was no game in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic — but the East maintains a 41-33 edge in a series that dates back to 1947.

When it was over, West coach Dane Oliver of Missoula Sentinel, after receiving the traditional ice-water dousing, gathered his team and told them, among other things, look what can be accomplished when you put others before yourself.

That summed up Veltkamp’s stance and the game itself, which raises money for the Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Spokane, Washington.

“The mission of this is to help people less fortunate, these guys are so lucky with their athletic ability,” Oliver said. “It’s about serving others, and these kids bought into that. They serve the Shrine kids, but they also serve their teammates, and there’s great things you can accomplish when you do that.”

Email Mike Scherting at mike.scherting@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsSchert

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