Last year’s Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl produced the highest-scoring game in the first 21 years of the annual event that features the state’s top recently graduated high school football players in a battle of East versus West.
The East rallied for a 40-35 victory in the 2010 contest, and there’s the sense among players and coaches participating in the 2011 edition that offense again will be the dominant phase of the game, whose net proceeds benefit the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Game time is 4 p.m. Saturday at Waterhouse Field in Biddeford. The West leads the series 15-6, but the East has won four of the last five contests.
Both teams are expected to run spread offenses that will feature the quarterback play of Fitzpatrick Trophy finalist Jamie Ross of Deering of Portland and Josh Woodward of Thornton Academy of Saco for the West and Joe Seccareccia of Bangor and Luke Duncklee of Cony of Augusta from the East.
“I would say that 10 percent of what we run in this game is what we as coaches have ideas of what we’d like to do,” said West coach Jim Aylward of reigning Class B state champion Mountain Valley of Rumford, “and 90 percent is taking a look at these kids and seeing what they can do. “Jamie Ross played in an entirely different system from what I like to coach, so I tried to adopt what he’d be successful at. Jamie is great in the shotgun, and that’s not necessarily what I would like to do but it’s his strength.”
Aylward was awash in highly regarded quarterbacks for his team as the teams went through a week of pregame practices at Hebron Academy with the Sacred Heart University-bound Ross, Woodward, Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Peter Gwilym of Class A state champion Cheverus of Portland and fellow Fitzy finalist Cam Kaubris of Mountain Valley.
Gwilym may see spot duty at quarterback, but he and Kaubris are expected to see most of their playing time on defense.
“It’s kind of nice when you show up for the first day of practice and you have the three Fitzpatrick Trophy finalists on your squad,” said Aylward.
Seccareccia, who will join older brother Rob Seccareccia — a former Lobster Bowl participant — at Southern Connecticut State University this fall, and the Colby College-bound Duncklee will share quarterbacking duties for the East.
“Luke and Joe have come in at quarterback and while both of them have played some spread, this is a whole new system for them,” said East coach Mike Hathaway of Leavitt Area High School of Turner. “You don’t always get two quarterbacks that you can teach what they need to know in a week, but Joe and Luke have both picked it up pretty well.”
The spread offense also can produce big rushing performances — Bangor’s Lonnie Hackett was named the East’s MVP last year after rushing for 155 yards and a touchdown from that formation.
The East rushing attack this year features Keenan Knox of Messalonskee of Oakland, Jeff Keene of Lewiston and Teven Colon of Edward Little of Auburn, while the West will rely on Imadhi Zagon of Portland, Taylor Bradley of Mountain Valley and Ethan Thorne of Bonny Eagle of Standish.
East receivers include Josiah Hartley of Bangor and Lucas Witham of Leavitt while Spencer Ross of Dirigo of Dixfield and John Hardy of Deering will be among the top West targets.
“I think we’ve got a lot of speed on the offensive side of the football and in the secondary, we’ve got a lot of guys who can close on the football,” said Hathaway. “And I think up front this has been one of the better groups I’ve seen on the offensive and defensive lines.”
“But the overall strength is just the character of the kids and how they’ve come together. We’ve had zero issues this week and the kids have practiced hard every day and have been extremely coachable.”
Due to expected temperatures in the 90s for Saturday’s game, the staff at the Lobster Bowl will be taking extra precautions to take care of the players, according to Jason Fuller, who is the athletic director for the game.
The coaches will be instituting a “10 minutes of play, five minutes of rest” for the players, according to Fuller, who is the AD at Lewiston High School. There will also be extra trainers on the sidelines for the players and extra medical personnel at the game for the general public.
On each sideline, players will also be able to use a misting water system to cool off.