Mid-summer benefit game is a Maine football rite of passage
When last the Maine sports world focused on high school football, the South was having its way on state championship Saturday just before Thanksgiving.
Scarborough, Marshwood of South Berwick and Wells combined to avenge a victory the night before by the North’s Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield in the Class C state final by winning gold balls in Classes A, B and D by the resounding aggregate score of 168-20.
A new season is fast approaching with the start of preseason practices less than a month away, but first comes a final punctuation point on the 2017 campaign when the top seniors from last fall clash Saturday in the 29th annual Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic, which benefits the Shriners Hospitals for Children of North America, at Hill Stadium on the campus of Thornton Academy in Saco.
The teams are now East vs. West instead of the North vs. South high school pairings, but many involved in the Lobster Bowl see little relationship between last November’s final games and this all-star event.
“You’ve got some great football towns down there in the south but the thing with this game is they’ve got to take from 36 schools and I’ve got to take from 36 schools and it evens the playing field out a little bit,” East coach Dan Cooper of Brunswick during a break in training camp at Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft.
“They’ve still got some great football players, probably three or four from some of those better schools, but we do as well.”
The West owns a 19-9 lead in the Lobster Bowl series, including a 55-18 victory over the East last July.
“For me and a lot of other people on this team we’re not really looking at what happened before as the big picture,” said East fullback Croix Albee of Mount Desert Island High School in Bar Harbor. “We’re just trying to take every day in stride and get better as a team so when it gets to Saturday we can do the best we can.”
This year’s West squad, guided by former longtime Lisbon coach Dick Mynahan, has plenty of individual star power led by reigning Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Owen Garrard, a 6-foot, 230-pound running back from Scarborough.
Also highlighting the West roster are the two other Fitzy finalists, quarterback Jack Bryant of Falmouth and linebacker Nolan Potter of Wells, along with the two 2017 Gaziano Memorial Lineman Award winners, Arlo Pike and Zach Klein, both from Bonny Eagle of Standish.
The East has considerable firepower of its own led by quarterback Grant Hartley of Edward Little of Auburn, wideouts Jon Bell of Skowhegan, Jordan Roddy of Cony of Augusta and Maxx Bell of Edward Little, and two representatives from MCI’s state championship team, linebacker Adam Bertrand and defensive back David Young.
“I’ve got a terrifically talented team no doubt, kids from all over the state who are very good football players. We should be able to represent the East quite well Saturday,” said Cooper. “We’re well rounded. We’ve got good backs who can run hard. We’ve got great skill in the receiver department. Our offensive line is good, the defensive line is good. The talent is really spread out.
“I know the West is super talented as well and it should make for a good game and I hope a competitive one as well.”
And while the competitive level is important to all involved in the Lobster Bowl, so, too, is the finality of this showcase for the many participants who are unlikely ever to play in an organized football game again as they move on to the next stages of their lives.
“It’s more just the fact that it’s my last chance to strap up and it’s a great opportunity, not only for us to play but for what this game represents, said Chase Carmichael, the record-setting quarterback from Bucksport who will play wide receiver for the East before going on to study chemical engineering at the University of Maine.
“I just hope to build relationships and have fun and make sure I make the most of my last time putting the pads on.”