HEBRON — Not much has changed about the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl this year, but one of the big changes is the allegiance of fans from Portland.

When the Maine Principals’ Association expanded from three classes of football to four with the 2013 season, it meant the three schools playing in the city of Portland — Deering, Portland and Cheverus — as well as Windham, joined Class A East. That means football players from those schools will wear the red jersey of the East in the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl, instead of the West’s blue.

Ronald Hargrove, a wide receiver from Portland High School who moved to Maine from the Boston area last year, isn’t concerned with the switch. Former Portland standout Imadhi Zagon, who scored the game-winning touchdown on an 86-yard kickoff return in the 2011 Lobster Bowl, told Hargrove not to worry about which side he plays.

“It was my first year at Portland this year, so I’m here to have fun,” Hargrove said. “(Zagon) let us know that I’m repping the East, but it’s still the same game.”

Other schools that swapped sides this year include Leavitt, Morse, Mt. Ararat and Oceanside, which moved from East to West, and Winslow, which rejoined the East after a two-year stint playing in Western Maine.

More important than the team played for, is the cause behind the game. The Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl raises money for Shriner’s hospitals for children.

“It’s for a great cause. It’s great seeing all the guys we played against and become friends with them,” said Oak Hill’s Bayley Beaulieu, an offensive guard on the West. “Everybody here wants to play football, and they’re here for a reason. Nobody is screwing around. I know guys from Dirigo, and the Winthrop/Monmouth team. They were big rivals for us, and now they’re pretty good friends.”

The talent level leads to pretty intense practices. The teams reported to Hebron Academy on Sunday and began three-a-day practices on Monday in preparation for Saturday’s game.

“Usually there’d be people slacking at practice here or there. Here, everyone is up and it’s great. The contact is amazing because everyone’s going full speed,” Colin Richards, a defensive tackle from Mt. Blue, said.

Kickoff is set for 6 p.m., Saturday at Waterhouse Field in Biddeford. The West leads the series, 17-7, although the East won three of the last five games, including last season’s, 25-13.

• • •

For some players on the East offense, the start of practice meant adjusting to the wide-open spread offense run by Cony head coach Robby Vachon, the East’s head coach, and B.L. Lippert, the Cony and East offensive coordinator.

Lineman have had an easier time than receivers and running backs, Vachon said, although all are starting to pick it up. Cony quarterback Ben Lucas and receiver Jonathan Saban, as well as linemen Isaac Gingras and Nic Benner, are helping their new teammates learn the system.

“It’s really expanding my opportunities to catch the ball and make big plays,” Devin Warren, a wide receiver from Messalonskee, said.

D.J. Allen, a receiver from Skowhegan, played in an offense similar to Cony’s in high school.

“We have a lot of plays that are exactly the same. I feel like I fit in the offense pretty well,” Allen said.

• • •

Safety Brandon Goff is the first player from Monmouth Academy to play in the Lobster Bowl. Goff played for the Winthrop/Monmouth combined team last season, the first season of the team’s existence.

“It’s pretty exciting. I’d actually never heard of the Lobster Bowl until this year, and it’s a pretty big honor to be the first kid from Monmouth ever,” Goff said.

Goff is joined on the West squad by his Winthrop teammate Zach Glazier, a linebacker. The duo have played close together in West practices so far, Glazier said. Glazier has seen snaps at right linebacker, with Goff at right safety behind him.

“So we get to play right near each other, which is cool, with both of us on the field,” Glazier said.

• • •

Some players are learning new positions, while others are learning new ways to play a familiar spot.

Winslow’s Zach Guptill was a fullback for the Black Raiders. With no fullback position in the East’s offense, the 6-foot, 220 pound Guptill is playing defensive end.

“I’ve never played there, but I’m catching on quick. A bunch of the guys are helping me out, giving me tips. The coaches are awesome,” Guptill said.

The biggest adjustment, Guptill said, is using his hands.

“I’m usually just holding the ball and going,” Guptill said.

Troy Gurski of Waterville is playing cornerback for the East. Gurski was a wide receiver for the Purple Panthers.

“It’s a big change, but I can do it,” Gurski said. “I’ve never covered someone. That’s the only thing that’s hard. I’m familiar with the routes, so that helps.”

Linebackers Luke Knight of Waterville and Chris Hayden are learning new skills. Knight played inside linebacker in high school, and is now on the outside.

“I’m trying to adjust to that. I’m liking the transition. It’s going well,” Knight said. “As an inside backer, my job was to read the guard. As an outside backer, my job is reading what’s going on in the flow of the backfield. That’s definitely a big change for me.”

Added Hayden: “It’s different from when I ran linebacker at my school. We’ve got a lot of good linebackers on the team.”

• • •

Briar Bussell, a defensive tackle from Maine Central Institute, is happy to be playing for his high school coach, Tom Bertrand, one final time. Bertrand, MCI’s head coach, is the defensive coordinator for the East.

“It’s pretty good. I like it. It extended my time with him as coach,” Bussell said.

Bertrand was head coach of the East in 2003, when it won the most lopsided game in Lobster Bowl history, 55-8.

• • •

While the players hold camp at Hebron Academy, the cheerleaders are training at Central Maine Community College in Auburn. The 37 cheerleaders will create a pregame routine and halftime show while at camp.

Among the cheerleaders representing central Maine are Carlee Hussey (Gardiner), Chelsea Harrison (Lawrence), Brianna Shores (Lawrence), Nikki Osborne (Mt. Blue), Alana Winslow (Skowhegan), Kiley Plourde (Madison), Ariel Roy (Waterville) and Tabby Riendeau (Oak Hill).

• • •

In honor of the 25th anniversary of the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl, the game’s board of directors invites all those who have coached or played in the Lobster Bowl to a reception at Waterhouse Field prior to Saturday’s game.

The reception will begin at 3 p.m. and go until game time.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.