HEBRON — After 23 years, the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl is not only a big fundraiser for Shriner’s Hospitals, it’s a competitive football game. Western Maine dominated the series early, winning the first nine games, but the series is even at five wins each over the last 10 years. Eastern Maine has won four of the last six games, and the last three games were each decided by less than a touchdown.

“Those guys standing over there,” said West head coach Joel Stoneton, of Winthrop, pointing at the East squad standing across the Hebron Academy Athletic Center floor, “are just as good as the guys standing over here.”

The West is coming off a 16-13 win in last year’s game, sealed when Portland’s Imadhi Zagon returned a kickoff 86 yards for the go ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The West leads the series, 16-6.

Kickoff for the game is set for 4 p.m. at Waterhouse Field in Biddeford.

For Stoneton and East head coach Dave Hainer of Mattanawcook Academy, this week is less about teaching the game, and more about putting outstanding athletes in the right situations.

“You can install everything in the first two days, then it’s about fine tuning it. When you coach your regular team, you’ve got freshmen and sophomores who need to learn more, and maybe juniors and seniors who need to fine tune. Here, it’s just fine tuning. These guys have played a lot of football in their lives,” Hainer said.

Added Stoneton: “After being here a couple times, you realize how fun it is to have all stars at all the positions. You can do things, you can do drills. There’s not a lot of technique stuff you have to break down for them. You can just go go, and it’s fun as a coach. I do enjoy the other piece to, as a coach, teaching the game, but it’s just a different high speed tempo.”

While the players enjoy taking the field with old rivals, the coaches love working with colleagues from other schools and coaching the players that gave them fits over the years.

“This is the best (coaching) staff in the state of Maine. You have a lot of guys who know what they’re doing, and the kids react to that,” Stoneton said. “The spread offense is something I’ve never been around. That’s been a lot of fun to watch.”

Hainer mentioned players like Max Andrews and Devin Romain and John Bapst, and Orono’s Dominic Mowrer, as tough opponents he’s glad are now on his side.

“Andrews has been a starter since his freshman year. The first play of his freshman season was a pick six against me,” Hainer said. “Romain, there’s a kid who picked apart our secondary last year. Now he’s all mine. Dom Mowrer. I’m getting him out into space, and he’s having a blast with it.”

Romain and Leavitt’s Jordan Hersom, the Fitzpatrick Trophy winner as the best high school football player in the state, will quarterback the East’s spread offense. Joining Mowrer in the backfield are Shaun Carroll of Lawrence, Alonzo Connor of Gardiner, and Lewiston’s Jeff Turcotte.

Among the East’s receivers are Mt. Blue’s Izaiha Tracy and Sam Dexter of Messalonskee.

“Dexter, that kid’s amazing. He catches everything, and he’s got moves after the catch,” Hainer said.

Lawrence center Josh Perry will be on the East’s offensive line. Among key players on the East’s defense are defensive backs Chase Shostak (Cony), Alex Leathers (Lawrence), Cody Pelletier (Nokomis), and Ethan Johnson (Skowhegan). Adam Ogden (MCI) and Stephen Day (Madison) play linebacker for the East, while Chris Kruse (Skowhegan) and Nick Margitza (Waterville) are on the defensive line.

“I love just being on defense, where my only objective is just get to the ball. I love doing that. It’s a huge honor to be playing here,” Margitza said. “They’re all class acts. Not only are they great football players, they’re great guys. Everyone’s on the same page.”

Stoneton raved about the West’s speed. Cam Olson of two-time defending Class A state champ Cheverus and Paul McDonough of Class B champ Wells will play quarterback. Spencer Cooke (Cheverus) and Samuel Chaves (Massabesic) are top running backs for the West, with Matthew Burnell and Cameron Cooper, both of Bonny Eagle, leading a group of strong receivers.

Ian Palmer (Maranacook) and Eric Crawley (Winslow) will be on the West’s offensive line. Tyler Reeve (Winthrop) and Luke Emery (Maranacook) will play defensive line, while Cody Depuy (Oak Hill) will be in the secondary.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

 

 

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