DOVER-FOXCROFT — Can the East even compete against the star-studded West in the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic all-star football game Saturday?

To East lineman Bailey Pelletier of Brunswick, the answer is obvious.

“Look around. We’ve got some of the best players in the state of Maine,” Pelletier said, directing a hand toward his new teammates. “They’re not better than us in all phases of the ball. Yeah, they’ve got big kids, fast kids, but they’re not better than us.”

Pelletier may be proven correct when the 29th Lobster Bowl, a fundraiser for Shrine hospitals, is played by the recent graduates at 4 p.m. Saturday at Thornton Academy’s Hill Stadium.

But based on postseason honors, the West has a big edge.

Each year Maine high school senior football players vie for three major awards: The Fitzpatrick Trophy goes to the top overall player, and the Gaziano Award honors the best defensive and offensive linemen.

All three winners are on the West: Scarborough running back Owen Garrard (Fitzpatrick), and the Bonny Eagle duo of Zach Klein (Gaziano offense) and Arlo Pike (Gaziano defense).

In all, 25 seniors were selected as semifinalists for the top awards, with nine finalists. The West has 14 semifinalists and eight finalists. The East has four semifinalists and no finalists.

The West also has a 9-5 edge when it comes to Maine Sunday Telegram All-State selections.

It’s not just the subjective award process that favors the West, which draws from the schools in the Maine Principals’ Association’s South regions.

Last fall three teams from the South won state championship games in blowouts and South teams went 34-7 in regular-season interregional games.

Only Maine Central Institute bucked the South-centric trend, beating Cape Elizabeth in the Class C title game.

East defensive back Tanner Bernier of Windham knows all about what happened last fall. Scarborough beat Windham 57-0 in the Class A final.

“The most first-hand it gets,” Bernier said. But Bernier doesn’t think the 2017 season directly translates to the 2018 Lobster Bowl.

“Absolutely the East can compete,” Bernier said. “We’ve got some guys that are pretty solid at every position.”

Shrine rosters are a collection of the best one or two (sometimes three) players from up to 36 schools.

“I feel pretty good about our kids,” said East Coach Dan Cooper of Brunswick. “We’ll be able to compete. We’ve got some great players. When you take 45 kids from 36 schools you can put together a pretty good team.”

The East does have Garret Hartley, the Fitzy semifinalist and Varsity Maine Male Athlete of the Year, at quarterback. Messalonskee All-State running back Austin Pelletier rushed for 1,441 yards. MCI linebacker Adam Bertrand, Skowhegan receiver Cam Barnes (58 catches, 969 yards, 12 TDs), Cheverus defensive linemen Zeb Leavitt, and Bernier were All-State picks.

Barnes, Skowhegan’s Jon Bell (45 catches, 870 yards), Class A North Player of the Year Maxx Bell of Edward Little and 2016 All-State pick Jordan Roddy (70 catches, 708 yards) of Cony provide plenty of downfield options.

“We have kids from the North that are going to compete, going to battle,” Bernier said. “And we’re not just going to go there and expect to lose.”

The West leads the series 19-9 and dominated last year, 55-18.

The East can point to its 8-7 edge over the past 15 games.

“I think the East always wants to win more than the West because they lost for so many years,” said West Coach Dick Mynahan. “My kids just have to realize that when the game starts, we’re going against a rival team that wants to be physical and strong, and we need to play to win.”

The West quarterbacks are Fitzy finalist Jack Bryant of Falmouth (1,509 passing yards, 1,036 rushing yards, 35 total touchdowns) and semifinalist Connor Sirois of Bonny Eagle (team-record 22 TD passes).

Garrard (1,204 yards, 24 touchdowns), Kennebunk’s Jake Littlefield and Dirigo’s Cooper Chaisson will run behind two sets of offensive linemen that include Klein, Gaziano finalist Cole Hoffman of Kennebunk, and semifinalists Jack Webb of Thornton and Nick Works of Sanford.

“We can do whatever we want. We’ve got the linemen up front. We can pound the ball, we have great receivers, great quarterbacks,” Garrard said.

On defense the West has an All-State linebacker trio in Wells’ Nolan Potter (the other Fitzy finalist), Thornton’s Cam Houde and Cape Elizabeth’s Ryan Weare. Class B champ Marshwood is represented by top defensive backs Kyle Glidden (another All-State pick) and Joe Taran. The defensive line features Pike, and Gaziano finalists Aiden Parmenter of Leavitt (6-4, 270) and Michael Lunny of Sanford (6-2, 200).

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

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