LEWISTON — Behind the passing of Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Eli Soehren and some huge late-game plays from small-school standouts, the East team won the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic football all-star game on Saturday, 28-23 at Don Roux Field at Lewiston High.

The East’s victory snapped a three-game winning streak by the West in the all-star game that generated a single-year record $235,399 in player and cheerleader fundraisng for the 22 Shrine Children’s hospitals. The West leads the all-time series, 21-11.

Soehren, who quarterbacked Oxford Hills to an undefeated season last fall, completed 20 of 31 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns in his final high school game before going to play at Colby College. He threw two first-half touchdown passes to Lewiston’s Eli Bigelow. Soehren also scored on a 4-yard run late in the first half, which ended with the East leading 21-9.

“A great way to end my career with everyone. I love these guys now,” Soehren said. “It was an awesome week just to bond with these guys, play a game with them, do it for a great cause, and then finally, to play with my dad.”

Mark Soehren, who coached Oxford Hills to its first Class A title last November, was the East head coach.

Soehren’s third TD pass came on third-and-7 at the West 41. He sprinted out to the left and zipped a pass to Caden Crocker from Class D champion Foxcroft Academy. Crocker made three West defenders miss on the way to the clinching touchdown with 2:29 to play. Crocker plans to play college football for Division II Franklin Pierce in Rindge, New Hampshire.


“After I caught the ball, I was just thinking stay in bounds, and then after I broke the first one, I thought, ‘Why not? Go all the way,'” Crocker said.

The East was clinging to a 21-16 lead when it got the ball back after a defensive stop, led by safety Isaac Hainer of Mattanawcook Academy, an eight-man program. Hainer, an all-state wrestler who will play baseball at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, broke up a pass to Nolan Hobbs with a big hit, then tracked down speedy Hayden Whitney of Thornton Academy on fourth-and-3 for a 3-yard loss.

“I had 15 practices to adjust a little bit (to 11-man football),” Hainer said. “I tried to represent what eight-man can be. It’s still football. We’re still here to play. It was the last time I was playing, so I wanted to show I could adjust to playing safety and still make some plays.”

The West, stymied in the first half, rallied behind two second-half touchdown passes from Jaelen Jackson of South Portland to Nick Laughlin of Cape Elizabeth, including the game’s last score on a 20-yard strike to the corner with 28 seconds to play.

Laughlin, a recruited player who is going to the University of Maine, was named the West’s MVP. He had nine catches for 157 yards. Jackson, in his final football game (he’ll playing basketball at Bates College), completed 12 of 17 passes for 147 yards while splitting time with DeAngelo Alston of Scarborough (9 of 18, 126 yards).

“The first half, we were still driving the ball down, we just weren’t finishing our drives,” Laughlin said. “We really focused on finishing out the drives and throwing some over-the-tops and some quick game just to get us going.”


Soehren was named the East MVP.

Soehren spread the ball around to seven receivers. Bigelow (7 catches, 51 yards) was the top target early. His 7- and 11-yard touchdowns both came on fourth down. The latter was a leaping grab over two defenders in the back of the end zone.

“Eli’s catch in the end zone was unbelievable,” Soehren said. “No one catches that. No one does that. Just trust everyone.”

Crocker heated up on the final drive of the first half with three catches, including 42- and 15-yard plays on third down to keep the East’s third scoring drive moving. He finished with six catches for 148 yards.

While the East was able to generate 10 first-half first downs, the West offense was bogged down by penalties and some good defensive plays that kept them out of the end zone. Two long runs by Whitney set up 40- and 30-yard field goals by Michael Lewinski of Wells. Then, just before the half ended, the West benefited from a defensive holding penalty on a play in which Alston was sacked. With the sack wiped out, Alston connected with Laughlin for a 22-yard gain, and Laughlin got out of bounds with a second to play. Lewinski made a 37-yard field goal as time expired.

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