One sign that the sports world is getting back to normal is the resumption of postseason all-star events.
That includes the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic football game, which is set to return to its original format for the first time since 2019 on Saturday, July 16, at Don Roux Field on the campus of Lewiston High School.
The all-star game that features the state’s top high school senior football players from the previous season was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, then resumed with a 7-on-7 non-tackle tournament last summer.
This year’s game will return to its 11-on-11 tackle football roots, with approximately 90 players from around the state set to participate.
“We’re super excited about it. We’re trying to make sure that the game stays alive and keeps moving in the right direction,” Lobster Bowl president Joe Hersom said. “I think there’s a lot of anticipation for this year’s game coming off a great high school season that made things feel somewhat back to normal. We’re hoping this is another step in that direction.”
This will be the first time the traditional Lobster Bowl will be held in Lewiston, home city of the Kora Shrine and where last-year’s 7-on-7 competition was held.
Recent Lobster Bowls have been held at Hill Stadium on the campus of Thornton Academy in Saco, and before that they were contested at historic Waterhouse Field in Biddeford.
“This is very comparable to Thornton Academy,” said Hersom of Don Roux Field. “It seats comfortably 3,000-plus and then we can bring in additional bleachers and accommodate up to 5,000. That would be a pretty cool sight to see.”
The move of the game to Lewiston coincides with several Shrine-related anniversaries being observed this year — the 150th anniversary of the Shriners, the 130th anniversary of the Kora Shrine and the 100th anniversary of Shriners’ Hospitals.
“It’s a big year for us, and having the game right in Lewiston where the temple is located is going to be exciting,” Hersom said. “We felt like coming off a two-year absence that if we were going to change it up now was the time to do it, especially in conjunction with these anniversaries.”
Lobster Bowl week activities will begin with pregame camps for both the teams and cheer squads.
The East and West teams will gather at Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft on Sunday, July 10, for a week of workouts leading up to the game, while the cheerleaders will convene at Central Maine Community College in Lewiston beginning Tuesday, July 12, to work on their Lobster Bowl routines.
The Lobster Bowl banquet is scheduled for Friday evening, July 15, at the Anah Shrine Hall in Bangor, and a pregame meal is planned for participants on Saturday at Lewiston High School as prepared by The Green Ladle, the culinary arts program at the Lewiston Regional Technical Center.
The teams will be led by the head coaches originally selected for the 2020 Lobster Bowl, Danny White of Foxcroft Academy for the East and Chris Kates of Lisbon for the West.
The Lobster Bowl serves as a fundraiser for Shriners’ Hospitals in Boston and Springfield, Massachusetts, and that effort continued during the last two years even though the game wasn’t held in 2020 and differed from its regular format last summer.
Two years ago the players selected for the game raised more than $75,000 despite not having a game, and last summer’s 7-on-7 effort raised $10,000 to be donated to each hospital.
“On three weeks’ notice the participants in last year’s 7-on-7 came up big for us and raised money that we otherwise wouldn’t have had,” Hersom said. “And we were fortunate with the 2020 group that raised an amazing amount of money and we were able to give our largest donation ever.”
This year’s fundraising efforts are expected to be boosted by a new website that will include donation links so people can donate directly to the cause through the player or cheerleader of their choice.
“Since we’ve released the rosters, just the outpouring of support for all the selected participants and the game itself has been awesome to see,” Hersom said.