BIDDEFORD — Above Waterhouse Field, the storm clouds Lobster Bowl organizers fretted over all week never arrived. On Waterhouse Field, it took one play for Jordan Whitney and the East to start raining down passes on the West.
Big plays by the Mt. Blue quarterback and a talented receiving corps led by Cony’s Chandler Shostak, Foxcroft Academy’s Ryan Rebar and Matt Cosgrove of Bangor combined with a swarming defense to push the East past the West 25-13 in the 24th annual Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic in front of about 5,000 fans Saturday.
The East broke a two-game losing streak and now trails the West 17-7 in the all-time series. More importantly, players and cheerleaders combined to set a new fundraising record, collecting more than $94,000 for the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
“To be here for the cause and everything that we’ve done, it’s just a great honor,” said Whitney, who completed 14 of 28 passes for 311 yards, two touchdowns and one interception and was named the East’s MVP.
Cheverus running back Don Goodrich was named West MVP after rushing 11 times for 41 yards. Sanford running back Alex Shain led the West by rushing 13 times for 139 yards and both touchdowns.
Mt. Blue’s Chad Luker had a game-clinching nine-yard TD run for the East late in the fourth quarter. Oxford Hills defensive end Dexter Turner led the East defensively with 1½ sacks, including one for a safety.
But the big plays came from Whitney and his sure-handed set of receivers. He opened the game by hooking up with Shostak (5 catches, 155 yards) on a 48-yard pass. That drive stalled, but the East ran the same play for the game’s first score, a 60-yard connection with Shostak with 8:48 left in the first half.
Cosgrove (three catches, 76 yards) and Rebar (4 catches, 63 yards, TD) also burned the West deep with outstanding catches.
“This whole week, I’ve been hitting them in practice, and in the game it just worked out perfect,” Whitney said.
“We threw a lot in practice and all of the receivers got a really good connection with him. And he can really throw,” Cosgrove said. “We just have to run our routes right and he gets it to us every time.”
The West, which forced four Whitney fumbles and an interception, was able to convert a fumble recovery by South Portland’s Liam Rottkov into a four-yard TD run by Shain to tie it with 43 seconds left in the half. It was the only points the West was able to get off of five East turnovers.
“We knew the turnover battle was going to have a lot to do with this game, and we were able to create some,” said West head coach Steve Stinson of South Portland. “All of the credit in the world goes to the East. We weren’t scoring for a reason.”
The East made good use of the remaining 43 seconds in the half, as Whitney drove them 55 yards to set up a 30-yard field goal by Gardiner’s Dennis Meehan that made it 10-7 at the halftime siren.
The East defensive line, led by Turner and John Bapst defensive end Kurt Massey hemmed in Goodrich and West quarterbacks Jake Desrocher and Dillon Russo for much of the hot, humid afternoon. Only the elusiveness and strength of the West runners kept a large number of their runs from turning into losses.
“We just felt like we could overpower them on the line,” Massey said. “We took up enough blockers that our linebackers could come in and fill the holes and make those tackles.”
On the first series of the second half, Turner chased down the elusive Desrocher in the back of the end zone for a safety that extended the East lead to 12-7.
“They had a pretty solid defense,” said West tackle Caleb Provost of Oak Hill. “There’s times we could have done better, but they had a really solid defense and they deserved to win.”
Shain gave the West its first lead with an impressive 75-yard TD run with 5:06 to go in the third. The two-point conversion failed to keep it 13-12 West.
The East went three-and-out on the ensuing series, but the West muffed Meehan’s punt and Massey recovered for the East at the West 43.
Two plays later, Whitney found Rebar streaking down the right sideline in one-on-one coverage for a 39-yard touchdown that put the East on top for good, 18-13.
“I dropped back and the corner turned on Rebar. He was wide open and I threw a pretty nice ball into him,” Whitney said.
The West had two opportunities to respond with good field position on a fumble recovery by Windham’s Brandon Mitchell and an interception and 23-yard return by Kenny Sweet of Deering. But the first drive stalled at the East 20 and the second ended on a fumble recovered for the East by Spencer Carey of Lawrence.
Whitney hooked up with Shostak on a 24-yard pass. Luker followed with a 14-yard run, then his nine-yard scoring jaunt in which he bowled over a West defender at the goal line for the clinching score with 4:11 remaining.
“We knew we were coming in as underdogs,” said Cosgrove, who is headed to the University of Maine to play for his father, Jack. “We were thinking that they might be a little better than us, but we came out and played as hard as we could and the scoreboard shows it.”
“It’s been great to give back and contribute to the whole cause, but also play a game that I love,” said Massey, who will join the Cosgroves at Maine.