SACO — For the past three years, it had been a punchline. In each Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic, the East’s defense had been a movable object, a resistible force, and the path of least resistance for a West team that lit up the scoreboard.

With the West loaded with offensive talent again, it was supposed to be the same story Saturday. The East defense, however, wrote a new narrative, swarming ballcarriers, harassing quarterbacks and turning punter Kyle Glidden into the West’s star player.

The final score was 40-14. It was 6-0 at halftime. And it wasn’t a fluke. The East defense – led by relentless efforts in the trenches from Konnor Harford of Belfast, Zeb Leavitt of Cheverus, Tyler Bean of Brewer, Adam Bertrand of MCI and Ryan Fredette of Winslow – couldn’t be budged, setting the tone for a win few saw coming.

“We won this game with grit,” said Leavitt. “It’s in our bones. We’re a rowdy group, we’re a tough group, and we’re going to play smash-mouth football every down in this game. … That’s exactly what we did.”

Coach Dan Cooper of Brunswick needed only to look at his roster to get a sense for what his team could accomplish.

“We really had a lot of athletic guys, some tough guys up front,” Cooper said. “Really, our team speed was off the charts. … I knew (defensive coordinator Mike) Marsten of Leavitt would have his troops well prepared.”

There was some significant history to overcome, however. The East allowed 45 points in a loss in 2015, 58 in a win in 2016 and 55 in a loss last year. And with Bates College-bound quarterback Jack Bryant of Falmouth and Fitzpatrick Trophy-winning running back Owen Garrard of Scarborough leading the West attack this time, many thought the East would be overwhelmed again.

“That’s motivation,” Leavitt said. “That’s all that is.”

With the West threatening on its first drive of the game, the East made its first stand. On a third-and-6 from the East 33, Parker Onorato of Morse was first pulled back by Bean, and then finished off by Harford for a 13-yard loss.

Onorato had barely gotten up when a scuffle broke out, with Fredette giving a shove that helped turn it into a fracas with offsetting penalties.

It was as if a message had been sent. This time, the East wasn’t going to get pushed around.

“I think the West expected us to be intimidated and fold, and that was quite the opposite,” Cooper said. “We were ready for anything they wanted to throw at us.”

For the rest of the half and the start of the third quarter, West ballcarriers had nowhere to go. The East swarmed to the ball, plugging holes up the middle and beating blockers to the edge on sweeps. West backs gained only 65 yards on 24 first-half carries.

“We’ve got some big guys up the middle, but we’ve also got that speed behind us,” Harford said. “We were playing with our hearts, because a lot of us aren’t even playing next year. This was our last game.”

The swarming defense was impressive, and the East needed it to be, because the West defense was nearly as stout in the first half.

“The kids worked hard every day. It was six days of hard work,” Cooper said. “The kids played really well. They believed all week.”