When the Mt. Blue High School football team played at Gardiner in the regular season, Gardiner quarterback Dennis Meehan had some success running to the side patrolled by Mt. Blue defensive end Zak Kendall. When the teams met for a rematch in the Pine Tree Conference Class B semifinals, Kendall was ready.
Kendall dominated the game. Knowing Meehan liked to roll out and throw on the run, Kendall made sure his first step was to the outside, containing Meehan and keeping him in the pocket.
“I had a big game that night,” Kendall said. “It’s a big job containing Meehan.”
The 6-foot-2, 265-pound Kendall finished the game with three tackles for a loss, and Mt. Blue earned a 33-21 win.
“(Kendall) did such a good job in that game containing Meehan,” Mt. Blue coach Gary Parlin said. “The Gardiner playoff game was his best game.”
That game was just one highlight in a strong season for Kendall, who helped lead the Cougars to the Class B state championship and an undefeated season. Now, Kendall is a defensive finalist for the Frank J. Gaziano Award.
The award, which goes to the top offensive and defensive linemen in the state, will be presented in a ceremony at the Augusta Civic Center on Sunday. Thirty-one football players were nominated for the award, the most nominations in the Gaziano’s three-year history.
The Gaziano Award is named in honor of Frank J. Gaziano. The founder of National Distributors, Gaziano graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 1941 and played professional football with the Washington Redskins and Boston Yanks.
Joining Kendall as finalists on the defensive line are Greg Duff of Bangor and Kurt Massey of John Bapst. On the offensive line, the finalists are Bobby Begin of Thornton Academy, Jack Lucy of Orono, and Andy Martel of Bonny Eagle. Each winner will receive a $5,000 scholarship, with each runner-up receiving $1,000.
Kendall had 59 tackles, four sacks and a fumble recovery for the Cougars, who beat Marshwood 44-42 in the state championship game. A tight end on offense, Kendall caught a 20-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to give the Cougars a nine-point lead.
Kendall interviewed with the Gaziano selection committee on Jan. 8. When he checked his email at school the next morning, Kendall learned he was a finalist.
“I never considered myself a big, top guy,” Kendall said. “This is an honor.”
Parlin said Kendall stands out not just because of his football talents, but for the things that have nothing to do with football.
“When you see him in the hallway, he always has this (big) grin on his face. He’s friendly with everybody,” Parlin said. “He’s just a great kid. He’s more than just a football player.”
A talented musician, Kendall plays guitar, harmonica, banjo and violin, and also sings. Kendall said folk and blues are among his biggest musical influences. Kendall cited rock-folk artist Mason Jennings as one of his favorites.
“It’s just him and a guitar,” Kendall said.
When the Mt. Blue football teams holds a benefit dinner to raise money for championship rings this weekend, Kendall will provide the musical entertainment.
“I’m always going to think of all the other things he does other than football,” Parlin said.
Kendall hopes football is in his future. Among the colleges he’s considering are Endicott and Norwich.
“It’s tough to go to school and keep the music thing going and the football thing going, but I hope I can make it work,” Kendall said.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242