Jul. 12—DOVER-FOXCROFT — While many of the dozens of recently graduated high school football players stood or posed in a football position with a ball in their hand as they got their picture taken for Lobster Bowl media day at Foxcroft Academy on Tuesday, Jake Umberhind from Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale posed in a split in an ode to his part on the Monmouth cheerleading team.
Umberhind is just one of many players that have been grinding through multiple practices a day since Sunday gearing up for the 32nd annual Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic on Saturday at Lewiston High School's Don Roux Field. The game is scheduled to start at 4 p.m.
The lineman's pose was out of the ordinary, for sure, but this year's game is getting back to normal, including the return of down linemen.
After a 7-on-7 tournament that moonlighted as the Lobster Bowl last summer, and the cancellation of the game entirely the year before, this year's game will revert back to an 11-man tackle football game. Both West team coach Chris Kates of Lisbon and East coach Dan White of Foxcroft Academy are happy to be back to normalcy.
"The 7-on-7 was fun but obviously not the same," Kates said. "Getting the kids up here, playing a real football game, they're doing the fundraising to get here and it's great for the kids to be able to experience it. I'm hoping there's a lot of excitement for the game and people come out to support."
"I really feel like the normalcy that they all talk about, what we all crave, is to play an 11-man tackle football game," White said. "It's great that we're back in this format. We're hosting (training camp) where I work and I live in this community, so it's a big deal for our community and our school to be able to host this, so that's not lost on us either."
White is excited to learn from his players and the coaching staff he chose. Like the players, White's been absorbing all the knowledge he can.
"I think, first and foremost, the kids continue to impress me," White said. "Not just with their play but the level of character of the kids is so high. That's most important. They're great people, kids, and being with these coaches that I selected is a special thing. To be able to be blessed with picking coaches who I wanted, I am truly humbled when I go to practice and I can observe. I do a lot less X's and O's here because the kids are in good hands. The whole experience thus far has been very enlightening, and I can take a step back and just enjoy the experience of the whole thing."
Oxford Hills head coach Mark Soehren is running the East offense, while Windham assistant Donny Ledbetter is coordinating the defense.
"You can't help but admire the way they go about it and the way they inspire the kids a certain way," White added. "And, frankly, their ability to teach it is amazing. Frankly, we're all learning here. Not just the kids. Myself included, so it's humbling."
Over the first three days of training camp at Foxcroft Academy, players have been practicing. A lot.
On Sunday and Monday, the players practiced three times a day. On Tuesday, teams practiced just twice, with media day taking place before lunch.
Kates said each practice has been different.
"I think we've had some good practices and the kids are working hard," Kates said. "It's always hard feeling kids out the first couple of days, but I think we're starting to identify who should be where, for the most part. Obviously, we try to throttle the workload down a bit. Sometimes it's just helmets or a walk-through. It's a lot of football for these kids. Especially by Tuesday, their energy is down and these kids, they're going to bed early."
Kates is also using his coaching staff to help learn about players in different classes. He said the coaches have an idea of the position each player will play on Saturday before the players arrive to practice but have assessed each spot during the week.
"We've started to especially identify the kids from Class A and Class B guys," Kates, whose Lisbon squad plays in Class D, said. "We see some of the Class C guys because of some crossover scouting but there is a lot of talent everywhere, including the 8-man group. We've got a few really good guys from the 8-man ranks. We pre-identify when we pick the roster; we kind of identify where people should be. During the week, you might move a couple guys around to maximize their skill set but for the most part we do coach the guys in just one position."
Umberhind, of course, will be on the West line in Saturday's game, in a more normal stance than the one he showed off Tuesday.