DOVER-FOXCROFT — With temperatures expected to rise into the 90s with high humidity throughout the rest of the week, the players preparing for the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl football game at Foxcroft Academy made the cause behind the game their focus.

Saturday’s game at Thornton Academy in Saco is the 30th Maine Shriner Lobster Bowl. The annual game raises money to benefit Shriner’s hospitals for children.

“(John Bapst) Coach (Dan) O’Connell has been talking to us about the meaning of the game,” Nokomis defensive lineman James Boyd. “I get to play the game I love for an absolute amazing cause. It’s a great experience and I’m lucky to be here.”

“At the banquet in April, that’s what set it in place. It’s not just about winning a football game. It’s about the kids. I think that’s one of the cooler parts,” added Dylan Lajoie, a Winthrop cornerback who will leave for Air Force boot camp in San Antonio, Texas later this summer.

Kickoff for the game is set for 4 p.m. on Saturday. While many players will continue their football careers in college, many will use the Lobster Bowl as their final football game.

“I thought about it. I’m happy I’ve done it. I’m ready for the next chapter. I’m giving this week my all and enjoying every moment,” said Waterville offensive lineman John Evans, who will attend the University of Vermont in the fall.

Winslow running back Ben Dorval also is at peace with this being his final football game.

“It is what it is. I’m happy to have one more game with the greatest team I’ve ever played with,” Dorval said.

Added Cony defensive end Nic Mills: “The couple weeks leading up to this, I was getting antsy. I was ready to play. I was really missing it. I know right after I take those pads off, I’ll miss it again.”

 

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The game will have a distinct Cony flavor. Not only are four Rams suiting up for the East — wide receiver Reed Hopkins, Nic Mills, and twin brothers Matt and Mike Wozniak at linebacker — Cony head coach BL Lippert is an assistant coach. Lippert will work with the offense and quarterbacks.

“To have the other Cony guys with me, it’s nice. To play with them again is an honor,” Mills said.

Added Lippert: “They were freshmen when I took over as head coach at Cony. We said we’d evaluate our program’s development with this freshmen class. They went from a pretty average freshmen team to 7-1 last year. They’re just great kids. They set a standard hopefully the kids behind them are going to follow. We had a few others who could have made it, too. We had a lot of good seniors, and I’m proud of them. It’s great to have another week with them.”

Mike Wozniak was a late addition to the East roster, getting the call Sunday when another player dropped out. Wozniak’s parents were at Foxcroft Academy dropping off Matt at training camp when the offer to play was extended to Mike.

“I woke up early (Sunday) because Matt was leaving. When he showed up, he instantly called me and said ‘We got the call. You’re in.’ I was like ‘Are you serious?'” Mike Wozniak said.

Added Matt Wozniak: “It’s pretty exciting. I figured hopefully it would happen.”

Lippert said other East coaches suggested adding Mike Wozniak to the roster when a spot opened.

“They’re so close, for one of them to get this experience and not the other, it would be something they haven’t experienced in their life. I’m so happy they get to play in this game together,” Lippert said.

Maine Central Institute also is well-represented. Players Seth Bussell (defensive line) and TJ Kuespert (defensive end) will play, with head coach Tom Bertrand and assistant coach Alex Bertrand on O’Connell’s coaching staff.

“It feels like we’re home, except we’re not home,” Bussell said.

 

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A few players are coming off injuries to play in the Lobster Bowl. Evans, for example, suffered a broken ankle in Waterville’s second game last season.

“It was tough mentally. Physically, my ankle’s good. I’ve been training all summer. Now that I’m here playing, my ankle feels good. I’m ready to go,” Evans said.

Evans moves from guard to center, a position he hasn’t played since his freshman season. Snapping the ball to Skowhegan quarterback Marcus Christopher has been a treat, Evans said.

“He’s impressed me a lot, his level-headedness. He’s cool and collected the whole time,” Evans said. “Being able to play with the guys you played against so long, it’s special. You don’t get to do that anywhere else.”

Dorval suffered a torn ACL in Winslow’s playoff loss to Hermon last November.

“I’d say it’s probably 90 percent now. I’m working at it. I’m only seven months out of ACL surgery. It was pretty sad, but I kept looking forward to get here,” Dorval said.

Originally, Dorval was slated to play defense for the East. Once practices began, he was moved back to running back. Dorval had ice wrapped around his right knee after Tuesday morning’s practice, but called it “a tweak” and said he’ll be ready to play Saturday.

“It feels pretty good touching the ball again,” Dorval said.

Knee surgery in late January kept Cony’s Mills out for much of his senior wrestling season.

“It feels good. Wearing my brace, just to keep it a little protected, but I’m set and ready to go,” Mills said.

 

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Christopher  is a second generation player in the Lobster Bowl. His father, Jon Christopher, represented Madison as a quarterback in the first Lobster Bowl in 1990.

“We talked about it a little bit, but he tries not to talk about his past too much,” Marcus Christopher said. “He just told me to come up here and enjoy it. He said it’s a great experience and you’re doing it for a great cause. Enjoy the week.”

Jon Christpoher threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to his Madison teammate Clayton Abbott for the West in a 24-12 win. Marcus said he’s looking forward to playing with a number of talented East teammates Saturday. The East’s spread offense is similar to the offense he ran at Skowhegan, Marcus said.

“We have a lot of good athletes. We want to get it to them. I’m kind of looking forward to utilizing the whole team,” he said.

 

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Gardiner’s Nate Malinowski was a late addition to the West roster. Malinowski got the invitation to play Saturday night.

“It was kind of exciting. It was a rush to get everything ready,” Malinowski said. “I really hadn’t done anything all summer. I wasn’t prepared for this, but I’ll always be ready to play football, mentally at least. I’ll be 80 years old and ready to play football.”

Garrett Maheux, Malinowski’s Gardiner teammate, was pleased to see another Tiger join him at camp.

“I heard he was coming and I was like, ‘OK, we got two of them now,'” Maheux said.

 

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Madison fans will see a pair of Bulldogs playing new positions Saturday. Brad Peters will be on the defensive line after playing linebacker, guard and fullback.

“I’ve never played D-line. It’s not that much different. I’m lucky to be here, so I’ll play any position they want me to play. At Madison I played a lot of different (positions),” Peters said.

A quarterback at Madison, Eric Wescott will be a running back for the West. It’s not a major change for Wescott, who as quarterback in Madson’s spread pistol offense was used as another running threat.

“Basically, I’ve been running back my whole life. It wasn’t a big switch for me. As quarterback, I was more of a runner than a passer anyway,” Wescott said.

 

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While the two football teams train all week at Foxcroft Academy, cheerleaders are holding camp at Thomas College in Waterville.

Representing central Maine schools on the East cheering roster are Kaitlyn Berthiaume (Messalonskee), Ashley Bliss (Skowhegan), Autumn Conklin (Mt. Blue), Abigail Larochelle (Lawrence), Kate Pond (Mt. Blue), Jericah Saucier (Waterville), and Katelyn Warren (Skowhegan).

Cheering for the West are Brooke Coutts (Gardiner), Faith Labonte (Gardiner), Renee Rossi (Gardiner), and Jordyn Wheeler (Madison).


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