‘Preserving custom’: Michael Hupp performs in Shrine Recreation | 74 years after his grandfather Highschool soccer
BUTTE – The annual Shrine Game featured some of Montana’s finest high school football talent, but the game also reflects a family tradition for Dillon’s Michael Hupp, whose grandfather William played in the first Shrine Game in 1947.
William Hupp represented Cut Bank on the East team in the opening game. As a representative of the West team, Michael Hupp will play for safety this year together with his cousin Jace Fitzgerald.
Before a training session in Butte on Monday evening, Hupp spoke about the presence of football in his family. Hupp said he saw some of his grandfather’s skills in his game, but it was his brother who helped develop his interest in football.
“My older brother started playing. I saw that you have to beat people and I wanted to try it out,” said Hupp. “After that, I fell in love with the game. Me and my grandfather seem to play the same thing, just pretty hard.”
The 2021 Shrine Game is scheduled to begin on Saturday around 7 p.m. in Billings. It could be the last time for Hupp that he will play competitive football.
To get a degree in business administration, Hupp decided to attend the University of Montana Western next year. He said he was happy to graduate from high school but will always cherish the memories he made on the soccer field.
“I’m just happy to have played football in Dillon and with all the coaches there,” said Hupp. “The others here, we all grew up together and have been playing ball together since we were able to run during the break. We definitely have a very good relationship.”
In addition to Fitzgerald, Hupp is supported by his teammates Cole Trumann (wide receiver), Daxton Graham (cornerback) and Johnny Reiser (slot receiver).
Dillon’s head coach and former player Zach McCrae said he was proud of all of the players who made it to the Shrine Game and how they worked together on the field. He explicitly described Hupp as a “natural soccer player”.
“The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Michael is a natural footballer, he’s very tough and understands what he’s looking at,” said McCrae. “He’s sustained a number of injuries and was a little upset this year, but he stuck with every single one of them.”
“Every time he was on the field, our behavior, focus, and execution increased exponentially,” McCrae continued. “I wouldn’t say he’s a vocal leader, but he’s a leader on both offense and defense.”
McCrae has been Dillon’s head coach since 2018, but has been an assistant with the Beavers for seven years. He said the Dillon program was an experience like no other that he has ever seen.
While Hupp, his teammates, and players from across the state have gathered in Butte to practice for the game, the Shrine Game also includes community-oriented events and has raised money for the Shriners Children’s Hospital.
Community support was vital in Dillon, which was expressed by both Hupp and McCrae.
“It’s a special place. I’m lucky enough to work with these kids and this community, we’re chasing our dreams no matter what,” said McCrae. “The players we brought in for the Shrine Game are all great players, but even better young men.”
The Dillon community will have the opportunity to see some of their athletes in person and on the MTN Network on Saturday. Celebrations for the Shrine Game include a parade in downtown Billings.
Hupp was honored to represent Dillon but said the week meant a lot to his family. His grandfather is expected to attend the parade and game he once attended.
“My grandpa played in the very first Shrine Game, which means a lot to my family and, above all, to him,” said Hupp. “I’m looking forward to representing the Shriners and hopefully having a good game.”