HEBRON — There was a time when all the pressure to win the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl was on the West. The West won the first nine games in the annual football game to raise money for the Shriner’s Hospitals. When the East finally won a game, in 1999, the West went and won three more in a row.

Lately, however, the game’s power has tilted in the other direction. The East has won two Lobster Bowls in a row and four of the last five. While the West dominated the first decade, the last 10 years have seen an even series, with both sides winning five games.

The East has never won three Lobster Bowls in a row, and will try to do so when the game kicks off at 4 p.m. today at Waterhouse Field in Biddeford.

“We sat down as coaches five or six years ago, saying look, we’ve got to tilt this thing the other way a little bit,” Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway, the East’s head coach, said. “We put a lot into it. We want to put a good product on the field on Saturday, and we want to keep going. We’ve had some success, and we don’t want to be the guys who let that go.”

West players and coaches are eager to stop the East’s modest win streak at two.

“We’re here to play a charity football game. The last word is game. When that game starts, you go one way. Our goal is to win,” Mountain Valley coach Jim Aylward, the head coach of the West, said. “Mike Hathaway is my friend. At 4 o’clock Saturday, he’s my mortal enemy. Those East coaches, the West coaches, we love each other. Those juices will flow, and we both want to win… We’re not happy about two (losses) in a row. We’re not.”

This year’s game features what might be the best collection of quarterbacks in the 22-year history of the game. On the West, there’s Cheverus’ Peter Gwilym, who led the Stags to the Class A state title and won the Fitzpatrick Trophy as the state’s top player. Gwilym will also see time on defense. The West also has Jamie Ross of Deering, a finalist for the Fitzy who threw for more than 1,900 yards last fall and ran for nearly 1,000.

“Not only are they great football players, they’re representing their schools really well. Their coaches and parents should be proud of them. I’ve found them to be classy young men,” Aylward said.

Quarterbacking the East are Cony’s Luke Duncklee, a Fitzpatrick semifinalist, and Bangor’s Joe Seccareccia, who led the Rams to back-to-back Pine Tree Conference titles.

“I was anxious to get them both, to get them at quarterback and see what they can do,” Hathaway said. “Neither one of them has disappointed. They’ve both been better than advertised, I think.”

If the quarterbacks were the only players the defenses needed to worry about, it would still be a challenge, but factor in a number of running backs and receivers, and this could be a high-scoring game much like last summer’s 40-35 East win.

“You know, you might give up 30 points and win and play a good game defensively,” Waterville’s Kyle Bishop, a safety for the East, said. “You make enough stops, you can win the game.”

Added Aylward: “Our goal is to score 40. I’m sure Mike’s goal is to score 40. We’re not going to come out and run the Mountain Valley offense, that’s for sure, because people will get in their cars and drive off.”

Running backs for the East include Messalonskee’s Keenan Knox and Teven Colon of Edward Little, who finished one-two in the PTC in rushing last season. Wide receiver Josiah Hartley of Bangor ran the ball for the Rams last season, and could line up outside or in the backfield. Colin McKee of Cony, Dan Tucker of Nokomis and Lucas Witham of Leavitt are other potential receiving targets for Seccareccia and Duncklee, and Duncklee is always a threat to run himself, after gaining more than 1,000 yards on the ground last season.

Mt. Blue linebacker Colten Miranda is one of many East defensive players glad to see Duncklee on his team.

“We had to plan for a week just to maintain him,” Miranda said. “We knew we weren’t going to stop him. We wanted to slow him down a little bit.”

Blocking for the East is an offensive line that averages 244 pounds, including Matt Archer of Mt. Blue, Messalonskee’s Josh Hall and Lawrence’s Lucas Quimby.

Among the West’s scoring threats are Mountain Valley running back Taylor Bradley, Ryan Conant of Winthrop, receivers Zach White (Carrabec), John Hardy (Deering) and Spencer Ross (Dirigo), tight ends Michael Cyr (Scarborough) and Cody Provost (Oak Hill), and running back Imadhi Zagon of Portland, who was on crutches early in camp after suffering an ankle injury.

“Hopefully he’ll be ready to go for the game,” Aylward said.

Defensively, the East feels it’s strong on the line, where Winslow’s John McCabe and Mt. View’s Nathan Sigouin will see time.

“They have a lot of talent over there, but our defense is really coming together,” McCabe said.

Linebackers for the East include Miranda, Skowhegan’s Kaleb Austin, and Dalton Eldridge of Gardiner.

Maranacook’s Dustin Knowles will play defensive end for the West.

“It would be nice to win. We’re pretty confident we might be able to turn this around, this losing streak,” Knowles said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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