BIDDEFORD – The motto for the annual Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic is “strong legs run so that weak legs may walk.”

That motto, which reflects the fact that the annual contest benefits the Shriners Hospitals for Children, was especially apt for the 22nd edition of the game Sunday at Biddeford’s Waterhouse Field as Portland’s Imadhi Zagon used his powerful legs to end a two-game losing streak for the West, leading them to a 16-13 win over the East all-stars.

Zagon, who was named the West’s MVP, made his big move with 4:20 left to go in the fourth quarter. The East had just taken a 13-9 lead on a three-yard touchdown run from Edward Little’s Teven Colon and Zagon, who had 65 yards rushing, two touchdowns and 150 total purpose yards in the contest, dropped back to take the kickoff.

Taking the ball at the West’s 15, Zagon sprinted up the field and broke several tackles before losing his shoe around the West’s 40.

That’s right, he lost his shoe, but that didn’t slow him down.

With shoe off and the other one lying on the field, Zagon turned outside and flat-out sprinted down the West sideline, leaving the East’s kickoff coverage team in the dust as he went in for an 85-yard touchdown to give the West the lead for good. According to the Lobster Bowl media guide, it was the first kickoff return for a touchdown since the fifth Lobster Bowl in 1994.

After the game, several teammates were still amazed at Zagon’s return.

“That was awesome,” said Sanford’s Shawn Goodrich, who had a second-quarter interception and several key tackles in the contest. “I thought he was down there when they had his legs, but he hopped out of it, and I was like ‘yes.’”

“We go into that (play needing a score) and Imadhi just takes off, it was crazy,” added Massabesic’s Andrew Hammond.

Westbrook’s Trevor Bates playfully took the credit for inspiring Zagon right before his run. “I went up to him and gave him a little pep talk (right before the return) and just got him fired up a little bit and he was right into it,” said Bates with a smile after the game.

“I think I was running down the sideline with him,” Thornton Academy quarterback Woodward said. “He was hurt most of the week, and it was great to have him come back the last couple of days, because we really needed him in this game.”

“We were all thanking Imadhi a million times,” said Bonny Eagle’s Nate Martel. “That kid was clutch, he deserves the MVP.”

Zagon’s clutch run capped a wild game where the West, battling the twin opponents of the oppressive heat and the East all-stars, came from behind twice to seal the win.

The East got on the board first in the game just four minutes into the contest. Facing a fourth and inches on the West 25, Bangor’s Joseph Seccareccia hit Belfast’s Lani Eversage down the sideline for a 29-yard touchdown and it was 7-0 after Leavitt’s Maxwell Cloutier hit the extra point.

The score stayed the same until the West finally got on the board with 6:48 left to go in the second quarter, but no player on the West had anything to do with the score. Instead, the team was credited with a safety on a botched snap by the East that sailed out of the end zone, making it 7-2. The play marked the first-ever safety in Lobster Bowl history.

Feeding off the momentum, the West took the lead with 5:02 left in the first half as Zagon scored his first touchdown of the game. Taking the pitch from Deering’s Jamie Ross, Zagon got around the end and down the sideline for a 27-yard touchdown run, making it 9-7 after Ross added the point after.

The game stayed that way until the fourth quarter when it seemed the East burst the West’s bubble, taking the lead on Colon’s touchdown plunge to give the East a very temporary 13-9 lead before Zagon came through and slammed the door on the very next play.

“It was fun out there, it feels good to win and bring it back to the West,” Goodrich said. “It was very hot, but it was good playing on only one side of the ball, it makes it a little bit easier.”

“It was really fun to play with these guys. (It was a) great ending with a win,” added Hammond.

Scarborough’s Michael Cyr also acknowledged the extreme heat, but he didn’t let the conditions get in the way of his enjoyment of the day. “It was a good game,” he said. “It’s always fun playing football. Bringing it back to the West was a good thing, especially after we lost the last two years.”

While the game was a thriller, the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic is about so much more than the score at the end of the game, as was evidenced by the way the players mingled freely with each other and talked about how the experience would stay with them as they left high school and went on to college.

Biddeford’s Nick Gagne had an experience unique from anyone else on either squad, as he was playing on his home field one final time. “It was special,” he said. “I saw a lot of people I knew on the field before the game and they were just giving me their support and it was really nice to have that home field kind of feel.”

Woodward said that he was glad to be leaving Waterhouse Field as a member of the winning team, something that didn’t happen this fall when he visited as a member of the Thornton Academy Trojans. “It was definitely better than the last time I played here (at Waterhouse Field), because we lost a tight one, so it was good to get the win,” he said.

Gagne said he especially enjoyed getting to know his West teammates.

“All week, we didn’t know each other when we got to the camp and we just got really good friendships formed and I’m going to keep in touch with some of these guys,” Gagne said, adding he was happy to be a part of helping out the Shriners Hospitals for Children. “It’s a really special thing for what we’re playing this game for, for the Shriners and the hospitals.”

“It was a great experience meeting all the guys I usually play against and being on their team,” Goodrich agreed.

“It’s a charity football game and it’s great to play with all these great players,” Woodward said. “All week in practice, everyone was competing, so it was awesome to see all the good talent that’s in the league.”

“It was great,” agreed Martel. “We’ve been making friends all week playing with teammates that we’ve been going against all year. It’s great, the camaraderie and both sides played a great game.

Bates said while the game was a lot of fun, all of the players in the game knew that they had a special chance to make a difference in the lives of the patients at the Shriners hospitals, and they all made the most of that chance. “It was an opportunity that everyone embraced,” Bates said. “We all had a great time all week and especially after the banquet, we got to view what it was really for, I think it was a really special opportunity.”

Imadhi Zagon of Portland finds a hole in the East defense on
Saturday. (Staff photo by Mike Higgins)

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