Every year, the list of Fitzpatrick Trophy semifinalists comes out, and every year, those of us who cover or watch a lot of high school football compile a list of players who didn’t make the ballot. This year, that list seems longer than usual.

There’s Messalonskee’s Sam Dexter, who ran, caught passes, played incredible defense and returned punts and kicks for the Eagles. Dexter was named Pine Tree Conference Class A Player of the Year.

There’s Gardiner’s Alonzo Connor, who ran for at least 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.

There’s Luke Emery of Maranacook, the Campbell Conference Class C Player of the Year who excelled on both sides of the ball and led the Black Bears to their best season yet.

There’s Anders Overhaug of Yarmouth, who made the goal line his own personal turnstile in the Class C state championship game.

There’s Bucksport’s Mike Cummings, who ran for 10 touchdowns and threw 12 more in the Golden Bucks’ undefeated regular season.

I just named five worthy Fitzpatrick Trophy candidates, and have no doubt that with a few more minutes of thought, could name five more. I will not. There’s no point.

So much of the attention has been on who didn’t make the list of 12 semifinalists, and that’s a disservice to the dozen young men who did.

When you think of the players who didn’t make the list, you have to ask yourself, OK, who comes off? There’s nobody on the list who is undeserving. Nobody.

The fact that you can make the case for so many Fitzpatrick Trophy candidates is a good thing for Maine high school football. It’s proof that, despite the West’s dominance of Class A titles and the inability to agree on the parameters for a much-needed fourth class, the game is in very good shape.

If having too many qualified players is a problem, it’s a good problem to have. In that vein, maybe expanding the semifinalist pool would be a positive move. Or eliminate the list altogether, let coaches provide biographical information to voters, and ask voters to submit the names of their top three choices. Then, invite the top 12 vote getters to the annual banquet, and announce three finalists then.

It wasn’t that long ago, only Class A players were eligible for the Fitzy. This season, seven of the 12 semifinalists came from Class B and C. Five semifinalists played in Eastern Maine, seven are from the West. Five of the state’s six conferences are represented.

According to the short biographies of each candidate included with the ballot, not a one of them is anything less than a B student, and each is active in some form of community service.

Some years, there’s a slam dunk choice when it comes to picking a winner. Lewiston’s Jared Turcotte in 2006 comes to mind. This year, you can’t say that about any of the 12 semifinalists.

When I filled out my ballot, I voted for Leavitt’s Jordan Hersom, Mt. Blue’s Izaiha Tracy, and Shaun Carroll, Jr. of Lawrence. Those were the players I’m most familiar with. Of the players on the ballot, those were the best three players I saw this season.

Somebody is going to win the James J. Fitzpatrick Trophy on Jan. 15. No matter what name is called, it will be a well-deserved honor.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

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