LEWISTON — At first, the dozens of football players glanced around the room, knowing each other by name and reputation.

“There’s a lot of great players here,” Messalonskee’s Sam Dexter said.

It didn’t take long for the players and cheerleaders to turn to attention from each other, and focus it on what they’ll be playing for when they take part in the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl in July.

Football players, cheerleaders and their families met at the Kora Temple in Lewiston on Sunday to learn what they’ll be playing for when the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl kicks off on Saturday, July 21. Since the first game in 1990, the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl has raised more than $400,000 for Shriner’s Hospitals, said Rick Hersom, President of the Lobster Bowl Board of Governors.

“We use it to transport patients to and from the hospitals in Springfield and Boston,” Hersom said.

“It’s a lot to absorb,” Winslow’s Eric Crawley said. “It’s for a good cause, so I’m going to get in shape and play as hard as I can.”

A former patient at the Shriner’s Hospitals, Mary Reed, told the crowd how the hospital staff helped her for years.

Reed, 19, lost her left leg to bone cancer when she was 3 years old. Reed spoke about how the Shriner’s hospital helped her for 13 years, making sure she had the best in prosthetics. In school, Reed was active in the theater, and last fall she competed in the Miss Maine pageant.

“That was pretty special,” Dexter said. “Seeing (Reed) speak and hearing her story had an impact on a lot of people.”

Jason Fuller, the Lobster Bowl athletic director, urged the players and cheerleaders to get to know the other participants, no matter if they compete for the East or West.

“Develop relationships,” Fuller, who played in the third Lobster Bowl in 1992, said. “Those relationships are what you’ll remember.”

The West won last year’s game, 16-13, and holds a 16-6 lead in the overall series. Winthrop High head coach Joel Stoneton is the head coach of the West team this season. Dave Hainer, head coach at Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln, will coach the East.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

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