The 25th annual Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic kicked off Saturday night, with thousands of spectators filling Waterhouse Field in Biddeford practically to capacity to watch the East’s All-Star graduates lineup across from the West’s.

The West led the series 17-7 heading into the game, but on the strength of Matt Martin’s (Hampden) performance at QB and Ronald Hargrove’s (Portland) at WR, the East inched closer to evening the score, emerging victorious from the gridiron by an impressive 32-13 margin.

“The East squad was high-powered, and they were firing on all cylinders,” said West QB Duncan Preston (South Portland). “We never got really clicking on offense, so we didn’t do what we know we could do.”

Martin opened the scoring, running a keeper into the end zone early in the first quarter. The West need a couple drives to loosen up, but tied things 6-6 with just :02 on the clock when Quincy Johnson (Lisbon) ran a 21-yarder up the left side.

The East promptly began to pull ahead, though. Martin found Hargrove for a 34-yard bomb and another TD on their squad’s very next drive, putting them on top 13-6, and soon ran another across the goal line himself for 20-6.

The score stayed static until the third, when Jon Woods (Bonny Eagle) ran an 11-yarder up the right side for the West, 20-13, but that would prove the sum total of Woods and Co.’s offense for the day. The East, however, notched two additional – another by Hargrove (on a pass by Cony’s Ben Lucas) and one more by Martin, for the 32-13 final.

Most of the roughly 160 boys participating in Saturday’s game won’t go on to play college football, and so they believed, when they finished their senior seasons last fall, that their days on the gridiron were complete. To get the Lobster Bowl invite, then, gives them another chance to strap on their pads – but also faces them with a second bittersweet ending.

“It’s really bittersweet,” said Windham’s Ethan Petty. “When they called me about it, I was just so excited that I’d be able to put the pads on one more time, and this week has been fantastic. I met a bunch of great guys, we really came together, and that last game is one to remember for sure.”

Kyle Heath (Westbrook) showed his emotions more than spoke them. “Last time on a football field,” he observed, choked and teary.

“It’s definitely bittersweet,” said Preston. “But it’s more sweet than bitter. My last game was nine months ago, 10 months ago, so coming out here to play for such a great cause felt really good, no matter what the scoreboard says.”

All proceeds from the event go directly to the 22 Shriners hospitals scattered across North America.

“It means everything,” Petty said of the opportunity to give back by doing something he loves. “It’s such a great cause. We can help a lot of children that are less fortunate than us. I think that was a big message for us, that we were playing for something that was bigger than us.”

“I can’t think of a better way to raise money,” Heath said. “Football, and training camp; it’s so much fun, and it’s for such a great cause. It just puts a smile on your face.”

Freeport’s Joe Nixon lines up for the West.South Portland QB Duncan Preston runs a keeper for the West.Bonny Eagle’s Jon Woods, airborne in the end zone, can’t quite keep his hands on a long throw. The East’s Christian Mowrer of Orono covers.Kyle Heath of Westbrook talks to an official during a break in the action.Windham’s Ethan Petty (52) matches up for the East against Chris Cyr (85) of Scarborough, representing the West.Lake Region’s Cody Gibbons, defending for the West, barrels through a pack of defenders on his way to sacking the East QB.East and West cheerleaders didn’t compete, just cooperated, putting on elaborate pregame and halftime performances.Jon Woods of Bonny Eagle scores the West’s second touchdown.

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