Trafton Gilbert takes a pragmatic view of this disappointment, the latest in what has been a two and a half month gauntlet of letdowns.

“What are you going to do?” Gilbert, a senior at Waterville Senior High School who will graduate soon in a drive-thru ceremony, said.

For starters, you’re not going to let your disappointment overwhelm you. Gilbert knows that much.

One hundred and thirty-one football players and cheerleaders were selected to take part in the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl, the annual football game to benefit Shriner’s Hospitals for Children. The game was scheduled for July 18 at Thornton Academy in Saco. This past week, the Lobster Bowl’s board of governors added the game to the long and growing list of events cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Like the other athletes, Gilbert got the news Wednesday.

“I was really disappointed. I was looking forward to the Lobster Bowl for a long time,” Gilbert said. “It’s a once in a lifetime experience.”

Ultimately, that will be what the Class of 2020 remembers. When they finally got to the front of the line for once in a lifetime experiences, a once in a century plague blew it up. What are you going to do?

Gilbert’s uncle, Brian Gilbert, represented Winslow in the 1994 Lobster Bowl.

“I picked number 36 because of him. I wanted to wear that number for him,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert will still get that red East jersey with the gold number 36 across the chest and back, but it will never see game action. He won’t peel it off on July 18 and briefly consider not washing out the sweat and tiny black rubber pellets from the Thornton Academy artificial turf. The jersey will be a curious souvenir, like a ticket to game seven of a series decided in six.

For some of the players selected to participate in the Lobster Bowl, the game is a chance to put an exclamation point on a strong high school football career. Maybe they were on a team that hoisted a gold ball last November, or reached the goal of a playoff game. For Gilbert, the Lobster Bowl invitation was a reward for putting in the work during what was a disappointing season for the Purple Panthers.

Waterville made the Big 11 Conference playoffs in 2018, and had a return to the postseason as a goal in 2019. Early injuries exposed Waterville’s abject lack of depth, and the Panthers finished the season with just two wins and out of the playoffs. A senior leader, Gilbert rarely left the field, and earned first team all-conference honors at fullback and linebacker.

Gilbert’s friend John Evans represented Waterville in the Lobster Bowl last summer, and told Gilbert what he could expect in the week of training camp and the game. Gilbert had been in the gym, training so he’d arrive to camp at Foxcroft Academy in the best possible shape, ready to have a great experience.

“To get to represent your city one more time, it’s a pretty big honor. For the children it helps, it’s a big deal,” Gilbert said.

Participants are asked to raise $500 for the Shriner’s Hospitals for Children. Gilbert raised $785, an impressive feat considering he did it at a time so many people and businesses are trying their best to come out the other end of the current crisis intact.

“I was thinking, ‘How am I going to raise 500 bucks in the middle of this?'” Gilbert said. “The Waterville football community did its part.”

Like many players, the Lobster Bowl was going to be Gilbert’s last football game. He plans to enroll in the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) program at Eastern Maine Community College. EMCC does not have a football team.

“When school ended with the quarantine, I got the itch to play football. Summer sessions were some of my favorite times,” Gilbert said.

That’s an itch that will go unscratched. Like Gilbert said, what are you going to do?


Travis Lazarczyk —861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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