GREAT FALLS — When the 75th Montana East-West Shrine game kicks off on Saturday in Great Falls, it will mark the final high school contest in the illustrious career of East team head coach Mark Samson.
In January, Samson announced his retirement from coaching after 38 years. His career included stops at Townsend, Helena High and Carroll College as an assistant and Missoula Loyola, Helena Capital, MSU-Northern, Havre and most recently Great Falls High as a head coach.
This is his third time serving as a head coach in the Montana East-West Shrine game, and he says there’s no better way to go out.
“When I announced my retirement, I didn't really know what to expect in this last game,” Samson said. “But it reminds me how much I love the game of football and how much I love working with young kids. It reminds me how much fun it was and still is.”
He’s assembled a staff that includes former players like Bozeman head coach Levi Wesche who played for Samson at Northern and Eric Stoverud, an assistant at Great Falls High. Rounding out the staff are Power-Dutton-Brady’s Tom Tranmer, CMR’s Aric Hagen, and Chinook coach Mike Jones.
“It’s going to be a great week. I'm looking forward to Saturday, but I'm really gonna take in this week and enjoy this,” Samson said. “It’s a lot of fun. I really love being around these people.”
Though Saturday’s game will mark Samson’s final game as a head coach, he loves football too much to step away from the game entirely.
“I’m not exactly sure what I'm gonna be doing in August, but I have a feeling I'm gonna be doing a little bit something somewhere,” Samson said. “My wonderful wife for 40 years, I've been taking a lot of her time up and I promised her that, when the Shrine game’s over about 10 p.m. on Saturday, that's when my retirement will really kick in.
“So we're looking forward to just a bunch of free time being with our kids, our grandkids, family, things like that. Just enjoying a summer differently than I have for a long, long time. I've had my fun and I was honored that they asked me to come to this game. It has special meaning being the 75th. I'm gonna enjoy every minute of this week.”
The 75th Montana East-West Shrine Game will kickoff Saturday at 7 p.m. on Saturday and will be broadcast on MTN Stations across Montana.