Winthrop/Monmouth’s Nate Scott of the West team defends a pass Mattanawcook’s Carter Ward of the East during the Lobster Bowl last year. (Brewster Burns photo)

One thing the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic has done consistently throughout its history as the state’s all-star football showcase is generate a rivalry between the East and West participants.
The 29th Annual Lobster Bowl (4 p.m. Saturday) will continue the tradition. Coaches and organizers usually find a way to create just enough tension between the two squads, and players learn soon enough during the week-long training camp at Foxcroft Academy that going through the motions, typical of many all-star games, won’t be accepted.
The result is usually an intense and crowd-pleasing game, if not always a close one. Oak Hill’s Austin Pierce, a tight end for the West, summed up how players stay motivated to play an exhibition game, yet still keep what will be the most fiercely competitive exhibition game they will ever play in perspective. 
“Obviously, we want to beat the East and really give it to them because we think we have the best of the best over here,” he said, “and they have some of the best of the best, too. Overall, I’d say that’s just the best part of the week as a whole and the game is just being able to rally the best talent from all around the state to pit against each other for a great cause.”

The cause is the Shriners Hospitals for Children, which receives 100 percent of the net proceeds. The site, for the second year in a row, is Thornton Academy’s Hill Stadium in Saco. Gates open at 1 p.m., with pregame festivities starting at 3 p.m. 

As evidenced by its 19-9 series lead, including last year’s 55-18 win, the West has historically enjoyed the edge in talent. And again, this year, it boasts the most decorated names, starting in a backfield that features Fitzpatrick Trophy-winning running back Owen Garrard of Scarborough, and quarterback Jack Bryant of Falmouth, another Fitzy finalist. 

The West has many other playmakers at its disposal, including Oak Hill wide receiver Darryn Bailey, Spruce Mountain quarterback-turned-wide receiver Brett Frey and Dirigo running back Cooper Chiasson. The offensive line includes Leavitt’s Nolan Cabral and Gaziano Offensive Lineman of the Year Zach Klein of Bonny Eagle.

Defensively, the West boasts another Gaziano Award winner in lineman Arlo Pike of Bonny Eagle, who will be joined up front by Winthrop/Monmouth’s Luke St. Hilaire, Mountain Valley’s Curtis Gauvin, Leavitt’s Aiden Parmenter and Lisbon’s Noah Buiniskas. Nolan Potter of Wells, another Fitzy finalist who is bound for Bates in the fall, leads the linebackers, while Poland’s Aaron Paradis is part of what is typically the most under-duress unit in the game, the secondary.

The East will try to test that secondary with Edward Little quarterback Grant Hartley, who is bound for the University of Maine as a preferred walk-on, and Lawrence quarterback Braden Ballard.

Hartley has one of his favorite targets at EL, Class A North Player of the Year Maxx Bell, at wide receiver, and running back Garrett Poussard of Lewiston to count among the East’s weapons. Oxford Hills’ Jarrod Taylor will be among the linemen protecting Hartley and Ballard.

Two more Vikings, linebacker Jordan Silver and Dawson Stevens, who has shifted from defensive back to defensive line, and Mt. Blue defensive back Abram Meader are part of a defense hoping to improve upon the last two East squads, which surrendered over 50 points apiece.

Brunswick coach Dan Cooper is head coach of the East. Former Lisbon coach Dick Mynahan has stepped out of retirement to coach the West. 

Assistant sports editor Lee Horton contributed to this story.