Four Midcoast gridiron players and a coach, who will part in their final games, will be among the 100-plus participants in the 29th annual Maine Shriners Lobster Bowl Classic, set for Saturday, July 21 at Thornton Academy.

It is the second straight year the event will take place at Thornton Academy after the event was held at Waterhouse Field in Biddeford for the previous 27 years.

From the area schools, Oceanside’s Jack Freeman, Belfast’s Konnor Harford, Medomak Valley’s Garrett Bowers and Mount View’s Matt Keating will be part of the Lobster Bowl’s East squad.

Belfast coach Chris Bartlett also will be one of the East squad’s coaches. Bartlett recently announced he would step down from his post as the Lions’ head coach after nine season, thus, this will be Bartlett’s final game coaching.

"I am so grateful to have one last game and for it to be for such a great cause," said Bartlett. "This will definitely be a special one and getting a chance to coach one last time with some of my closest friends who coach other teams is the best thing I could have hoped for."

The Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Game was created to raise money and help make the public aware of the 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 play in the Lobster Bowl.

Oceanside coach Wes Drinkwater said Freeman was “a very good defensive end” in addition to tight end and “he will be representing us at the Lobster Bowl and at West Point in the fall.”

“Jack was the vocal leader of the team this year,” said Drinkwater of Freeman. “He played a lot of different positions for us, which was an enormous help. But in my opinion he was the best tight end in the league. Smart kid, had a knack for knowing how to set up a block and more than willing to finish one. People don’t give him enough credit for being as good an athlete as he is. He has great hands and nice body control.”

The Mariners finished the regular season with a 5-3 record and advanced to the Class C North semifinals.

The Panthers finished the regular season 4-4 and narrowly missed the playoffs, but Bowers was one of Medomak Valley’s top defensive players.

Bowers had 44 solo tackles, 40 assists, three fumble recoveries, two quarterback sacks and one interception and was third in the league in total tackles. His efforts earned him a second-team all-conference selection.

“We’re excited for Garrett to have the opportunity to represent our program and his teammates in the Lobster Bowl this summer,” said Medomak Valley coach Ryan Snell. “He was the leader of our defense this year as our middle linebacker, and we look forward to seeing him compete on the football field one last time.”

Harford was a defensive lineman for Belfast and was selected as second-team all-conference. He had more than 60 tackles on the season and a sack for the Lions.

"He is a very quiet leader and he helped keep everyone, especially the younger kids, in the game," said Bartlett. "This is a unique situation because his dad, Ron, is a Shriner and Konnor is becoming a Shriner. So there could be a Shriner playing in the Shriner's Lobster Bowl."

Keating played on the offensive line and also played linebacker for Mount View, which finished with a 2-6 record.

“It was a pleasure to coach him,” said Mount View coach Rick Leary. “He’s just a true young gentleman, great team player, always put the team first and he was one of our captains. He played hard every practice and hard in every game.”

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