The Lobster Bowl coaching staffs are usually an interesting blend of football minds. This year’s roster features several long-time veterans of the game and first-timers getting their first taste of the charity all-star game.

Maine Lobster Bowl West Team head coach Bill County speaks about Saturday’s game during media day at Foxcroft Academy on Tuesday. David Leaming/Morning Sentinel

East head coach Dan O’Connell, John Bapst’s head coach and a Bates College alumnus, is coaching in his 12th consecutive Lobster Bowl and his second as head coach. His counterpart for the West, former Lewiston head coach and current Leavitt assistant Bill County, is also in his second stint as head coach, but may have lost count on how many Lobster Bowls he’s participated in overall.

“I think it’s 15,” said County, who believes his first Lobster Bowl was in 1993, when he was Leavitt’s head coach. “It’s really hard, you know, they start to blend together, which is a good thing, if you’ve done enough that you don’t know the number.”

County’s West coaching staff includes other long-time veterans such as fellow Leavitt assistants Dave Bochtler and former Skowhegan head coach Mike Marston, but is mostly made up of relative newcomers such as Lisbon’s Chris Kates, who helped out his former Lisbon coach Dick Mynahan last year, as well as Poland assistant Bob Chaisson, Oak Hill assistant Chad Stowell and Gardiner assistant Pat Munzing.

To game-plan the West offense, County called on a first-timer, Poland head coach Spencer Emerson. County coached Emerson’s brother, Jared Turcotte, to the Fitzpatrick Trophy at Lewiston. Turcotte was the East MVP in the 2007 Lobster Bowl.

“He’s really one of the brightest young coaches in the state of Maine,” County said.

Emerson said he didn’t hesitate to accept County’s invitation.

“There are a lot of coaches that I idolized growing up watching my brother and this game,” Emerson said. “When coach County asked me to be his assistant, I said, “Absolutely.’ When he asked me to be his offensive coordinator, I was, like, ‘You want me to call it?'”

Emerson’s eagerness to game plan the offense only increased when he realized the extent of the weapons with which he could work. It includes Fitzpatrick Trophy-winning running back Tyler Bridge of Wells, Thornton Academy slot and Fitzpatrick finalist and Maine Gatorade Player of the Year Anthony Bracamonte and quarterbacks Tommy Springer of Marshwood and Carter Edgerton of Biddeford.

“It’s super, super cool to see kids that you play against and you game-plan against them, it’s nice to be on their side for once,” Emerson said. “Luckily, we spread the ball around in my system and we use a lot of different weapons. I’ve never experienced, even at college levels, having nine guys who can all get the ball and score with it. It is a little bit of pressure. I’m looking at my call sheet wondering how are we going to get everybody the ball enough.”

County is confident Emerson will find a way to use all of weapons at his disposal on Saturday.

“He’s got some tremendous concepts and he’s done a great job of coaching these kids up. So I think it’s going to be a little bit of an offensive showdown,” he said.

DEFENSE HAS ALL THE CHIPS

County has at least a couple of other reasons to expect an offensive showdown. The first is recent history. Over the past decade, the teams have combined to score nearly 60 points per game, on average.

The second is that the game’s rules, which ban blitzing the quarterback and limit the kinds of fronts a defense can play, put the offense at a distinct advantage.

“The Shriners put some parameters on what you can play defensively, and it really handicaps your defense,” County said.

Limited by the number of wrinkles they can put into their game plan, defensive coaches focus instead on intensity and execution.

“They spend the week putting that chip on the defense’s shoulder,” O’Connell said.

“You usually see the defense kind of emerge with that swagger a little bit first in practice because they’ve been coached to have that chip,” O’Connell said. “But once you get the offense kind of clicking and get the precision and the reps, by day three or four when they’re slinging the ball all over the place, then it all kind of comes together.”

The same can often be said come game time. Last year’s game, which ended with a 40-14 East win, featured zero points in the first quarter and only six points in the second quarter. In 2017, the West led 7-0 after one quarter en route to a 55-18 win.

LOBSTER TAILS

Due to the extreme heat forecast for Saturday, organizers decided to move game time back to 5:30 p.m. Tickets are still available for the game and can be purchased at the Hill Stadium ticket booth on game day. General admission is $10. … This year’s Lobster Bowl official program sold at games includes a tribute to former football coach Mike Haley, who died last August at age 75. Haley served the Lobster Bowl for 25 years as a coach and athletic director and is the only non-Shriner to be elected to the game’s board of governors, which has created an award in Haley’s honor to be given out for the first time at this year’s game. It will be presented to two coaches in recognition for their service to the Lobster Bowl. … While the players prepared for the game on the campus of Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft, cheerleaders have been spending the week in Waterville at Thomas College preparing for their part of the festivities. Local cheerleaders participating include Mackenzie Arsenault of Mountain Valley, Autumn Conklin and Kate Pond of Mt. Blue, and Teaghan Rodzen and Cassidy Walo of Oxford Hills. Oak Hill coach Louise Gauthier is serving as cheering coordinator…. The West leads the all-time series, 19-10.


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