BIDDEFORD – Jeff Amell raced off the field and headed to the nearest cooler filled with ice water — and dunked his head. Seconds later he wrapped his head in a soaking-wet cold towel.

“That,” he said, “was the hottest high school game I’ve ever played in.”

Amell and his West teammates, particularly Imadhi Zagon and a defense that intercepted five passes, overcame the 94-degree heat Saturday and the East to win the 22nd Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic 16-13 at Waterhouse Field.

Zagon scored both touchdowns for the West on highlight-reel plays. First he gave the West a 9-7 lead with a stirring 27-yard run in the second quarter. Then he put them ahead in the final quarter with an 86-yard kickoff return, covering the final 65 yards without his left cleat, ripped off his foot by a would-be tackler.

“I just didn’t want to stop,” said Zagon, the former Portland High standout who will next play at Husson University in Bangor. “I wanted to keep going. I wasn’t going to let anything stop me.

“I was going to do whatever I had to do to help the West win, bring it back.”

The victory snapped a two-game winning streak for the East. The West has a 16-6 lead in the series.

With temperatures hovering in the mid-90s, the game was as much about keeping your cool as it was about playing football.

An hour before the game, officials met and decided to shorten the quarters from 15 minutes to 12, and ordered mandatory water breaks.

“We discussed the pros and cons,” said Jason Fuller, the game’s athletic director. “For the safety of everyone, that was the thing to do.”

Bangor quarterback Joe Seccareccia can attest to how hot it was. He threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Lani Eversage early in the first quarter to give the East the lead, but wore down under the heat.

After the game he said he had a throbbing headache.

“Other than that I’m doing good,” he said. “I’m not used to this heat. I’m not going to use it as an excuse for the way the game turned out, but it happened.

“Definitely, the heat was a factor.”

This was a 9-7 game, the West leading, entering the fourth quarter, which turned out to be spectacular theater.

“Heart and soul, that’s what it was,” said Edward Little running back Teven Colon of the fourth.

The East, which twice had a bad shotgun snap hurt the offense (one leading to a safety and the other resulting in a 30-yard loss on a second-and-goal from the 1 in the third quarter), put together a strong drive behind Cony quarterback Luke Duncklee and Colon, who scored on a 2-yard plunge with 4:36 left to give the East a 13-9 lead.

It didn’t last long.

Zagon took the kickoff at the 14. He ran to the right, bounced off a tackler and then was met at the 35 by three East defenders. He lowered his shoulder, kept his legs churning and — stunningly — broke away, his left shoe in the hand of an East player.

He broke to the right sideline and was gone.

“I don’t even remember losing it,” he said. “This really does mean a lot.”

The West defense then rose up, intercepting two final passes — both by Alex Rose of Livermore Falls — to seal the win. Peter Gwilym of Cheverus also had two interceptions for the West before injuring his right shoulder in the fourth quarter.

“I’m so glad we pulled this off,” said Amell, who is heading to Bridgton Academy. “It means a lot. It’s fun to play in front of all these people and with all the guys I’ve been playing against my whole life.

“The whole week was a blast. I wish I could do it again.”

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

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH