Christmas morning comes with an extra gift for a select group of high school football players in Montana with the reveal of the Shrine Game rosters. To no one’s surprise, Billings West standouts Caden and Taco Dowler were chosen to play in the 2022 edition of the game as members of the East team.
“It’s really cool, because something bigger than us is the focus. Trying to make it more than just a game and it’s really cool to do something for someone else and not just yourself," said Caden.
That’s just one of the accolades that has rolled in for the duo, including the Gatorade Player of the Year award for Taco. He says that former award winners Gabe Sulser and Tommy Mellot are the standard for what it represents both on and off the field.
“He does everything right. I think he has a 4.0 GPA in engineering, I think I heard that somewhere. He does extra reps in the weight room. He’s the hardest worker. He’s running after games when he gets back at five in the morning. It just shows you what type of person you are and what type of person you should look up to," Taco said. "It’s also a label. You don’t have to be a Gatorade Player of the Year to be good in college or good in high school even, or work hard, but it’s just nice knowing that I’m similar to them in what other people think, and I think so, too, so I could do similar things that Tommy and Gabe have done in college. And just being good people. That’s a big part of it, too.”
Speaking of Mellot, the Dowler brothers will join him in Bozeman next fall and become teammates with the standout freshman quarterback. Watching his postseason run has been memorable, including a first-hand experience of the Bobcats’ semifinal win over South Dakota State.
“We committed almost off of impulse from the Gold Rush game and the atmosphere there. It was cool, even cooler than the Gold Rush game," Caden said of the semifinal win. "Seeing everyone working together on the team and kind of coming around Tommy as one team was really cool to watch.”
“It was the craziest game I’ve been to. I thought the Gold Rush game was crazy, then we went to that game and it blew it out of the water," Taco said. "When all the fans rushed the field after the game it was crazy. We took a picture of us in front of it and it’s so exciting to know that we’re going to be there next year and part of that group.”
As for this weekend? Caden and Taco will be down in Frisco to cheer on their future teammates in the national title game, saying the trip was a surprise Christmas present.
“We don’t even know what seats we have, I’m just glad we’re going. We’re going with Riley Bergeson, then me and (Taco). That’s it. None of our parents are going, so it’s like a senior trip type thing. We’re just going with each other and seeing what happens I guess. There’s no real plans right now, but it’ll be fun," Caden said.