BIDDEFORD — The East opened the first half of the 25th Annual Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic with a surgical 85-yard scoring drive. The West opened the second half with a plodding 86-yard touchdown march.
That pretty much summed it up Saturday night. The West had to work for its offense. The East could strike for a big play at a moment’s notice and cruised to a 32-13 win before about 6,500 fans at Waterhouse Field.
Net proceeds from the game go to the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Hampden Academy’s Matt Martin ran for three touchdowns and threw for another to take MVP honors for the East. Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Ben Lucas of Cony also threw for a touchdown for the East. Portland wide receiver Ronald Hargrove caught six passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns.
“All I know is I’ve never thrown to anyone as fast as (Hargrove),” said Martin, who completed seven of 10 passes for 183 yards, a TD and one interception. “It was a real treat.”
Thornton Academy running back Andrew Libby, playing in his first game since injuring his knee in the Trojans’ 2013 season-opener, rushed for 63 yards on 20 carries and was named West MVP. Lisbon’s Quincy Thompson had a 21-yard rushing touchdown, while Winthrop/Monmouth’s Brandon Goff had an interception and Luke Washburn of Oak Hill collected a sack for the West.
The West leads the all-time series, 17-8.
The East outgained the West, 512-269. But the West also failed to take full advantage of excellent field position throughout the first half.
The East collected three interceptions, two by Bangor’s Xavier Lewis and one by Lewiston’s Ben Howell.
“We just listened to the coverages the coaches gave us,” said Howell, who is headed for Pace University in New York. “We’re the best players in the state, so obviously we’re going to make plays.”
“They had a really good defensive core,” said West and Leavitt slot receiver Nate Coombs, who is bound for the University of Maine. “Their defensive backs were really strong. They’re ball hawks. We couldn’t really get our pass game going early on. That didn’t open up our run game and our play-action wasn’t really working.”
The East defensive front, led by Mt. Blue defensive tackle Colin Richards, contained West running backs Libby and Nicco DeLorenzo of Kennebunk (eight carries, 25 yards), limiting the West to less than four yards per rush.
“We had a lot of contact in practice this week. That’s what prepared us,” Richards said. “We were ready to hit on defense.”
Lucas (9-for-16, 126 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) hit all three of his pass attempts for 61 yards on the game’s opening series and Martin came in to finish it off with a one-yard keeper that put the East in front.
Howell’s interception stopped the West in the red zone, but the West defense forced a three-and-out and a short punt set the offense up at midfield. Nine plays later, Thompson rolled around the left side on a jet sweep and burst through untouched for a 21-yard touchdown that tied the game at 6-6 with two seconds left in the first quarter.
“It was all the blockers up front. I didn’t get touched,” said Thompson, who is headed for Maine Maritime Academy. “I just followed my blocks, found a hole and took it. I’m used to (the jet sweep) from Lisbon.”
The East took control on its next series with Martin’s 33-yard touchdown pass to Hargrove. Later in the half, the Portland star made a terrific leaping catch along the East sideline for 62 yards to set up Martin’s second one-yard plunge that made it 20-7 East, which is where it stood at the half.
The West took 16 plays, including only one pass, and nearly 8½ minutes to score its second touchdown to start the second half. Bonny Eagle’s Jon Woods ran it in from six yards to pull the West within seven.
But the East answered with an 85-yard drive engineered by Lucas, climaxing with his 31-yard TD toss to Hargrove 1:27 into the fourth quarter.
Play got very chippy between the teams for the rest of the game, with coaches and captains being called to midfield at one point by game officials to calm things down. Martin capped the scoring with his third touchdown run, this one from four yards.
“It feels great,” Howell said of the East victory, its second in a row. “We came in (last) Sunday with a bunch of guys I never knew before. We’re family now, and we beat the West.”
“The cause that we’re playing for here is much greater than anything going on on the field,” said Coombs, who has a young cousin with cerebral palsy who is treated by the Shriners Hospital. “It’s a much bigger cause than a winner or a loser. We’re all winners for being here and supporting the Shrine.”
Notes: At halftime, Richards (Class B) and Washburn (Class D) were presented the John R. Schmidlin Award, given by the Shriners annually to the top senior player in the state in each class… Brooke Steele of Spruce Mountain was given the Spirit Award, awarded the cheerleader who shows the most leadership and enthusiasm during the week.