For some of its participants, Saturday’s 22nd annual Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl is the perfect lead-in to preseason training for their fledgling college football careers.
For many others who will play in Saturday’s 4 p.m. all-star game at Waterhouse Field in Biddeford, it’s one last chance to put on the pads and play a sport that was been at the forefront of their high school experience.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Brandon McLaughlin, a first-team All-LTC wide receiver and defensive back who recently graduated from Stearns High School in Millinocket. “But it’s better that I get one more chance to play than leaving it in the state game.”
McLaughlin, who will attend the University of Maine beginning this fall but not play football for the Black Bears, helped Stearns win the Eastern Maine Class C football title last fall. And while there’s plenty of talent in Class C, this exposure to players from all three classes statewide during the weeklong Lobster Bowl training camp at Hebron Academy has been enlightening.
“You’ve got big guys coming at you, and the speed of it is different from Class C football,” McLaughlin said. “It takes some getting used to.”
Spencer McCormick of Robbinston, a first-team All-LTC fullback and defensive back from the Calais-Woodland football program, agreed.
“It’s the best players in the state and everyone’s here to play football and there’s no one who’s just here to be on the team and could care less about playing football,” said McCormick. “The atmosphere here is awesome, the coaches care so much and everyone’s moving and everything’s flowing so well.”
Like McLaughlin, McCormick’s competitive football career will end when he leaves the field after Saturday’s game.
This fall, he will attend the University of North Dakota.
“This is my last game, unfortunately, but hopefully it’s going to be a good one,” said McCormick. “The last game of last season really tore me up because I didn’t grow up with football so as soon as it hit high school that was the only time I could actually play, so this game really means a lot to me. I want to get as much playing time as possible so I’m trying to work real hard in practice and prove myself a little bit.”
Both players also are appreciative of the opportunity to support the Shriners Hospitals for Children, which receives all net proceeds from the Lobster Bowl, including money raised by each player and cheerleader as part of their commitment to the game.
“Seeing the McDonald’s all-star game for basketball, they took us through the Ronald McDonald House and showed us what that charity was for,” said McLaughlin. “It’s like that here, too. This is really for a good cause, they really help people. I know my grandfather’s been in a Shriners hospital a few times and he said the work they do is phenomenal.”