Players from around the state are trying to withstand the wilting summer heat at Hebron Academy this week getting ready for Saturday’s Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic (4 p.m., Biddeford’s Waterhouse Field).

But for the coaching staffs of the East, this year led by Edward Little coach Dave Sterling, and the West, led by South Portland’s Steven Stinson, preparations for the 24th edition of Maine high school football’s all-star showcase began in the deep freeze of winter. That’s when they started to assemble the best senior football talent in the state for the game that raises money for the Shriners Hospitals for Children.

And their work was far from finished once they had the rosters set.

“Our meetings started in February, when we originally selected the team,” said Sterling, who, like Stinson, is taking his first assignment as head coach after acting as an assistant coach for a couple of years. “We had several meetings on-line. We had a meeting in Augusta that was a three-hour meeting in May, and we had several teleconferences after that. We’ve just been trying to program ourselves with the personnel, what their capabilities are and what we want to do on the field.”

“It’s certainly not something where you just show up on the first day of training camp and expect to figure out what you’re going to do,” Stinson said. “This has all been prepped well in advance.”

Sterling compared the process to coaching a small college team. The coaches, all of them with high school programs of their own and some of whom have coached in the Lobster Bowl for over a decade, are in frequent contact with the players, recruiting them, exchanging emails, going over playbooks and advising them to make sure they show up for training camp in shape.


The real fun begins when the players report to Hebron on the Sunday before the game. That’s when the coaches can start to see their plans take shape and make any adjustments after seeing some of the players on the field for the first time.

Of course, it helps knowing they are working with the elite high school football talent in the state, regardless of the player or position group.

“It opens up your toolbox to an unlimited proportion,” Stinson said. “And you’ve got to kind of rein that in because we’re only here for a week. But it is a luxury for a coach to have that kind of talent to work with on both sides of the ball.”

Stinson’s toolbox includes an explosive backfield led by Cheverus running back Donald Goodrich, the reigning Fitzpatrick Trophy winner, along with another Fitzy finalist, Sanford’s Alex Shain.

Quarterbacks Jake Desrocher of Massabesic and Dillon Russo of Scarborough will direct the offense. Also at their disposal will be speedy Spencer Trenoweth of Dirigo, Jake Theriault of Mountain Valley and Poland’s Tyler Sturtevant, part of a receiving corps that is licking its chops at the wide-open style the game has acquired with the increasing presence of the spread offense over the last decade or so.

“This is what I really like. This is what I wanted to do at Mountain Valley, but we just never ran spread,” said Theriault, who played running back for the Falcons. “I don’t think I’ve ever been around this much talent. Both QBs are unbelievable. Every pass is spot-on.”


Offense sells tickets, which in turn helps the cause behind the game.

“The nature of a game like this, we’re here to raise money for the Shriners Hospital, and the rules that are set up are definitely conducive to the offense,” Stinson said. “It’s a fun game for the fans to come and watch. You really see a showcase of all of the East and West athletes.”

The East will showcase two of its top athletes on Saturday — Mt. Blue quarterback Jordan Whitney and Brunswick running back Jared Jensen. Both were snubbed by the Fitzpatrick selection committee despite having outstanding senior seasons, and Sterling made no secret that he is determined to remind the committee and all of Maine high school football what they missed.

“Those are two kids that when we had our initial meeting at the Kora Temple (in April) when all of the players came together, I told them our job is to make them the showcase of this game,” he said. “I think they were overlooked a lot by the state. Nobody had done in the history of Maine football what Jared Jensen did at the Class A level, 2,200 rushing yards in one season. I just get the chills even thinking about having him on this team. And Whitney has put some balls in tight zones where I haven’t seen better coverages in my life.”

Cony wide receiver Chandler Shostak, who was a Fitzy finalist, Leavitt’s Brian Bedard,Lawrence’s Anthony Sementelli, Mt. Blue’s Chad Luker and Lewiston’s Steven Patrie are just some of the options for Whitney, who is the only quarterback listed on the East roster.

The West leads the all-time series, 17-6, and has won the last two games, including last year’s 48-24 triumph. More importantly, the players, cheerleaders and coaches who participated in that game raised a record $73,000 for the Shriners.

So in addition to cramming weeks worth of game-planning into six days in Hebron, the coaches make sure that the players don’t forget the real winners of the Lobster Bowl.

“They’re constantly reminding us ‘Strong legs run so that weak legs may walk,'” said Patrie, repeating the game’s perennial slogan. “We’re all here for a football game, but then when we take a step back, we realize we’re here for the kids. There are kids out there who wish they could be doing what we’re doing, even in this hundred-degree weather.”

Saturday’s festivities begin with a Maine Punt, Pass and Kick competition at 9 a.m. (registration begins at 8 a.m.). Tickets to the Lobster Bowl can be purchased at the gate starting at noon and are $10 for reserved seating and $8 for general admission.

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