There’s no doubt Skowhegan Area High School offensive lineman Ethan Liberty and Mt. Blue defensive lineman Colin Richards lined up against each other this past season. Their teams played twice, in the regular-season finale and again the next week in the Pine Tree Conference Class B playoffs.
Neither, however, remembers any specifics about their one-on-one battles in the trenches.
“I didn’t pay attention to who I lined up with,” Liberty said. “I just tried to hit them as hard as I could.”
Added Richards: “I probably (lined up against Liberty). I don’t remember guys’ names.”
While linemen don’t get much attention, even from other linemen, it appears, Liberty and Richards join other top linemen from around the state as finalists for the Frank J. Gaziano Award. Presented each year since 2010, the Gaziano Award honors a top high school offensive and defensive lineman.
The ceremony is set for Saturday afternoon at the Augusta Civic Center. Joining Liberty as finalists for the offensive lineman award are Greg Grinnell of Cheverus and Jedidiah Scott of Sanford.
Richards is a finalist for the defensive lineman award, along with Jacob Fogel of Portland and Oak Hill’s Luke Washburn.
Each winner receives a $5,000 scholarship, trophy and leather jacket. The four runners-up receive a $1,000 scholarship, trophy and leather jacket.
“I was just honored to be one of the semifinalists,” Liberty said.
A two-year starter at guard for Skowhegan, Liberty slid over to tackle midway through the season when injuries hit the Indians.
“He’s a very intelligent kid. He was able to pick up the nuances of our schemes and help his teammates,” Skowhegan coach Matt Friedman said. “He’s got a great motor. He keeps going until he can’t go any more.”
Being able to adapt, not only to a new position but to moments in a game, is one of his strengths, Liberty said.
“I wasn’t the biggest guy, by no means. I’m only 200 pounds,” Liberty said.
Richards was a fixture for a few years on the Mt. Blue defensive line, where he helped the Cougars win the Class B state title in 2012.
“I always hustle. I don’t slow down. Keep going,” Richards said.
Richards joined the Mt. Blue football program as a ninth grader who was new to the game.
“He’s very athletic. He can run,” said former Mt. Blue coach Gary Parlin. “A lot of high school tackles are big, strong kids, but he’s a kid who can make tackles sideline to sideline.”
While the players don’t recall the specifics of their back-to-back matchups late in the season, Friedman remembers pointing out to his team the talent on Mt. Blue’s line.
“We talked about how good they were up front and how we had to match that,” Friedman said.
Added Parlin: “They’re both athletic. These days, you have to have kids who can run.”
Richards is considering Husson University and Maine Maritime Academy. Among the schools Liberty is looking at are Maine Maritime, where he’d continue his football career, and the University of Maine.