BIDDEFORD — It was a showcase of Maine’s top high school gridiron talent.
And “Ronny Football” took it over.
Ronald Hargrove of Portland High turned on the jets to score two touchdowns and nearly had a third as the East squad galloped to a 32-13 victory over the West on Saturday in the 25th edition of the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl at Waterhouse Field. It was the second consecutive victory for the East, and cut the West’s all-time lead in the series to 18-7.
Hargrove blew by West defenders to catch perfectly placed 33- and 31-yard scoring strikes. They came on identical plays. Hargrove faked a slant pattern, then became a blur down the right sideline. He also grabbed a 62-yard pass but fumbled and recovered the ball just short of the goal line.
After the game, he was seen raising his hands and rubbing his fingers together in the motion popularized by Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, aka Johnny Football. Hargrove called it his “money dance.”
“A lot of people questioned who ‘Ronny Football’ was, so I felt like I had to come out and show them,” Hargrove said with a wide grin.
Hargrove praised his quarterbacks, Matthew Martin and Ben Lucas.
“They both are really gunslingers. They put the ball on the dime every time,” he said. “And where the receiver can get it and the defense has no chance, no matter who’s covering.”
Of the near-touchdown, in which Hargrove simply sprinted down the right sideline and appeared to have only daylight, he said sheepishly:
“I dropped the ball. I do this thing where I bring the ball up, I guess, which I’ve got to stop. And he made a good play and he knocked it out. But I got it back.”
Martin scored on a 1-yard plunge on the next play so there was no damage. Martin scored three rushing touchdowns and was named the East’s MVP.
The East defense forced four turnovers, including a crucial fumble recovery at its 7 late in the first half. The West struggled to connect on passes throughout the game.
“We were worried a little bit more about the run, but that’s because we had so much faith in our DBs to take care of the pass,” said Madison-Carrabec linebacker Christopher Hayden, one of the East’s rocks.
“It’s amazing. My team, we had a losing season, so it’s nice to win a big championship game like this.”
The West trailed 20-6 at halftime after failing to capitalize on terrific field position. But quarterback Nick Emmons of Kennebunk led a 16-play, 86-yard drive that consumed most of the third quarter to cut the deficit to 20-13. Fifteen of the plays were runs.
“We didn’t finish our drives. It was right in front of us,” Emmons said of the first half.
“We kept chugging and got it in. We got some momentum but we just came up short.”
Running back Andrew Libby of Thornton Academy was named the West’s MVP.
For Martin, his trophy marked a bittersweet moment. The Hampden Academy star played his final football game Saturday. He plans to pursue baseball only as a pitcher at Miami Dade College.
He said he clicked with Hargrove immediately when the team first gathered last Sunday, probably because they both have outgoing personalities.
“He can pretty much blow by anyone, so it was just my job to get it out in front of him, and I did,” Martin said.
He was low-key about his running touchdowns and the hardware he earned, as well.
“We put in a heavy formation. We brought in a couple of big old ‘backers who like to hit. And I was lucky enough to get the call around the end zone, so I did what I could to pound it in,” Martin said.
“I got lucky, made a few plays and just happened to get this MVP. I’m happy about it.”
Mark Emmert can be reached at 791-6424 or