Oak Hill High School’s Connor Elwell, Maine Central Institute’s Curtis McLeod and Winslow’s Alec Clark were among the 15 semifinalists announced for the 2015 Frank J. Gaziano Offensive and Defensive Linemen Awards on Monday afternoon.

Each award has been given annually since 2010 to the players who epitomize character, leadership and perseverance in addition to displaying strong performances on the field, in the classroom and in their respective communities.

“It kind of means the world to me,” Elwell said of his nomination. “We had a good season as a team. I was just glad I could help my team out.”

Elwell and McLeod were two of eight semifinalists chosen for the defensive lineman award along with Elijah Ayotte of Thornton Academy; Tyrell Gullatt of Windham; Logan Herodes of Falmouth; Travon Bradford of Kennebunk; Justin Guerrette of Cape Elizabeth and Frank Curran of Cheverus.

“It means a lot. It helps show all the hard work that was put into this season, not just for myself but for my whole team,” McLeod said. “It wasn’t just me that was doing all the work in the offseason it was all my teammates as well.”

Clark was selected as a semifinalist on the offensive line along with Charles Kovarik of Portland; Wiley Hollen of Bonny Eagle; Dylan Collin of Mount Desert Island; Isaac Patry of Thornton; Gerry Valliere of Windham and Drew Chamberlain of Falmouth.

Winners of each award will be announced at a luncheon on Saturday, Jan. 30, at the Augusta Civic Center. Each winner will take home $5,000 and the first place trophy, while four runners-up in each category will receive $1,000.

Over the past two seasons, Elwell and McLeod got the opportunity to play against each other twice, and in each instance it was when the stakes were at their highest in the Class D championship.

“He’s big and physical,” said Elwell of the 6-foot-3, 280-pound McLeod. “He’s a pretty good player, really — a tough opponent.”

McLeod was a dominant player in the Little Ten Conference according to his head coach, Tom Bertrand. He was second on the team in tackles and first in sacks, and also played a key role in helping MCI to back-to-back regional championships.

“(McLeod was) just big, fast and very aggressive off the ball and had a nose for the football, but he was really just a dominant force in the middle of our defense,” Bertrand said. “…If he gets a chance to play in the Lobster Bowl this year where he gets to play against the best of the best people, we’ll find out how good he is for sure. He would be competitive and a force in any league in the state.”

The Huskies went undefeated in the LTC in each of the past two seasons but in both instances fell short to Oak Hill in the state championship. This past season Elwell was a big reason why. He had 10 tackles — one for a loss — and a sack in the Gold Ball game on Nov. 20, and for the season totaled 84 tackles — 11 for a loss — four sacks and three forced fumbles in 10 games.

“No. 1 he was our muscle. He was a very physical player and he moves well for a physical player,” Oak Hill head coach Stacen Doucette said. “No. 2, he had the ability to read the offensive lineman’s block. He could read the block, he could counter it, make an aggressive play and he could make plays behind the line of scrimmage as well. He was kind of a mismatch — a physical player with good feet who was athletic and very smart.”

Elwell said playing with Luke Washburn, the former Raider defensive lineman who won the Gaziano Award in 2013, played a big part in his development at Oak Hill.

“It was someone I could really look up to because he was close to me as a friend and as a player,” Elwell said. “It was just cool to have him as a role model for me.”

Like Elwell, Clark was no stranger to success at Winslow. A four-year starter, Clark played for the Class C championship in each of his seasons as a Black Raider — the final two resulting in Gold Balls returning to Winslow.

“When somebody gets hit by Alec they remember it,” Winslow head coach Mike Siviski said. “What made him a good player is he’s a very, very aggressive player. He’s got a no-quit motor and he has one of the most unbelievable motors I’ve ever seen in football to be honest.

“…I’ve coached Maine high school football on a lot levels for a lot of time and Alec Clark is really one of the outstanding ones I’ve ever seen.”

The 6-foot, 200-pound offensive lineman/linebacker played a key role on both sides of the ball for the Black Raiders. Winslow allowed just 67 points — around one touchdown per game — on the season and offensively averaged around 400 yards and 45 points per game.

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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