DOVER-FOXCROFT — Players arrived at Foxcroft Academy on Saturday to begin workouts for the 28th Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl. Old rivalries quickly faded as players practiced and readied for the football game that benefits Shriner’s Hospitals for Children.

“You see all these kids you played against, and you look at them and say, all right, now we’re teammates. You put everything behind you. Now we’re best friends and playing together as one,” said Colby Dexter, an East defensive back from Messalonskee High School.

With traditional site Waterhouse Field in Biddeford unavailable due to needed repairs, the Lobster Bowl will be played at Thornton Academy in Saco, which hosted the first Lobster Bowl game in 1990. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. Saturday.

After practicing a few days, players said they enjoyed working alongside known opponents, as well as players they know just by name or reputation.

“I didn’t know too many people outside of Waterville. I’ve seen some of the best plays and biggest hits I’ve seen made by players I never even heard of. There’s a lot of great players out here,” Max Rogers, an East linebacker from Waterville, said.

“It’s fun. You don’t get to see them in the regular season,” Maine Central Intitute’s Josh Buker added. “It’s a different atmosphere. It is a different level of competition. It’s fun to see, though.”

For Winthrop/Monmouth’s Alec Brown, joining Lisbon standout Tyler Halls on the West squad has been a highlight of camp so far.

“I loved playing against (Halls), but hated it at the same time,” Brown, a linebacker, said. “I loved it because he’s so good and brings out the best in me, but hated it because he’s so good and kicked our butt. It’s so fun practicing with him, and you see how good he is.”

The thing that gets the players through the practices in the summer heat is remembering what the game is for, and the children helped by the Shriner’s Hospitals, Nate Scott of Winthrop/Monmouth said.

“It’s been an honor. I know there’s a lot of guys we played with back home who wish they could be here. It’s a great opportunity to play for a great cause,” Scott said.

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Skowhegan’s Owen Boardman and Lawrence’s Gunner McAllister were late additions to the East roster. Boardman was selected a week before camp opened, when a spot became available, and was happy to join fellow Skowhegan captains Hunter Allen and Garrett McSweeney on the team.

“I had no time to prepare. I couldn’t turn that down, to play in the Lobster Bowl. That’s what I was looking forward to, one last football game. I definitely had to take the opportunity,” Boardman, a defensive lineman, said.

“We called up Owen last Saturday. We asked him if he wanted to play and he said absolutely. He went out and raised as much money as he could in that week. They’re all having a great time,” said Skowhegan coach Matt Friedman, who is the offensive coordinator for the East.

McAllister, a defensive back, had less time to get ready. He got the call from East coaches this Sunday morning, as players were arriving at Foxcroft Academy for camp.

“I got a call at 9 o’clock. It actually woke me up out of bed. It was from Dover-Foxcroft, the call, so I said I might as well answer it. I had really no idea,” McAllister said. “Coach (Matt Perkins of Windham) said If you could, we’d like you to come play. I was like, ‘when and where?’ I said when do you need me up there, and he said ‘Today. Now.’ So I packed a bag, told my dad, and said ‘Can we make it happen?'”

After getting the time off from his bosses at two jobs, McAllister was on his way to Dover-Foxcroft to join the team.

“They were OK with it. They know it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” McAllister said. “I was pretty excited for it.”

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For Friedman, coaching in the Lobster Bowl is among his final acts as Skowhegan’s head coach after he recently accepted a job coaching wide receivers at Husson University under head coach Gabby Price. The Eagles won the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference last fall and played in the NCAA Division III playoffs.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to coach in college. It was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. It’s going to be hard to leave Skowhegan,” Friedman said. “I couldn’t ask for a better college coaching staff to get my feet wet with.”

Friedman coached Skowhegan for five seasons, after starting his head coaching career at Madison. Although the Indians graduated a lot of talent, including the three players in the Lobster Bowl, Friedman thinks the team will continue to contend for a Pine Tree Conference Class B playoff spot.

“Marcus Christopher. I think he’s going to be able to do a lot of the same things Garrett has done (at quarterback). I expect Jon Bell and Sean Savage to pick right up where the receivers we’ve had in the past have left off,” Friedman said.

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Each season, a few players in the Lobster Bowl are asked to play an unfamiliar position. This season, for example, Winslow’s Kenny Rickard is playing defensive end for the East after a four-year career at linebacker for the Black Raiders.

“It’s different. It’s a lot harder to get used to. I kind of want to do what I did as a linebacker, but it’s getting better,” Rickard said.

Gardiner’s Kaleb Caron also is making the move from linebacker to defensive end for the East. This is the first time Caron has played from a three-point stance, he said.

“Just learning the techniques and everything that goes with it. I’m enjoying it. It’s something new,” Caron said. “It’s a learning experience.”

Buker played quarterback for MCI during last season’s undefeated state championship run in Class D. With the East squad, Buker is playing receiver, a position he saw some time at prior to his senior season with the Huskies.

“Going from having the ball in your hands every play to not having it, whether you’re blocking or not, it’s different for me. But I’m getting used to it,” Buker said.

While Buker learns a new position this week, his former team will learn a new conference in the fall. With increased enrollment, MCI moves from the Class D Little Ten Conference to the Class C Big Ten. The Huskies are coming off three consecutive conference titles and last year’s state championship win. Buker is confident MCI’s success will continue in the new league.

“I’m excited for them. I wish I had the opportunity to play again and compete in Class C. With the coaching staff they have and the way they train, I’m confident they’ll compete. They’re going to bring it every night,” Buker said.

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Lawrence defensive lineman Jacob Lennon is keeping up a family Lobster Bowl tradition. Lennon is the fourth member of his family to take part in the game.

Lennon’s uncle, Todd Carter, represented Winslow as a player in the 1999 game. Lennon’s aunt, Amber Carter, was a cheerleader in the 2000 game. Another aunt, Kristen Carter, cheered in the 2007 Lobster Bowl.

Lennon said his family is excited to watch him play Saturday.

“We had a barbecue the following Sunday after I got picked, and they said ‘I can’t wait to come see you,'” Lennon said.

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Waterville’s Rogers will continue his football career with a postgraduate year at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia. Fork Union is the same prep school attended by Augusta-born Derek Rivers, who was selected by the New England Patriots in the third round of April’s NFL Draft. Rivers went from Fork Union to Youngstown State.

“I’ve always known I’d go in the military at some point. When I was looking for a postgraduate program to play football, that was an obvious decision. It’s a little of both. I love playing football, and I like that regimented program,” Rogers said.

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While the football teams practice all week at Foxcroft Academy, the cheerleaders are working out at Thomas College in Waterville.

Among the cheerleaders representing central Maine schools are Sydney Lorgeree (Cony), Sierra Hawkes (Lawrence), Kristen Kerr (Mt. Blue), Samantha Spaulding (Mount View), Ravin Davis (Madison), Anna Dobos (Messalonskee), Joel Albert Weatherford (Skowhegan), Kelsey Courtois (Waterville), Jenna Goss (Winslow), Sarah Reichenbach (Skowhegan), Hayley Pinard (Oak Hill), and Hannah Senior (Lawrence).

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM