HEBRON – If anyone had a reason to walk away from football after his high school career ended, it was Steve Trask of Thornton Academy in Saco. Both his junior and senior seasons ended with knee injuries in the playoffs.

And with University of Maine baseball calling in the fall, it would be easy for Trask, a talented quarterback, to give up football.

But ever since Sunday he has been at Hebron Academy, practicing with his teammates on the West team, preparing to play the East in the 21st Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic at Biddeford’s Waterhouse Field at 4 p.m. Saturday.

“I want to play one more time,” said Trask on Tuesday morning during the event’s Media Day. “I wasn’t ready to put the pads away for good.”

Besides, he said, “This is a great opportunity, a great cause. I love football and I just hope I come out of it without an injury.”

It is that cause — to raise money for the Shriners Children’s Hospital and Shriners Burns Institutes — that has attracted nearly all the 90 players, 17 coaches and 60 cheerleaders to this event. Each player and cheerleader is required to raise $300 for the Shriners.

For many, it will be the last time to play competitive football. For others, it is a head start on preseason college practice, which will begin in a couple of weeks.

But for all, it’s a chance to make a difference in the lives of others. All the net proceeds go to the Shriners. And they need it. According to a news release, the Shriners are treating more than 125,000 patients nationwide, with nearly 1,500 living in Maine.

“We talk about that every single time we’re at practice,” said Bill County, the Lewiston High head coach who will lead the East team.

“It’s an extraordinary event.”

No one personifies that more than Eddie Warren, a place-kicker from Sacopee Valley. Warren, who was born with deformed feet, plays with prosthetic legs, having lost both to surgeries that were performed at the Shriners Hospital.

“My first impression of Eddie Warren is that he’s a great kid, the type of kid you want to be around,” said Kevin Cooper, the Bonny Eagle High coach who is leading the West. “He’ll look you in the eye, talk to you man-to-man, just a fantastic kid to begin with. The fact that he’s a pretty good kicker is a bonus for us on the field.

“And lastly, he’s the positive proof that what the Shriners do for kids is simply fantastic. For him to be able to come out here and play in this football game, hopefully it will give everybody the message that you can succeed at a high level in sports with the right assistance.”

Warren said “it means a lot to me to be playing for my hospital and putting on a show for all of the kids who actually go to my hospital. I think the game may mean a little more to me because I’ve actually been treated by Shriners Hospital, but I think it means a lot to my teammates too.”

Oh it does, for many reasons.

Frank True of Harpswell and Mt. Ararat said he has gone to the last six Lobster Bowls, always looking ahead to his senior year. “I made it a goal to play in this game,” he said. “I was pretty happy to be selected to play with some of the best players in the state and to be playing for the kids. Hopefully we can make a lot of money for them.”

Mickey O’Brion, an offensive lineman from Cheverus, started thinking about playing in the Lobster Bowl as a freshman. “I was waiting and hoping to play in it,” said O’Brion, who will continue playing football at Salve Regina in Newport, R.I. “For one, it means a lot to be selected as one of the best players in the state. For another, it’s a different type of game from a regular high school game. It means something. It’s good to be playing for a cause.”

Players such as Bangor’s Lonnie Hackett, a talented running back who will continue at Bowdoin, said the chance to play with “people you saw on television on the highlights” is very meaningful.

“I’ve looked at this game for the last four or five years and just wished that one day I’d be in it,” he said. “It’s a great charity event, and there’s not much more you need to say.”

Brunswick’s Rashon Edgerton and Windham’s Jackson Taylor will play this fall at UMaine. On Saturday, they’ll be playing against each other for “bragging rights,” said Edgerton. But for something more as well.

“It honestly means a lot to be playing in this game,” said Edgerton. “It’s an honor to come out here and play for the East and represent my town one more time. Also raising money for the Shriners Hospital. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.

“It’s cool to get to know the guys that we schemed against in high school and the guys who were the best on their teams. I’m really having a good time, just hanging out with these guys. It’s a good experience.”

So special that someone like Trask wouldn’t pass up the chance to be part of it.

“We’re out here playing a game we love,” he said. “We’re not doing anything special. We’re just having fun. And we’re doing it for a great cause.”


Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: [email protected]