The Frank J. Gaziano Memorial Offensive and Defensive Lineman Awards are now developing a history. After winning the defensive lineman award on Sunday morning, Thornton’s Bobby Begin realized he is now part of that history.
“It’s crazy, just to consider myself along the line of the former winners — Luke Libby (and) Logan Mars, last year, ” Begin said. “Those kids were outstanding citizens, students, players and just to be recognized as an equal as them is unbelievably incredible.”
Begin and Kurt Massey of John Bapst were announced as this year’s Gaziano winners at the organization’s annual banquet at the Augusta Civic Center. The other finalists were Mt. Blue’s Zak Kendall and Bangor’s Greg Duff on the defensive side and Orono’s Jack Lucy and Bonny Eagle’s Andy Martel as offensive linemen.
Begin and Massey each received a $5,000 scholarship from National Distributors, Inc. in South Portland, a company founded by Gaziano. The other four finalists each received $1,000 scholarships.
Coaches nominated a total of 31 players, and 19 underwent sit-down interviews with the selection committee. That list of 19 was pared down to six finalists.
Begin plans to attend the University of Maine, but said he will not play football in college. He has a 3.96 GPA and started at center and linebacker each of the past two seasons.
Massey led the Little Ten Conference in sacks this year with seven and was second on John Bapst in tackles. He is looking at Maine, Merrimack and the University of New Hampshire, according to John Bapst coach Dan O’Connell.
After announcing Massey as the winner, Peter DeSimon commented that Massey is one of the best defensive linemen he’s seen in Maine.
“More than anything, he’s an asset to the school community,” O’Connell said. “Ultimately, just a good football player, and definitely fueled by a great attitude. Whether or not he’s the best to come out of Maine in a while, I guess that remains to be seen, but I don’t think Kurt would say that, only because he’s such a humble kid, too.”
Begin’s Thornton team won the Class A state title this season. Kendall’s Mt. Blue squad also won a Gold Ball, and it brought back memories of Mt. Blue quarterback Jordan Whitney, who was not a Fitzpatrick Trophy finalist, talking about the Gold Ball and saying, “That’s the more important trophy, anyway.”
“I couldn’t agree with that more — Gold Ball and state championship over any awards, any day,” Kendall said. “Football really is a team sport. These individual awards are nice, but when it comes down to it, a state championship is all that matters at the end of the day. When I look back on to it, I’m not going to be looking at this award. It’s going to be the Gold Ball I’m thinking about, back in our high school.”
Sunday’s keynote speaker was Waterville native John Huard, who played in the NFL with the Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints, and with two Canadian Football League teams.
Huard told stories about his career as a player and coach, and advised everyone in the audience to coach at the high school or college level instead of the pros, because you’d have more control over your destiny that way.
“The one advice I would give you people is: Be on time,” Huard said. “Don’t be five minutes early. Be 10 minutes early.”
Huard also credited his defensive lineman teammates for helping him become a standout linebacker.
“Defensive linemen protected me for years,” he said. “They kept people off me so I could make the tackle. But nobody ever knew their names. I knew their names.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243