DOVER-FOXCROFT — For every player, the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic is a chance to represent their high school one last time.

But for Joey Cassella, there is a greater sense of finality and responsibility.

Because Greely High has merged its struggling program with Falmouth, Cassella could be the final Ranger to play in the Lobster Bowl, an all-star game for recently graduated high school seniors from across the state.

“I think that means a lot. That meant a lot to the (Greely) coaching staff that I went. They really pushed for it,” said Cassella, who will play at safety for the West squad Saturday at Thornton Academy. “Everyone in the program wanted someone coming to represent them.”

Joey Cassella was Greely’s leading rusher last fall, but he will play at safety for the West squad in Saturday’s Lobster Bowl. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photorapher

David Higgins, who resigned as Greely’s coach after last season, said he didn’t have to do much lobbying on Cassella’s behalf. Cassella was a Varsity Maine All-State choice and three-time all-Campbell Conference pick.

“His credentials speak for themselves,” Higgins said. “This is an honor he earned on his own.”

Greely had struggled with its participation numbers for years. But after going 5-5 with a 22-player team that included 10 seniors, it was clear changes would have to happen. In March, both the Cumberland and Falmouth school boards approved a cooperative agreement to allow Greely players to play with their former archrivals.

“It really does make me sad knowing that I put all that time and effort into Greely football and no one else is really interested,” Cassella said. “It’s kind of sad to see something that I cared about for so long just get pushed aside and combining with our rivals.”

Cassella led a core group of committed seniors that helped Greely reach the Class B semifinals four straight seasons. But the consistent success failed to generate enough young players in the pipeline. Only one freshman played football for Greely in 2018 and the middle school program had already merged with Yarmouth.

Like most of his classmates, the 5-foot-8, 180-pound Cassella was used to playing the entire game. He led Greely in rushing with 994 yards and nine touchdowns on 175 carries. He caught six passes for 94 yards and another score. He played on every special team. As a hard-hitting strong safety, who often attacked blockers and ball-carriers at the line of scrimmage, he made 55 tackles with two interceptions.

On Saturday, Cassella will be playing safety. No blitzing is allowed, so his primary focus will be covering pass receivers.

“He knows what his assignments are and he takes that seriously,” said Mike Marston, the West’s defensive coordinator. “But I’m sure that he’ll be anxious to hit somebody in the game.”

Cassella said he’s enjoyed the Lobster Bowl experience. He’s even gotten to know a former Falmouth player, defensive end Riley Reed, and he has a message for his former Greely teammates who might be hesitant about joining forces with Falmouth.

“I met a guy from Falmouth. They’re not all that bad,” he said, with a laugh. “He’s a good guy. It’s good to actually talk to him after all these years playing against him.”

One other thing Cassella will discover is what it’s like to watch a chunk of the action from the sideline.

“Only playing one way, it’s gonna be weird,” he said. “It’s gonna be maybe even uncomfortable.”

Cassella will be playing for Plymouth State College in Plymouth, New Hampshire, this fall. But he has one more game as a Ranger.

“This is a game I’ve wanted to play in for as long as I can remember, always wanting to go and represent Greely as that guy,” he said.

If Cassella does become the final Ranger in the Lobster Bowl, “he is the right guy,” Higgins said. “He exudes all the values that us as a coaching staff and me as a head coach have tried to bring forward.”


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