East rolls to victory in Lobster Bowl

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Portland’s Vinnie Pasquali tackles Yarmouth’s Jack True during Saturday’s Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl. Pasquali, who returned an interception for a touchdown, was named the Defensive MVP for the East team which prevailed, 40-14.

Derek Davis / Press Herald photos.

Scarborough’s Owen Garrard, the reigning Fitzpatrick Trophy winner, bulls forward for extra yardage.

The 29th version of the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl didn’t go as expected Saturday at Thornton Academy.

The West was predicted to prevail, but thanks to a superb defensive effort, the East rolled, 40-14, in a contest that was a defensive struggle for a half before the many skill players on the field took over.

The West now leads the all-time series, 19-10, but the East has won four of the past six meetings.

The East opened the scoring with a 56-yard pass from Braden Ballard to Jordan Roddy of Cony with 9:15 left in the second quarter and led 6-0 at halftime.

“At halftime, I told them, ‘people have been saying all week that you’re too small, too short, not fast enough, but you guys are dominating that other team right now,’ and they got all fired up,” said East safety Tanner Bernier of Windham. “I told them, you beat them in the first half, go beat them in the second half.”

On the East’s first play of the second half, Ballard hit Jon Bell of Skowhegan in stride and the speedster went untouched 84 yards.

Austin Pelletier then busted off right tackle for a 42-yard score, and Ryan Fredette of Winslow added the 2-point run for a 20-0 lead.

The West got on the board with an 84-yard drive as it opened up the offense. Falmouth’s Jack Bryant, the West offensive MVP, completed four passes, including a 39-yarder to Sean Whalen of Madison. Bryant then capped the drive with a 4-yard scoring run with 1:07 left in the third quarter.

Bryant was 8-for-13 passing for 140 yards, and he ran the ball five times for 30 more yards.

The East responded with a 70-yard drive capped by Garrett Hartley’s 14-yard pass to Oceanside’s Jack Freeman.

Lewiston’s Garrett Poussard added a 4-yard TD run in the fourth quarter. Bryant connected on a 51-yard TD pass to Whalen with 5:25 to play, but Portland’s Vinnie Pasquali finished off the victory in style with a 48-yard interception return. Pasquali was named the East defensive MVP.

“We talked about all week that we were going to come out strong and fast and take them by surprise, and once we got the momentum, we kept going,” Pasquali said.

“We practiced how we were going to play and we played how we practiced, and I think that preparation had a lot do with our commitment to taking them down,” said East defensive lineman Zeb Leavitt of Cheverus. “We had a lot of grit up front. We had a gritty defense. A lot of guys who didn’t get a lot of recognition during the season came out to play in this big game, and we had something to prove.”

“I think the West expected us to be intimidated and fold and that was quite the opposite,” Brunswick’s Dan Cooper, the East’s coach, said. “We were ready for anything they wanted to throw at us. The kids worked hard every day. It was six days of hard work. The kids played really well. They believed all week.”

Press Herald staff writer Steve Craig, Kennebec Journal staff writer Drew Bonifant and Sun Journal staff writer Wil Kramlich contributed to this story.

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