HEBRON – Peter Gwilym has played in several all-star games over the years. He quickly found out that the Maine Lobster Bowl Classic is no ordinary all-star game.

The game, played for the benefit of the Shriners Children Hospitals and Shriners Burns Institutes, brings together the top football players across the state who graduated this year. Some will go on to play in college, as Gwilym hopes to do at Ohio State. Others will never play a football game again.

When the West team put full pads on for the first time earlier this week, Gwilym was surprised by the intensity that followed on the practice field.

“I’ve played in all-star basketball games and it’s a much different feel,” said Gwilym, the quarterback/defensive back who led Cheverus to the Class A state championship last fall. “In those you just chuck up 3s and don’t play any defense. Here it’s a little different.”

It’s a lot different. While the game is played for charity — this year’s game, the 22nd annual Lobster Bowl Classic, once again pits East vs. West and is at 4 p.m. Saturday at Biddeford’s Waterhouse Field — it is still a football game.

“We’re not practicing to lose,” said Jim Aylward, the West coach from Mountain Valley. “We know it’s a charity game. At 4 o’clock on Saturday, there’s only one way to play football, and that’s to go 100 miles an hour.

“We have a great respect between the staffs and the players. But Saturday at 4 o’clock, we’ll be ready to play. We’re trying to win this ball game. That’s the only way to play football.”

Aylward added, “It’s not like an exhibition baseball game where you get your at-bat or run out your ground ball. You go only one way in football. It’s structured and we have expectations and we have assignments and alignments and, mentally and physically, this is challenging. This is a football season crammed into one week.”

And the players quickly found that out.

When they first arrived, players from each squad were measuring themselves against each other. “At first,” said Jonathan Higgins, a West linebacker from Greely High in Cumberland, “everyone had their chests sticking out.”

Soon, he said, the West players realized they were teammates.

“Now we’ve become friends and teammates,” said Higgins. “And we’re looking at the other team.”

That other team is the East, which has won four of the last five Lobster Bowls. They hope to keep that streak going

“You always want to win,” said Luke Duncklee, a quarterback from Cony High in Augusta. “You’re also representing your school and the entire East.”

Mike Hathaway, the coach at Leavitt High in Turner and the East’s head coach, talked about putting a good product on the field, to showcase the best talent in the state.

He has stressed coming together as a team — and representing the East.

“We also have a lot of pride in the fact that the East has done well recently,” he said. “It’s our job to keep that going. It’s a football game. So on Saturday at 4, everyone is going to want to win.”

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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