Leavitt’s Wyatt Hathaway tumbles to the ground with the ball while being chased by Lisbon’s Daytona McIver and Kevin Gallie during a 7-on-7 football game at Leavitt last fall. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

The Lobster Bowl organizers called an audible and changed their initial decision.

The Maine high school football senior all-star game, which for 30 years pitted players from the East against their counterparts from the West in a traditional 11-on-11 tackle football game, was facing a second straight summer with no game due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions surrounding it. After initially deciding to cancel this year’s event, organizers instead decided to turn it into a 7-on-7 tournament.

The eight-team tournament is scheduled for Saturday, July 17, at Lewiston High School.

Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway — who Lobster Bowl president Joe Hersom noted as a big influence in bringing the 7-on-7 style of football to Maine for summer workouts — credited Oak Hill assistant coach and Lobster Bowl game coordinator BJ Robbins with doing “the lion’s share of work, pulling (the tournament) together.”

Robbins is also on the executive board of the Maine Football Coaches Association, which Hersom said works closely with the Lobster Bowl and played a big role in the tournament coming out of the ashes of what was originally another canceled Lobster Bowl this summer.

The traditional 11-man football season, along with the relatively new 8-man season, was canceled last fall and replaced by 7-on-7 passing games. Hersom said the coaches decided that a 7-on-7 Lobster Bowl would be the best way to salvage the event.

“We really would have preferred a real game but this is what we have, so we will make the best of it,” Hathaway said, noting that the event will use the same format and rules as the summer 7-on-7 leagues.

Hersom said the round-robin tournament aspect has turned the event into more than the organizers originally anticipated.

Winthrop/Monmouth’s Gavin Perkins scores a touchdown over the defensive efforts of Leavitt’s Ben Sirois during a 7-on-7 football game at Leavitt Area High School in Turner last fall. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal file photo

“We’ve got some great buy-in from eight fantastic head football coaches from across the state and the kids have been really excited about it,” Hersom said. “You know, we weren’t really sure what their response was going to be. We asked the coaches to touch base with them ahead of time to let them know that was an idea that we were looking at, and it was well-received, and I’ve spent the last two weeks on the phone with these kids, the participants that were nominated and selected to be a part of one of those teams. And like I said, the response has been fantastic.”

Hathaway will coach one of the eight teams, as will Leavitt assistant and former Lewiston head coach Bill County, Oxford Hills coach Mark Soehren, Lisbon coach Chris Kates, Mountain Valley coach Devin Roberts, new Oak Hill head coach Chad Stowell, Marshwood coach Alex Rotsko and Gardiner coach Pat Munzing.

“I’m very excited about being involved,” Stowell said. “I coached in the Lobster Bowl two years ago, when my son Caleb (Treadwell) played, and it was a great week. I’m happy for Gavin (Rawstron) and Sam (Lindsay) — Oak Hill’s representatives in the game — as well as all the other participants to have a chance to sort of gain some closure on their football careers.

“I’m sure everyone would have loved to see a ‘normal’ Lobster Bowl, but I think the 17th will be a good day. The Shriners have worked hard to get this event going and I think it will be very enjoyable.”

Aside from choosing the 7-on-7 style and round-robin tournament format, the organizers also had to pick where to hold the event. They turned to the past for this new-look Lobster Bowl, calling on former Lobster Bowl president and current Lewiston athletic director Jason Fuller to ask about using Lewiston High School’s field and facilities.

“Obviously, my history with the Lobster Bowl, I think, is a big part of this,” Fuller said. “I know all the guys on the committee, I was on the committee for 20-plus years. So they just reached out and said, ‘Jay, do you have any interest to do it?’ And I said, ‘Sure, if you guys want to do it, I’m willing to do it.’ So they just called to inquire, and I’ll support the Lobster Bowl at all costs.”

Hersom pointed to Lewiston’s central location amongst the state’s football programs as a prime reason for putting the tournament there, along with the fact that the relatively new athletic complex has two turf fields that can be used.

Oxford Hills’ Atticus Soehren throws a pass over the middle to Addison Brown (25) during a 7-on-7 football game against Lewiston at Gouin Athletic Complex in Paris last fall. Brewster Burns photo

“We got enough field space around here, so we’re going to be able to put on a pretty decent tournament, I think,” Fuller said.

This year’s Lobster Bowl will be an all-day event, starting at 8 a.m. with player check-ins and culminating with a scheduled 7:30 p.m. tournament championship game. The eight teams will be split into a pair of four-team pools. Each team will play three games in pool play before a re-seeding that will be followed by a round-robin playoff. Awards and recognition will take place before the championship game.

Hersom said fans will be allowed, with admission by donation.

The fundraising effort by the players is all voluntary this year, instead of the $500 minimum requirement from previous years.

“Most of these kids would have three months to fundraise, and we’re looking at about three weeks,” Hersom said. “So we didn’t want to put a big, daunting fundraising requirement on top of everything else they’re trying to balance right now, and we were worried that it might even push kids away from participating.

“So we’ve tried to stress the importance of how badly it’s needed and what that money does for the hospitals and for the families and the patients, and I’ve had a lot of them reach back out to me and saying, ‘Where can I send the money to? I want to raise as much as I can. What do you got for ideas? What have you seen kids done in the past?’ So it’s been great to have those types of conversations and understand what these participants have been through over the last two years and still to have them energized to want to play and participate, but also fundraise for the cause.”

The 7-on-7 style of play is a skill-position battle with no linemen play, but the organizers tried to find a way to still get the linemen — who Hersom called a staple of the Lobster Bowl — involved. Each team is mandated to have two linemen, and Hersom said other top linemen have been invited to attend and participate in some fashion. They were also not required to fundraise, but encouraged to if they want.

Hersom also said cheerleaders that responded to invitations will be allowed to attend and be recognized.

Team rosters haven’t been finalized yet, but Hersom noted no team will be stacked with players from one school and Hathaway added that the game committee divided up the eight quarterbacks and then assigned rosters around them. Hersom pointed out that the eight quarterbacks are more than the four to six in a typical Lobster Bowl, and each one will get full playing time for their respective teams.

Hathaway will have his son Wyatt as his team’s quarterback, and fellow Leavitt grad Tommy Casey will also be on the team, but Hathaway said there will be other Leavitt players on other teams. Hathaway’s coaching staff will include Cony coach BL Lippert helping with the offense and Bonny Eagle head coach Kevin Cooper and Leavitt linebackers coach Jim Theiss running the defense. Soehren will have his son Atticus as his team’s quarterback.

“I know it’s an amazing fraternity that the coaches have gotten, that are a part of it,” Fuller said. “So it’s going to be fun. It’s always great to see kids compete and have the community come out and support.”


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