Edward Little’s Leighton Girardin and Lewiston’s Hunter Landry are longtime friends who will be teammates for the East at Saturday’s Lobster Bowl. Randy Whitehouse/Sun Journal

DOVER-FOXCROFT — Leighton Girardin and Hunter Landry have been best friends since they were classmates playing football at Trinity Catholic Elementary School in Lewiston.

The maintained that friendship even after they went their separate ways in sixth grade, when Girardin enrolled at Auburn Middle School and Landry started Lewiston Middle School.

Their bond only got tighter as they spent their high school summers working out together and preparing to battle each other on the gridiron in the fall, Girardin for Edward Little, Landry for Lewiston. So it’s only fitting that they both get to put exclamation points on their respective high school football careers on Saturday as East teammates at the 30th Annual Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic (4 p.m., Thornton Academy).

 

“It’s been our dream since we started playing football,” Girardin said. “It’s surreal playing with each other.”

The rivalry aspect of their friendship ended in rather surreal fashion last fall when the Red Eddies beat the Blue Devils in back-to-back weeks at the end of the season.

Both games, which were played at EL’s Walton Field, were instant classics worthy of major billing in the historic Battle of the Bridge.

Home field advantage for an already assured Class A first-round playoff game between the rivals was on the line in the traditional season finale, and both Girardin and Landry came through for their side.

Landry had an interception off of Girardin, rushed for 99 yards and scored two touchdowns, including highlight-reel 15-yard touchdown run that put the Blue Devils ahead, 22-20, with 1:41 to go. But Girardin broke his best friend’s and Lewiston fans’ hearts by driving the Red Eddies down the field in less than a minute and scoring what ended up being the winning touchdown on a 38-yard run with 52.4 seconds remaining.

Edward Little High School quarterback Leighton Girardin runs behind the blocking of Josh Kaiser during a game against Cheverus in October 2018. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

One week later, Lewiston again took a late lead with a touchdown that made it 13-12 with 3:50 left. And again, Girardin led Edward Little down the field for the winning score, his 4-yard run with 1:42 to go, to give the Red Eddies another comeback win, 18-13.

“All I had in my head at that time was, ‘I don’t want this to be de ja vu,'” Landry said. “We get them in the playoffs and it’s the same scenario. Ugh. That kind of sucked.”

It didn’t take long after that game for Landry to prove he’s a good friend, and a good sport.

“I went to Leighton’s, I think it was two weeks later, and we watched that on film,” Landry said. “I was sitting there watching every play, reliving everything.”

“It was really a roller-coaster ride,” Girardin said. “I don’t think he had a lot of fun watching those last drives. But it was really cool seeing his perspective of what was going on and telling him what I thought was going on. That’s the biggest game of both of our seasons. It’s really cool to relive it with your best friend.”

“He’s a hell of an athlete,” Landry said. “Props to him. When we grew up playing football together, I always knew it would come down to something in our senior year.”

Outside of the playground, they’ve never been teammates (neither played organized football until middle school), although they admit they’ve had some fantasy drafts putting together an all-star Lewiston/Edward Little team.

Girardin will likely see action at both quarterback and wide receiver on Saturday, and Landry at cornerback, so there probably won’t be chance for them to hook up on a pass play.

“We’re on different sides of the ball, which kind of sucks, but we’re meeting a lot of new people and we’re all hanging out and having a good time,” Landry said. “But just being part of the same team, that’s what we had the goal of doing our whole high school careers.”

Girardin said he hopes the speedy Landry gets a chance to get his hands on the ball and show what he can do.

“He’s an incredible runner,” Girardin said. “He’s definitely going to do some big things in this game.”

Landry and Girardin know how tough it is to stand out in a game that invites the state’s top talent to raise money for the Shriners Hospitals for Children. But they surely embody one of the side benefits of the event, that it brings together former foes and often creates new friendships, even among rivals.

Lewiston’s Hunter Landry runs the ball to the end zone for a touchdown as Windham’s Derek Palow gives chase last season. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“There are so many kids from so many different teams that I never thought I’d ever get acquainted with. I’m so happy I have because they’ve got some real talent and they’re some of the most down-to-earth people you’ll ever meet,” Girardin said. “We’re all working together towards one goal. It’s really awesome to be a part of it.”

Both will be playing football again in the fall, but they will be going their separate ways again, Girardin to Husson, and Landry to Bates. But there may be no more appropriate way for them team up than in a game with the enduring slogan “Strong legs run so that week legs make walk.”

“Whereas this is technically my last high school game, I’m also looking at it as opportunity to play for others,” Landry said. “Obviously, I’m having a ton of fun here. But helping others is the whole point of this game.”