Duncan Preston had a personal game plan for Saturday: Step back, look around, pay attention when the opposing quarterback throws the ball.
“I’ve heard a lot about Ben Lucas,” said Prescott, “but I’ve never watched him in a game. I want to see how good he is.”
Preston grinned. He was the South Portland High quarterback last season. He was pretty good himself. He shared the quarterbacking duties for the West with Nick Emmons of Kennebunk in the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl on Saturday night.
Preston had to execute the game plan drawn up by the West coach, Joe Rafferty, and his staff.
The Lobster Bowl has evolved over its 25-year existence into an offensive shootout but the emphasis remains on winning the game. And the East did that in style, with a 32-13 victory.
Preston understands competition and pride. He also understands the night’s context. The thousands of fans at storied Waterhouse Field in Biddeford bought tickets to see a showcase of the best high school players who graduated a month ago.
The money raised through the players’ efforts helped Shriners provide aid to ill and injured children, and that remains just as important.
Two days or two decades after the game, the score will be less important than the memories. The number of touchdowns, turnovers and tackles will be forgotten. The experience won’t.
Certainly, Preston and Lucas and everyone else fastening their helmet chinstraps went into the game playing to win. The Lobster Bowl hasn’t become a high school version of the Pro Bowl, played for laughs only.
Rafferty has been a Lobster Bowl coach 11 times, two as head coach. He can laugh. He saw too much of Lucas in the Class B championship game last fall when the Cony High quarterback rallied his team with a remarkable second-half passing performance.
After that game, Rafferty stood in front of the Cony team to praise them. Well done, boys, well done. He had said much the same to his own team when it left the field without the victory and the state title.
During the week of practices at Hebron Academy, Rafferty felt like a kid with an overstuffed toybox. At one practice it took about 15 minutes to put in four new plays. He might have needed a few days back at Kennebunk working with his own team, simply because of the mix of experience and talent levels.
“I keep telling myself I can’t play with all the toys at the same time,” Rafferty said Tuesday. “I’ve got to keep it simple.”
Preston had his own toys. He never played behind an offensive line like this one. Isaiah Reynolds of Bonny Eagle and Jedidiah Scott of Sanford are 300 and 295 pounds. Matt Powell of Leavitt is 280. Ian Paul of Thornton Academy is a bit lighter. Tristan Castonguay of Spruce Mountain is 210 but plays much bigger.
Preston grinned again. The big boys were all-star bodyguards he didn’t really have in the regular season. But then, the defense he and Emmons faced was unlike any other, too.
Rob Vachon, the East’s head coach, had his own so-called problems. After last year’s realignment, the typically strong football programs at Cheverus, Portland, Deering and Windham were shifted to the East. Vachon, the Cony High head coach, quickly realized he had a game-day roster with more depth than he’d ever see during a season. Lobster Bowl games rarely have two-way players, a staple of Maine high school football.
“What do I do?” said Vachon and he was kidding. “Is Justin Zukowski (of Portland) my running back or my linebacker?”
Lucas alternated with Matt Martin of Hampden Academy on Saturday night and there were targets galore, from Ronald Hargove Jr. of Portland to Troy Gurski of Waterville and Fred MacLean of tiny Washington Academy.
After a 25-year run of Lobster Bowl games, former players are coming back to coach. Vachon had three – B.L. Lippert, a Cony High and Colby College grad, and Brandon and Barry Terrill, two brothers who represented Orono High. They understand the unique spirit by which this game is played.
Play to win. Play to celebrate the effort. At the Lobster Bowl, that’s not difficult.
This story was updated at 4:42 p.m. on Monday, July 21 to correct Duncan Preston’s name.