SACO, Maine — The West used a little misdirection to score first in the 28th annual Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic.
Everything after that was straight-ahead, no-frills domination.
The West roared out to a 26-0 lead, then went on to put up the most points it has ever scored in a Lobster Bowl with a 55-18 victory over the East at Thornton Academy’s Hill Stadium on a sunny Saturday.
Net proceeds from the game go to the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Bonny Eagle quarterback Cam Day threw for two touchdowns and ran for one more to earn MVP honors for the West. Portland linebacker Nick Archambeault had a 90-yard interception return for a touchdown to earn MVP for the East.
The West, which now leads the all-time series 19-9, had a number of other stars on offense and defense. Lisbon’s Tyler Halls, a quarterback who moved to wide receiver for the game, caught four passes for 63 yards and two touchdowns. Cape Elizabeth wide receiver Ben Ekedahl also had two touchdown catches, and Oak Hill slot receiver Steven Gilbert had one touchdown catch.
“The QB’s are good. It’s a privilege to play in coach (Kevin) Cooper’s offense,” Halls said. “It took a little time for us to get used to each other. We weren’t hooking up early in the game.”
Sanford QB Frankie Veino hooked up with Halls for two of his three touchdown passes, and Mountain Valley kicker Kyle Farrar converted five of six PATs.
The West’s defense gave its offense time to get clicking with a dominating first-half performance, limiting the East to 66 total yards. The defense also scored two touchdowns — a 35-yard interception return by Traip defensive back Angelo Succi and a high snap recovered in the end zone by Robert Hetherman — and generally frustrated the East offense throughout.
“The quarterbacks were the main focus,” said West defensive back Finn Zechman of South Portland, who had one of his team’s three interceptions. “But the big thing was our West receivers were so talented. It was great to go against that competition in practices. It prepared us to be able to run a lot of man coverage and not worry so much of getting beat over the top.”
The West went over the top for the game’s first touchdown on its first possession. On third down from the East’s 9, Day faked a screen to Ekedahl. Gilbert initially acted as if he was going to block, then broke to the end zone and was wide open for a 7-0 lead, capping an eight-play, 76-yard opening drive.
“We’d been running it all week and it hadn’t worked,” Gilbert said. “We saw that they were running man (coverage) and we went for it and it worked. Being first to score definitely helped out a lot.”
The East had a couple of chances to answer early, but missed a 35-yard field goal attempt after Brunswick’s Jesse Devereaux recovered a West fumble at its 37 and then turned the ball over on downs after driving to the West 16.
The West pulled away in the second quarter with Day’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Ekedahl, Succi’s interception return that made it 19-0, and Halls’ 4-yard touchdown catch from Veino.
Led by a defensive line featuring Lisbon’s Tanton Mattson, Wells’ Deandre Woods and Westbrook’s Dave Redmond, the West controlled the East’s huge offensive line and shut down the running game, allowing 85 yards on 34 attempts.
“Honestly, our front line is just a bunch of knuckleheads that just work hard,” Woods said. “You’re here for a week straight, and you just form a team really quick. Coach told us all week size doesn’t matter. It’s all about how you get past them.”
“They were fast off the ball,” said Oxford Hills and East running back Ryland VanDecker. “We just had to adjust to it. It was tough at times. We got momentum, but they were just really fast and played a good game.”
Archambeault kept the East from being shut out in the first half by picking off Day’s pass at his own 10 and racing 90 yards with 5.1 seconds left.
The West expanded on its 26-6 halftime lead 4:23 into the second half when Veino connected with Halls on a fade route for a 30-yard touchdown.
Things just got worse for the East on its next series when a shotgun snap went over Skowhegan QB Garrett McSweeney’s head and was recovered by Hetherman in the end zone for a 41-6 lead.
The East finally scored its first offensive touchdown with 5:11 to go in the third quarter on a 30-yard pass from Cony’s Taylor Heath to Brewer’s Tyler Hafford.
Its second and final offensive touchdown came on one of the most bizarre plays in Lobster Bowl history. McSweeney dropped back to pass from his own 24 and had it deflect twice, first off the hands of intended receiver Justin Villone of Washington Academy, then off the hands of Zechman before falling into the arms of Mt. View’s Colby Furrow, who took it to the end zone for a 76-yard score.
“The ball came out of nowhere,” Zechman said. “I thought (Villone) was going to catch the ball, so I was getting ready for the tackle and had my arms down. When it came back to me, I got my arms up at the exact moment (to deflect it back to Furrow).”
“The pass wasn’t meant for me, but it just bounced off the guy’s hands and I just finished off my route and the ball landed right in my hands,” said Furrow, who set a record by raising over $11,000 for the game “It was miracle, kind of. I was right in stride. At first, it was so surprising to me.”
Whatever momentum the East had from cutting the deficit to 41-18 disappeared quickly when Veino found a wide-open Ekedahl over the middle for a 62-yard touchdown.
Day added the game’s only rushing touchdown from a yard out in the fourth quarter to cap the scoring and break the West’s scoring record of 48 points, set in 2012.
Day finished 9-for-15 passing for 114 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed for 33 yards on 11 carries. Veino was 7-for-12 for 149 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
For the East, McSweeney was 12-for-23 for 180 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Heath was 7-for-17, 77 yards, a touchdown and an interception.