HEBRON — Tyler Sturtevant thought he had put his high school football career behind him.

In fact, the all-conference linebacker and standout fullback at Poland was so certain he had represented the Knights for the last time that he shipped his helmet off to Castleton State College in Vermont, where he plans to play football next fall, to have it re-done in the Spartans’ green and white.

But then a week ago Wednesday, Sturtevant got the invitation that he at one time dreamed of and, deep down, even expected. The Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic needed him.

“It was surprising, I’ve got to say, because I had already moved on,” he said. “I got the call and I was, like, ‘I definitely want to go.'”

Sturtevant will be among Maine high school football’s finest Saturday for the 24th Lobster Bowl (4 p.m., Waterhouse Field in Biddeford).

Just because the invitation was overdue didn’t mean Sturtevant could skirt one of the big responsibilities every participant in the Lobster Bowl has to meet for the privilege of being part of the all-star game. He had to raise money for the Shriners Hospitals for Children. And fast.


Never one to back down from a challenge, Sturtevant reported to training camp at Hebron Academy four days later having raised more than $900.

Perhaps that’s not surprising considering Sturtevant prepared himself to play in the game for some time. The last two years, he traveled to Biddeford to watch Poland teammates Conrad Labbe and Matt Russell play in the Lobster Bowl. He saw the large crowd and the talent assembled on the field and wondered what it would be like if he got to follow in their footsteps.

He did not get that chance initially. But when a player had to drop out, as some usually do every year due to other commitments or failing to meet the fundraising requirements, he was not only ready for the game, but also ready to put it in its proper perspective.

“You’re not here to just show off and be No. 1,” he said. “You’re here for these kids. You’re raising money for them and running because they can’t.”

Sturtevant identifies with the underdog. At 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds, he was invariably one of the smallest players on the field. Yet he was an anchor on both sides of the ball for coach Ted Tibbetts.

“I was just going to be faster and quicker than they are. Wear them out. Mental toughness was a big help there,” he said.


As a captain, Sturtevant was a big help to his coaches and teammates, using his mental toughness to keep plugging away through two frustrating seasons that saw the Knights miss the playoffs by the slimmest of margins when he was a junior and then slip to 2-6 his senior year.

“We knew we were an underdog all of the time,” Sturtevant said. “It was a grind, but everybody kept their spirits up. Even last year, when we were 2-6, every week we just went back to it. ‘What did we do wrong? Let’s work on that. Let’s get it better.’ We’d improve, and then we’d find another weakness and have to work on that. It definitely was taxing, but I think it developed the character in all of us. To go out and give it everything you’ve got and lose, you know, it builds you.”

“I can’t remember him saying anything negative, ever,” Tibbetts said.

“If something went wrong,” Sturtevant said, “I’d try to bring it back on me so that if I did a little more, other kids could see it, lead by example and not just bark out ‘You missed your assignment. That doesn’t do anything for anybody. They get mad at you and that brings everything down.”

Off the field, Sturtevant never missed an assignment. He was one of 17 football players around the state to be recognized as a high school scholar athlete by the State of Maine Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.

One of his last assignments came before the end of last school year, Tibbetts met with the senior-leaders-to-be to discuss leadership and invited Sturtevant and other then-seniors to share their thoughts.


“He came to the meeting with two pages of notes. He said, ‘I just don’t want to forget. This is really important.’ That’s just the type of  person he is,” Tibbetts said. “He comes prepared.”

Which is why even though he is playing an unfamiliar position for the West, slot receiver, he is using it as yet another opportunity to prepare. Castleton has plans to play him at slot and defensive back.

“It’s not a huge difference (playing slot),” he said. “Working on the hands is the big difference, I guess.”

He’s also using the Lobster Bowl as one last chance to play the underdog in high school football.

“These guys are all-stars. They’re the best of the best,” he said. “To come here, I’m still smaller than most of the kids here. I can prove that size doesn’t really matter.”

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