AUBURN — Despite below-freezing temperatures New Year’s Day, a few intrepid players took to Walton Field for the inaugural New Auburn Bowl.

Jokes were exchanged among the six men brave enough to tackle the 2-degree temperature and several inches of snow covering the field. Upon the suggestion of paddling around in the Androscoggin River after the game, Mayor Jonathan LaBonte assured the others, “The Auburn side doesn’t freeze.”

LaBonte said the idea for the game came out of the recent ice storm when he and some friends were without power. They all went to Mac’s Grill for dinner, and after discussing New Year’s plans, he asked, “Who wants to play football on New Year’s Day morning?”

The question immediately arose as to how many of them would be up for football following New Year’s Eve revelry, but after creating a Facebook page for the event, interest grew.

Although as many as 16 people signed up for the frigid competition, numbers dwindled as the temperature tumbled. As one person posted on the game’s Facebook page, “I don’t know but -3 is not looking appealing.”

LaBonte said some of the original organizers balked at the cold and stayed home. Regardless, he came prepared for two teams of six, with gloves and hand-warmers.

Rules were improvised as the two-hand touch game still brought down players in the snowy field. “We’ll make it up as we go; we’re learning,” LaBonte said with a laugh.

“Typical politician,” Pauline Gudas of Lewiston said from the sideline. LaBonte is her nephew.

Orange cones marked the end zones. At one point, Sun Journal photographer Amber Waterman had to make an official call on a possible safety.

Running through the snow wore on the men who decided the game would only go to five touchdowns as Leonard Kimble of Auburn said, “I just need 10 more minutes” to catch his breath.

Grace, athleticism and style were better left to the NFL as LaBonte took down intended receiver Kevin Morissette with a dull thud in the snow.

LaBonte said the game hearkened back to when they were all young and played pickup games at Walton. Age, however, LaBonte conceded, has made such games a little more perilous.

The only injury of the game was a tag and tumble involving Keith Edgecomb’s boot and Michael Courtemanche’s eye. Despite a little blood to the brow, Courtemanche was able to play on.

In the end, the team of LaBonte, Dan Alden of Auburn and Courtemanche of Lewiston claimed a decisive victory of 5-0.

LaBonte said there was some interest in another snow bowl event for those who did not make the match Wednesday, and with more snow on the way, there should be plenty to play in.

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