Deering’s Rob Dacey corrals Oxford Hills’ Ryland VanDecker during the West’s 55-18 win over the East in Saturday’s 28th annual Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic. Dacey had an interception and made several other key defensive plays for the West, which now leads the all-time series, 19-9.
Adam Birt photos.
More photos below.
W- 7 19 22 7- 55
E- 0 6 12 0- 18
W- Gilbert 9 pass from Day (Farrar kick)
W- Ekedahl 15 pass from Day (kick failed)
W- Succi 35 interception return (pass failed)
W- Halls 4 pass from Veino (Farrar kick)
E- Archambault 90 interception (rush failed)
W- Halls 30 pass from Veino (Farrar kick)
W- Hetherman recovered fumble in end zone (Dickman pass from Curit)
E- Hafford 30 pass from Heath (pass failed)
E- Furrow 76 pass from McSweeney (rush failed)
W- Ekedahl 62 pass from Veino (Farrar kick)
W- Day 1 run (Farrar kick)
SACO—Cape Elizabeth’s Ben Ekedahl and Deering’s Rob Dacey weren’t thrilled with the way their senior year high school football seasons ended last fall, but Saturday afternoon at Hill Stadium on the campus of Thornton Academy, they got to take the field one final time and they, as well as their West teammates, bowed out in style in the 28th annual Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic.
One year after surrendering 58 points, the West’s defense went from maligned to dominant, thanks in large part to the play of Dacey, while the offense was unstoppable nearly all afternoon, as two Ekedahl TD receptions helped lead the way to a decisive 55-18 win over the East.
The West now enjoys a 19-9 all-time lead in the series.
Other Forecaster Country players taking part Saturday included Jesse Devereaux and Jackson Gordon of Class B state champion Brunswick, Cheverus’ Rylan Benedict and Dominic Casale, Falmouth’s Brandon Martin, Freeport’s T.J. Morrill, Morse’s Raz Baltazar, Mt. Ararat’s Robert Hetherman, Portland’s Nick Archambault and Dylan Bolduc, Scarborough’s Aren Dickman and Dakota Joy, South Portland’s Finn Zechman and Yarmouth’s Remi LeBlanc.
Net proceeds from the game go to the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
An hour or so before kickoff Saturday, the sky was cloudy and there was a chill in the air, but the sun would come out and as we’re accustomed to on the third Saturday in July, conditions wound up plenty warm indeed.
The location was different this year as Biddeford’s Waterhouse Field is in the midst of having its bleachers replaced, so the game was moved to Hill Stadium, the site of many big games over the years.
After the pregame festivities, the West got the jump.
The West won the opening coin toss, drove 66 yards in eight plays in less than three minutes and took the lead for good on a 9-yard pass from Bonny Eagle quarterback Cam Day to Oak Hill receiver Steven Gilbert. Mountain Valley’s Kyle Farrar added the extra point for quick 7-0 lead.
The East drove to midfield on its first possession, but had to punt. The East then got a golden opportunity to pull even when Sanford quarterback Frankie Veino fumbled with Brunswick’s Devereaux recovering at the West 37.
The East drove to the West’s 16, thanks a pass from Cony quarterback Taylor Heath to Edward Little receiver Tyler Blanchard, but the march stalled there and a 35-yard field goal attempt from Skowhegan’s Garrett McSweeney was blocked by Wells’ Deandre Wood.
After forcing a West punt, the East again threatened, driving to the 16 after a facemask penalty, but McSweeney threw incomplete on four straight passes and the West took over on downs as the second quarter began.
After the teams traded punts, the West rediscovered its offense and extended its lead.
Starting from its 24, Day hit Sanford receiver Ethan Belanger for 13 yards, then found Ekedahl for 18 more, with a 15-yard personal foul facemask penalty tacked on, to put the ball at the West’s 30. Five plays later, on third-and-5 from the 15, Day threw high into the end zone and Ekedahl soared to bring it down for the touchdown. The extra point was no good, but with 9:36 to play in the first half, the West had a 13-0 lead, thanks to a seven-play, 76-yard, 2:15 drive.
The West’s defense then made its presence felt in a big way, as on a third-and-11 play from the East 26, McSweeney was intercepted by Traip Academy’s Angelo Succi, who returned it 35 yards for a touchdown. The West’s two-point conversion pass failed, but with 8:38 remaining before halftime, the lead was 19-0.
After forcing the East into a three-and-out, the West’s offense got back in the fun with a four-play, 30-yard, 1:07 drive.
After Veino found Lisbon’s Tyler Halls for 29 yards on third-and-13, the tandem hooked up again on a quick hitter in the end zone for a 4-yard score with 4:38 on the first half clock. Farrar added the PAT for a commanding 26-0 lead.
The West forced a three-and-out and looked to to completely put the game out of reach by the break, but a huge play from the East made things interesting at halftime.
The West started at the East 23 after a fake punt went for naught, but with time for one more play from the 14, Day tried to hit a receiver over the middle only to have Portland’s Archambault jump the route. Archambault caught the ball at the 10 and with nothing but free turf in front of him, took off.
Archambault, who suffered a season-ending knee injury back in September, somewhat made up for his frustrating senior season by racing 90 yards to the end zone, barely breaking the plane before being caught from behind, for a stunning score.
“I just dropped back a little bit and I don’t think the quarterback saw me,” Archambault said. “He threw it right to me. I almost dropped it. I had to get on my horse. I wasn’t sure if I would make it, but I was so happy. It was a fun play. I was hoping it would give us some momentum, but it didn’t carry over.”
“That was unbelievable,” said Windham’s Matt Perkins, the East’s head coach. “That was a great play. He couldn’t finish his senior year, but for him to come out and shine, I couldn’t be happier for him.”
McSweeney’s two-point conversion rush was denied, but the East only trailed, 26-6, at halftime.
In the first half, the West outgained the East, 206-79, and overcame two turnovers while forcing one.
Any momentum the East might have gained on Archambault’s interception return quickly disappeared when the second half commenced.
The East got possession to start the third quarter and drove to the West’s 46, but Portland’s Bolduc, the Fitzpatrick Trophy finalist, was held to no gain on fourth-and-2 and the West took over at its 46.
Four plays later, the West was in the end zone again.
After Veino threw incomplete, he hit Ekedahl for 24 yards. After another incomplete pass, Veino found Halls from 30 yards out for the score and Farrar’s PAT made it 33-6.
The West forced a punt on the ensuing East possession, but McSweeney hit Mattanawcook’s Carter Ward for 7 yards on a fake to keep possession. The West held again and this time, the snap went over McSweeney’s head and rolled all the way into the end zone when Mt. Ararat’s Hetherman fell on the ball for a touchdown with 8:10 to play. Curit found Scarborough’s Dickman for a two-point conversion pass and the West had its biggest lead, 41-6.
To its credit, the East refused to hang its head and got the next two touchdowns to make things interesting.
The East started its next drive from its 6 and marched 94 yards in eight plays to score its first offensive points. After Cony quarterback Taylor Heath hit Brewer’s Tyler Hafford twice for 12 yards to get things moving, the tandem hooked up from 30 yards out with 5:11 on the clock. Dacey broke up the two-point conversion pass and the West still held a 41-12 lead.
The East then held the West to a three-and-out and despite starting at its 10, marched 90 yards for another TD in a drive that chewed up just four plays and 1:34.
After McSweeney hit Blanchard for 10 yards and Hafford for 14, McSweeney dropped back, threw over the middle and the ball bounced out of a receiver’s hands, off a defender and into the eager arms of Mt. View’s Colby Furrow, who went the distance for a 76-yard score. A two-point conversion rush by Oxford Hills’ Ryland VanDecker was stuffed and the West’s lead was 41-18.
That would be as close as the East would get, as it didn’t score again.
It took Veino and the West a mere three plays to answer, as with 58 seconds to play in the quarter, Veino found Ekedahl alone behind the defense on a post pattern and Ekedahl went 62 yards for the score.
“It’s a talented group,” Ekedahl said. “All week, we practiced throwing the ball. We were ready. We knew we’d have good matchups.”
Farrar’s extra point made it 48-18.
The next time the East had the ball, the drive ended on a Dacey interception on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The West then drove 35 yards for the game’s final score.
After Belanger ran for 22 yards, Day kept the ball for 12 yards to the 1. On the next snap, with 13:42 left, Day bulled into the end zone. Farrar’s PAT made the score 55-18.
The West’s defensive dominance continued two plays later, as McSweeney was intercepted by South Portland’s Finn Zechman.
“The quarterbacks were the main focus,” but the big thing was our West receivers were so talented,” Zechman said. “It was great to go against that competition in practices. It prepared us to be able to run a lot of man coverage and not worry so much of getting beat over the top.”
A highlight reel interception by Lawrence’s Gunner McAlister, who stole the ball from Halls in the end zone, got the ball back for the East, but it went three-and-out.
That would be it for scoring chances and at 6:58 p.m., after 3-hour, 11-minutes, the West got to celebrate its 55-18 triumph.
“I can’t say enough how honored I am to have played for the greatest coaches in the state of Maine and I can’t thank my teammates enough,” Dacey said. “I consider them brothers and my best friends. It’s been the most fun week of my life. I’ve never experienced anything like this.”
“It was an amazing experience,” said Ekedahl, who will play club lacrosse at the University of Colorado next year. “Playing with kids I’ve played against my whole career and hated, but now I realized that they’re great guys. It’s really cool to have this kind of great sporting event.”
“These are really good players and they’ve been really good all week, but we were a couple inches short today,” Perkins lamented. “When you lose this game obviously you’re disappointed, but the big picture is that these guys raised more money than has ever been raised. That’s way bigger than this game. That’s what this is about.
“This week has been awesome. I’m so impressed with these kids. I coach in a league that is so competitive. The boys from Portland you think have a certain identity, then you hang out with them for a week and they’re all heart. They treat everyone with respect. They’re so coachable and they were a joy to be around.”
The West’s defense came up big on several occasions when the East was threatening in its territory.
“We loaded up on defense and it panned out for us,” Dacey said. “I can’t give enough credit to our defense. The work we put in showed. We worked our tails off all week. Three practices a day, but we came out on top. I’m very proud of everybody.”
“We definitely talked about not giving up 50 this year,” said West defensive coordinator Lance Johnson, the Scarborough head coach. “We were a little nervous. We played a lot of plays in the first quarter but we were able to keep them out. The effort that we practiced with and played with, it just made a difference throughout the whole week and made a difference today. We decided to play a five-man front and we had a lot of line movement up front. We did a lot of slanting and twisting of those guys to try and get somebody free so the (East quarterbacks) didn’t have a lot of time back there. And then we were just very athletic on the back end, our secondary. I got a little nervous last night thinking why did I decide to run this front in this game. My cup’s always half-full. I thought we were pretty athletic in the secondary, so I thought that we could contain their receivers.”
Each team turned the ball over three times.
Day, who was named the West’s Most Valuable Player, finished 9-for-15 passing for 114 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed for 33 yards on 11 carries.
Veino was 7-for-12 for 149 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Ekedahl, who was given the Class B John R. Schmidlin Trophy in light of his outstanding play during the season as well as good citizenship, caught five passes for 132 yards and two TDs in a memorable swan song.
Bolduc, the Fitzpatrick Trophy finalist who was given the Class A Schmidlin Trophy, was held to just 30 yards on 12 carries.
His teammate, Archambault, meanwhile, was named the East team’s MVP, as his final football experience before he goes off to college at Yale was a memorable one.
“It’s really special and I’m very grateful,” said Archambault. “I’m glad I had one more shot to go out the way I wanted to and show the state what I could do. It doesn’t make up for everything because I would have rather played my entire season with Portland, but winning MVP was very cool. I wasn’t expecting it. We have a lot of worthy guys who worked their tails off today and had a great game. I’m humbled that the coaches and fans thought so much of me. I think it’s a reflection of the work I’ve put in. I appreciate it.”
Sun Journal staff writers Wil Kramlich and Randy Whitehouse contributed to this story.
Portland running back Dylan Bolduc tries to catch a toss from the East’s quarterback. Bolduc, a Fitzpatrick Trophy finalist, was held to 30 yards on 12 carries.
Brunswick’s Jackson Gordon blocks York’s Ryan Daley. Gordon, who won a Class B state title with the Dragons last November, wasn’t able to bring home a Lobster Bowl title with the East.
Deering’s Rob Dacey breaks up a pass intended for Mattanawcook’s Carter Ward.
Brewster Burns / Sun Journal photo
Freeport’s T.J. Morrill played wide receiver for the triumphant West squad.
Mt. Ararat linebacker Robert Hetherman looks to make a tackle. Hetherman scored a second half touchdown when he recovered a fumble in the end zone.
Cheverus defensive back Dom Casale covers Yarmouth receiver Remi LeBlanc.
South Portland’s Finn Zechman defends a pass intended for Oxford Hills’ Connor Bickford.
Brewster Burns / Sun Journal photo.
Cape Elizabeth receiver Ben Ekedahl had a huge day, catching five passes for 132 yards and a pair of touchdowns in helping the West to the victory.
Portland linebacker Nick Archambault smiles after being awarded the East team’s Most Valuable Player. Archambault set a new Lobster Bowl record with a 90 yard interception return for a touchdown, the East’s first score, just before halftime.