AUGUSTA — Thornton Academy senior Nick Bartholomew called winning the Frank J. Gaziano Memorial Offensive Lineman Award “the greatest honor I’ll probably ever have.”

Bartholomew and Defensive Lineman Award winner Austin Lufkin of Brewer were honored as the top senior high school linemen in Maine at Saturday’s seventh annual awards ceremony at the Augusta Civic Center.

“It’s one of the greatest feelings of my life. It’s like being back in the state championship games,” said Bartholomew, who helped Thornton win Class A titles in 2014 and 2015.

“We’re not really on the loudspeakers very much so it’s great to be here and be at the center of attention,” said Lufkin, the first Gaziano winner from Brewer. “It’s also great just to be here with what this award is representing.”

Bartholomew joins Luke Libby (2011, defensive) and Bobby Begin (2012, offensive) as Thornton winners.

Bartholomew and Lufkin each received a trophy, a specially designed leather jacket with the Gaziano logo, and a $5,000 scholarship, the largest high school football scholarship of its kind in the United States.

Also honored were four finalists culled from an original list of 15 semifinalists: Raffaele Salamone of Deering and David Redmond of Westbrook on defense, and Parker Gammon of Bonny Eagle and Dylan Wike of Portland on offense. Each runner-up received a $1,000 scholarship, a trophy and a Gaziano jacket.

“Obviously everyone wants to win it but still to be mentioned in the same name as Frank Gaziano is an honor,” said Salamone, who plans to sign a national letter of intent to accept a football scholarship at the University of Maine on Wednesday. “You still have to be grateful to be here. It was a great experience and I enjoyed it.”

Lufkin, a 6-foot-4, 260-pounder, was a first-team Class B North pick on both sides of the ball, excelling at defensive end with 11 quarterback sacks.

After the awards presentation Lufkin said he has verbally committed to accept a full football scholarship offer from Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Wofford plays in the Division I FCS Southern Conference. Lufkin, a top shot putter, also expects to participate in track and field.

Bartholomew, a two-time SMAA All-Conference selection with a 3.92 grade-point average, said the Gaziano nomination and interview process helped his college decision.

He will play football at Husson University.

“In my interview I talked with the selection committee about what I valued in a school and what I wanted my education to be and that’s what really helped me make my decision and a couple of days later I committed to Husson,” Bartholomew said.

Bartholomew said most of his scholarship will be put aside for school but he’ll use some toward another passion: creating and selling his own fishing flies.

“I make different fishing flies for sporting camps up in the Rangeley region, so I’ll put some money into that to get the business rolling,” Bartholomew said.

“But more than anything, it’s just an honor. There could be no money involved and I’d be feeling just like I am now.”

The Gaziano Awards were created in 2010 to honor Frank Gaziano and to bring recognition to the state’s usually unsung linemen. Gaziano was a two-way lineman at Holy Cross and went on to play one season in the NFL. He founded National Distributors in South Portland and was active in the community, including writing a sports trivia column for the Portland Press Herald for many years.

National Distributors has now given $82,000 to award winners. On Saturday, nine of the 12 past winners were in attendance.

“That shows what this award really means; that it signifies a lot more than just a scholarship and being the best lineman,” Lufkin said.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig

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