Some thoughts while I wait for this little football game we call the Super Bowl….

* Today is the day to give some recognition to the football players who do the toughest work on the field, and too often do it in anonymity.

The Frank J. Gaziano Memorial Award will be presented to two of the state’s top linemen today in a ceremony at the Augusta Civic Center. Now in its second year, the Gaziano Award will go to an offensive lineman (the finalists are Rudy Pandora of Lewiston, Matthew McLean of Windham, Nate Porter of Portland and Logan Mars of Scarborough), and a defensive lineman (finalists are Matthew Ross of Cape Elizabeth, Christian Deschenes of Cheverus, Luke Libby of Thornton and Max Andrews of John Bapst).

If you do a good job on the offensive line, we don’t see you. We see the runner sprinting away with the ball. If you do a good job on the defensive line, there’s a good chance we see your teammates making tackles, because you spent the afternoon taking on double teams on just about every play.

The Gaziano Award was long overdue, and is a welcome addition to the state’s awards shelf. Only one lineman has won the James J. Fitzpatrick Trophy, presented annually to the top high school football player in Maine. That was Lewiston’s Gerry Raymond in 1977, and in the ensuing 35 years, there have been plenty of talented linemen who have deserved some big-time recognition.

If you saw the Class A state championship game between Cheverus and Lawrence, you saw Deschenes dominate the line of scrimmage. Deschenes was arguably the best player on the field that day, regardless of position.

* This is the time of year I always start looking forward to the high school basketball tournament, but this season, I’m really looking forward to one region in particular.

The Eastern Class A boys tournament will have no clear-cut favorite. This is as tight a region as ever there was. Just eight points separate second place from fifth, and every team in the top eight has at least one quality win over another one of the top teams. The seeds will determine which team wears white and which wears dark. That’s about it.

This has the potential to be the closest Eastern Class A tournament since 1990. That year, the largest margin of victory in seven tournament games was eight points, Old Town’s 79-71 win over Cony in the quarterfinals. No team has pulled away from the field in Eastern A this season. Such a close regular season can only bode well for the tournament.

* The Boston Red Sox have had such a quiet offseason, it’s easy to forget we’re only a few weeks from spring training. The thing I’m most interested in seeing is how the starting rotation shakes out. Will Daniel Bard find a role, or will he end up back in the bullpen?

* Quietly, the University of Maine ice hockey team has found itself back near the top of Hockey East. Since the start of the new year, the Black Bears are 5-1-1 (not including Saturday night’s game at Boston University), and they’ve climbed into third place in the league standings.

If Maine can make a run deep into the Hockey East tournament, it should snap its five-year run out of the NCAA tournament.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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