GREAT FALLS, Mont. - The Annual Shrine Game typically marks the end of a football chapter for the lives of those on the field.
Some will compete at the next level, and some may never play again.
But at the 75th Annual Shrine Game, it wasn’t just the end of a chapter, it was the end of a whole book.
A book of a career that’s been written over 38 years from sidelines in the Treasure state.
“When they called me in December and said, "Hey Mark, we’d like you to be the 75th", it meant quite a bit to me. You know, It really did," said Samson. "I thought well, 75th seems to be pretty important so, yeah, I’d love to do it. And I’m very happy that I made that decision to come here, because like I said, this has been a great week. My final game that I’ll ever probably coach as a head coach. I really couldn’t ask for much more.”
For Mark Samson, a beloved high school football coach, he’s seen his career take him all over the area. From Havre to Helena, even a couple stops at the college level for Carroll and MSU-Northern.
He spent the last 6 seasons on the sidelines at Memorial Stadium as head coach of the Bison, the very sidelines his career would come to an end Saturday night.
“In years past, I was always on the West side, and now for 6 years, I would stand on this sideline, and you’d look over to the school.. I truly believe this is the best high school venue for football in the state of Montana. Being part of Great Falls now for 6 years, having the chance to coach 4 of my players again that played for me last fall, it does mean a little bit more.”
“It’ll be fun. You know," smiled Great Falls DT, Zach Newton. "It’s a little different than being with the team you grew up with, but the team is coming together and starting to feel like a normal game with coach Samson again.”
“He’s taught me a lot throughout my high school career, which has helped me succeed in a lot of things. Which I’m very grateful for.” said Great Falls RB, Ryan Krahe.
The East lost a hard fought battle on Saturday, but that wasn’t what was most important for Samson at the end of the day. What made him a great coach, was that he knew there were things more important about football, than the actual game.
“No matter what happens on Saturday night, this will be just another thing they’ll put in their memory book about what was great about being part of Great Falls and being part of high school football in the state of Montana.” - Samson
Thank you coach Samson, for an incredible career.