Leavitt Area High School’s Hunter Hayes raced 90 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter after stripping the ball from an opposing ball carrier, and that proved to be decisive as the West Football Team rallied for a wild 40-35 win in the 31st annual Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl at Don Roux Field in Lewiston on Saturday.
The proceeds go to the Shriner Hospitals for Children.
The West, which trailed 29-13 with under two minutes left in the first half, expanded its lead in the series to 21-10.
The game wasn’t played in 2020 due to the COVD-19 pandemic and, last season, it was replaced by a seven-versus-seven format due to COVID-19 limitations.
Trailing 40-35 in the fourth quarter, the East failed to score on its last three possessions as the West defense tightened up and stopped three fourth-down plays, including one deep in its own territory.
“Our guys played incredibly well,” said East head coach Danny White, who guided his Foxcroft Academy Ponies to the state Class D title last season. “But we made a few too many mistakes. There were a few massive swings [in momentum], a few big body blows that we couldn’t avoid. That was the difference in the game.”
One of those massive momentum swings occurred late in the first half when the West scored two touchdowns in the final 1:52.
Kennebunk’s Keegan Andrews threw a 71-yard TD pass to Gardiner’s Ryan Bannister with 1:52 remaining and, following a Hayes interception and 22-yard return, Andrews threw a screen pass to Marshwood’s Cam Cornett and he weaved his way 30 yards to pull his team within one at the intermission.
“The lead evaporated in two big plays,” White said.
The coach said the other turning point was Hayes’ strip and 90-yard TD run, because his team was on the verge of adding to its one-point lead.
The West had taken the lead early in the third period when Andrews threw a 39-yard pass to Ryan Thurber of South Portland to set up a two-yard TD run by York’s Hayden Henriksen.
But the East responded when Marcus Hampton from Skowhegan scored on a one-yard run, which finished off a five-play, 34-yard drive following an interception by Stearns/Schenck’s Elliot Shearer.
The East opened the game’s scoring when Hampton sprinted 57 yards for a TD.
Portland’s Aidan Dimillo answered with a four-yard run for the West.
DiMillo rushed for 82 yards in the first half.
Andrews connected with Bannister on a 20-yard TD pass to make it 13-8 but the East rattled off the next three TDs on a 40-yard pass from Windham’s Will Leadbetter to Cony’s Ashton Dennett; a one-yard run by Hampton to polish off a drive that began after a fumble recovery by Oxford Hills’ Isaiah Oufiero; and Hampton’s 19-yard halfback option pass to Dennett.
Andrews completed 14 of 21 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns to lead the West. Henriksen carried the ball 18 times for 85 yards.
Hayes was named the West’s Most Valuable Player, and he also led the West in fundraising for the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Hampton was the East MVP as he rushed for 157 yards and three touchdowns on 37 carries, and he also threw a TD pass.
Leadbetter completed 12 of 19 passes for 120 yards, and Foxcroft Academy’s Austin Seavey completed seven of 11 passes for 75 yards.
Cheverus’ Braden Smith was the East’s top fundraiser.
White said it was a terrific event and there was an exceptional crowd on hand as Lewiston hosted it for the first time.
“I am humbled to be part of the cause and grateful for the experience,” White said.