The game will be different – touch instead of tackle football – but playing in the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic on Saturday will still matter, players say.

“It’s a pretty big honor to be recognized and to be asked to play in the Lobster Bowl,” said Jacob Humphrey, a receiver and defensive back from Bonny Eagle. “It’s a great cause. I’ve had family who have been Shriners and family who have been in and out of their hospitals. So it’s an honor to represent the state of Maine, help a good cause, and to help give back to what they gave to my family.”

Maine was one of four states that did not have a high school tackle football season during the pandemic-plagued 2020-21 school year. Initially, Lobster Bowl organizers thought that would mean a second straight summer without the all-star charity game, which was played 30 straight summers from 1990-2019. Last summer’s game was canceled because of the pandemic.

Instead, organizers announced two weeks ago that they would hold a day-long event at Lewiston High featuring a series of 7-on-7 touch football games. Maine high school teams were allowed to play 7-on-7 last fall.

“It was important for us to give these young men the opportunity to have something to play for and make memories on the football field one last time,” said Joe Hersom, the president of the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic. “We think this will bring a lot of people together, the football community as a whole from across the state, as well as the Lobster Bowl community.”

Approximately 120 of the states’s top skill players from the Class of 2021 have been divided into eight teams, each with one primary quarterback. They’ll spend the morning getting to know each other and learning the plays they’ll be running, followed by games in the afternoon and evening. Pool play begins at 2 p.m., with quarterfinals starting at 4 p.m., semifinals at 5:30, and a championship game at 7:30.

“Of course I want to go out and win a lot of games, but at the same time it’s more to have fun one last time, to throw the football around one last time,” said Gavin Rawstron, a quarterback/defensive back from Oak Hill.

Prior to the final game, all players will be recognized, including the 45 interior linemen who were nominated for the Lobster Bowl but will not be participating because of the 7-on-7 format.

As is usually the case, the Lobster Bowl will represent the final chapter as a football player for the majority of the participants. Humphrey (UMass Lowell) and Rawstron (University of Southern Maine) will be playing baseball in college. Wells High grad Jonah Potter starred as a running back and linebacker, but he’ll stick to wrestling at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

“The Lobster Bowl is a pretty big honor, so when I found out I had a chance to play, the first thing that came to my mind was, ‘That’s a pretty cool thing.’ The other thing for me, this will be my last competitive football experience,” Potter said. “Like all of the seniors, I missed out on a little bit this fall and I definitely wanted to take advantage of this new opportunity presented to me, no matter what it looked like.”

Typically, the ticket price for the Lobster Bowl is $10 and players are asked to commit to raising a minimum of $500 for the Shrine Hospitals in a three-month period leading up to the game.

This year, admission is free, though donations are encouraged. Because the rosters were set only a few weeks ago, players were asked to raise what they could without a mandatory fundraising goal.

“I actually have tried to do quite a bit of fundraising, talking to a lot of local businesses,” Rawstron said. “My grandfather was a big part of the Kora Shrine for almost his whole life. For us seniors, it’s great to have a game, but it’s more than that.”

Humphrey agreed, saying, “It’s definitely nice to finish off my football career to support a good cause that’s meaningful.”

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