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High school football

Three Mustangs, Panther, Lion tackle Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic

At this point, game for football players, cheerleaders set for July 18
By Mark Haskell | Apr 08, 2020
Courtesy of: Maine Shriners; artwork by Holly Vanorse Spicer

Saco — Five Midcoast student-athletes — three on the gridiron and two the sidelines — will get the opportunity to represent their high schools one final time in what many call the athletic showcase of the summer.

The 31st annual Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic, set for Saturday, July 18 at Thornton Academy, features the best of the best of senior high school football players and cheerleaders — and for a good cause.

This year, Mount View’s Garrett Smith, Kaylee Corson and Shauna Randall, Medomak Valley’s Erik Benner and Belfast’s Isaak Cunningham fit the bill, and will participate in the highly-popular event.

Smith, Benner and Cunningham will be members of the East squad, while Corson and Randall will represent the East cheerleaders.

The event was created to raise money and awareness of the Shriners orthopedic and burn care facilities available, regardless of the patients’ ability to pay, to children who need specialized care.

It also is a rite of passage for departing Maine high school seniors as the best of the best are selected to represent their schools.

The student-athletes, whom are nominated by their coaches and selected by a committee from the Maine Athletics Association, also commit to a week-long training camp prior to the game.

Each player is obligated to raise $500 for the Shriners to earn the opportunity to participate in the Lobster Bowl.

As of now, there are no plans to push back or cancel the event as COVID-19 (coronavirus) continues to make an impact on athletics throughout the state.

Cunningham was Belfast’s feature running back in the fall as he racked up 1,400 yards of total offense with 15 touchdowns. As a defensive back, Cunningham finished with 65 tackles and four interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. He also was a second-team, all-conference selection in the Big 11 Conference.

Lion coach Brian Goff said making the Lobster Bowl “was a goal we set for Isaak during the winter months after Isaak’s junior season.”

“Having played in Shrine Bowl 1 back in 1990 myself, I told the entire team that it was one of the best days of my life and challenged all of our senior class to try make it a goal to make it to this football game,” said Goff. “Being named and playing against the state's best football players is quite an honor.”

Belfast finished the regular season 5-3, secured the No. 5 seed in the Class C North playoffs and lost to No. 4 Hermon in the quarterfinals.

Benner was a first team, all-conference selection in the Big 11 Conference and played offensive and defensive line for the Panthers. He led the team in tackles with 33 solos and eight assists, while also adding two sacks.

Panther coach Ryan Snell said Benner was a constant for the Panthers on both sides of the ball and was "a focal point of other teams offenses, so he was constantly double-teamed."

"Offensively we ran behind him a lot, and he produced for us," said Snell of Benner. "He was a constant for us all four years and set the standard for lineman in our program. Erik will be a great representative for us in the Lobster Bowl and [will make] his hometown of Friendship proud."

“I always heard about the Lobster Bowl growing up, but didn’t truly know a lot about the game until my friend Brendan Lash, number 56, represented Medomak Valley High School and brought attention to the Lobster Bowl," said Benner. "I was still in middle school at this time. I knew then my goal was to play in it my senior year of high school, but after Brendan passed away, it became a driving force to get there and play for him.”

Benner added, “I’m honored to be selected and if the game happens, which I really hope it does, I’m ready to compete with some of the best football players in the state and [will] try to represent the best I can for Medomak [Valley].”

Medomak Valley finished the regular season 3-5, secured the eighth and final seed in the Class C North playoffs and lost to top-ranked Winslow in the quarterfinals.

Smith was a hard-working wide receiver for Mount View who led the team in receptions and receiving yards, despite the fact he regularly drew double coverage from defenses.

“Garrett worked extremely hard as a player,” said Mount View coach Rick Leary. “He’s a good team leader, [and] showed up to practice every day. Of all the players, he and [teammate] Mark [Ward], they just left it all out on the field.”

He added Smith, who was a tri-captain and also played defensive back, was “a fabulous, hard-working young man and matured a lot as the season went on.”

Mount View finished the regular season 1-7 and did not qualify for the Class D North playoffs.

"Being able to participate in the Lobster Bowl is a huge and exciting opportunity for me," said Randall, a four-year cheerleader at Mount View. "I did not have the best winter season of cheering due to a concussion. I'm excited to take the opportunity to end my senior year of cheering on a more positive note. I'm really excited to meet new people and have one last chance to cheer."

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