In the future, on hot days, they’ll say “It’s hot, but not as hot as the day the they played the Lobster Bowl in 2019.”

So when late in the second quarter, when players from the East and West football squads exchanged a brief series of punches, was that the heat of competition boiling over, or the hottest day of the Maine summer shortening tempers?

The 30th Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl was originally scheduled to kick off at 4 Saturday afternoon at Thornton Academy in Saco. When the forecast called for the temperature to approach 100 degrees, the Shriners pushed the kickoff to 5:30.

It didn’t matter. After absorbing the day’s heat, at 5:30, the field was still a kiln.

At 4, the original kickoff time, it was 90 degrees. It felt like 99. Physically, the difference between 99 and 100 is minuscule. Mentally, 99 is as close to 100 as Maine is to the moon.

Artificial turf is wonderful in a lot of ways. It doesn’t get torn into clumps of mud and sod by cleats when it gets wet. If it snows in October or November, not an unusual occurrence in Maine, it can be plowed off and games can go on without a hitch.

What artificial turf also does very well, it absorbs heat. On days like Saturday, it soaks the heat through the day and becomes a 100-yard long radiator.

You stood on the field, and you felt the heat penetrate your shoes. It crept up your legs, settled in your core.

Officials were given wide latitude to stop the game for water breaks. The first one came with 2:12 left in the first quarter. Coming off the field, players waited in line for trainers to spray them down with a hose.

At 2 p.m., the temperature on the field was 123 degrees, Joe Hersom, Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl game president, said. With that in mind, the decision was made to go to 12-minute quarters rather than 15. Players were told to take part in the pregame introductions without helmets and shoulder pads.

At kickoff, the field had cooled to a relatively soothing 107.

Social media being what it is, was quick to criticize. Some wondered why the game wasn’t scheduled for a Friday night like in years past (Players, cheerleaders and fans come from all corners of Maine for this game. It’s already a huge commitment. Why ask many of them to drive home all night?). Some wondered why even play the game in such conditions, as if nobody had ever attempted to do anything on a hot day before.

The players were ready. There were enough of them so few were asked to play both ways like they might in a traditional high school game. If ever there were a game suited for an extremely hot day, it was the Lobster Bowl.

That said, by the second quarter, it was obvious the heat was a factor. Big plays by both teams (but more from the West, which built a gaudy 48-14 halftime lead) could be attributed to physical and mental fatigue.

A short pass from Marshwood’s Tommy Springer to Thornton Academy’s Anthony Bracaminte goes for a long touchdown when a defender is late setting the edge. A West defender bites on a fake from Skowhegan’s Marcus Christopher, and can’t recover, leaving Foxcroft’s Hyatt Smith wide open.

It was hot. They played. The Lobster Bowl’s motto is “Strong legs run so weak legs can walk.”

That’s why, when the heat may have seemed unbearable, the best high school football players in Maine stood in front of a hose, strapped on their helmets and went back on to the field.


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