DOVER-FOXCROFT — Tyler Janelle was the last player added to the West roster for the 27th annual Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic – but he’s not complaining.

“I realized that it’s not easy to make the team and there are a lot of good players,” said Janelle, who played wide receiver and defensive back for Biddeford High and was added to the roster when another player dropped out. “I mean, it kind of sucked to not get picked but I never really gave up because my coach said, ‘Hey, you never know. They could always call. Be ready for that phone call. So I was hoping every day.”

In fact, Janelle had taken Lobster Bowl week off from his summer landscaping job, just in case he got the call and could take the field at Biddeford’s Waterhouse Field one more time.

Meanwhile, West Coach Stacen Doucette of Oak Hill had identified Janelle as a potential replacement. Just in case.

“We had taken (Biddeford’s) Lucas Rhoy on offense,” Doucette said. “Since I’m not real familiar with the guys from (southern Maine), I watched a lot of film. We saw Tyler as someone who could help us and, as it turned out, we had a need at cornerback.”

The Lobster Bowl at 4 p.m. Saturday will feature the state’s top seniors from the 2015 high school football season.


While Janelle jumped at his chance to participate, other players are increasingly declining invitations.

“I’d call it a trend,” said Rick Hersom, a Shriner who has been associated with the Lobster Bowl for 20 years. “You’re asking them to give up a week of their summer. Some have (American) Legion baseball. They have jobs. For some, it’s a lot easier to say no than it is to say yes.”

The game is sponsored by the Kora Shrine, with all net proceeds donated to Shriner hospitals. Over $500,000 has been raised over the previous 26 years.

Each player is asked to raise a minimum of $500. All players spend Sunday through Friday at a training camp at Foxcroft Academy.

Future college players are sometimes restricted from playing. Thornton Academy quarterback Austin McCrum could not participate because he is currently at Lafayette College for football camp, according to B.J. Robbins, the West team’s athletic director. McCrum accepted a scholarship from Lafayette.

But to players like Janelle and Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Joe Esposito of Portland High, the Lobster Bowl is still something special and well worth any personal sacrifices. Esposito will play fullback and linebacker for the East team.


“I’m not playing in college and I just remember taking my pads off for the last time was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do because I’ve been (playing football) since the second grade,” said Esposito, who will attend the University of Rhode Island. “Just having this last chance to go play and do something I really love, I can’t turn down an opportunity like that.”

Janelle is looking to write a better ending to his football career. Two days before last fall’s Class B quarterfinal playoff game against Westbrook, he suffered a bad ankle sprain. All he could do was watch as Westbrook came into Waterhouse and beat the Tigers 39-13. Two of Westbrook’s touchdowns came on 44-yard pass plays to Bailey Ryan.

“My season ended short,” Janelle said. “So I didn’t get my last game on my home field. I was really hoping for another game and I ended up getting it. It’s really going to be a big game for me.”

Doucette said the 6-foot-1 Janelle will factor into the game plan.

“He’s an athletic defensive back,” Doucette said. “We haven’t decided (starters) yet, that’s how competitive it’s been.”

The East features tall receivers in 6-foot-3 Andre Miller of Old Town (35 catches, 11 TD catches as a senior) and 6-foot-4 Hunter Smith of Foxcroft Academy.

“I’ve played against some big kids, (who are) fast and strong. Size doesn’t really matter to me,” said Janelle. “Just go up there and play my game.”

NOTES: Esposito said when the East is in its Wing-T formation, he’ll be at fullback with Brunswick’s Will Bessey and Bangor’s Dane Johnson as the wing backs. Combined, the trio rushed for 4,711 yards and 57 touchdowns as seniors. … Cheverus lineman Frank Curran, originally on the East team, is not playing because of an injury suffered in lacrosse. … East Coach Bob Sinclair of Orono was the head coach once before, leading the East to its first win in the series in 1999. … The West leads the all-time series, 18-8, winning last year’s game 45-21 to break a two-year skid. … The East will also employ a spread formation on offense. “It’s our job to put the playmakers in a position to do what they do best,” Sinclair said.

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