Maranacook football coach Jordan DeMillo knew he had a special player in senior quarterback Garit Laliberte, and when it came time to nominate him for the Fitzpatrick Trophy, he did so while adding a note for the selectors.

“When I wrote his letter to the football committee, I just kind of said ‘I understand that he’s an eight-man player, and I think people assume that that means the stats are going to be inflated a bit,” DeMillo said, “…but I wish you guys could look at highlights of this kid and watch him make broken play after broken play into something positive.’ ”

Turns out, the committee was watching. Laliberte was named a semifinalist for the Fitzpatrick Trophy, given to the top senior football player in the state, after guiding Maranacook to an undefeated regular season and the large school final in the eight-man class.

“It’s just a feeling of satisfaction, that the hard work that I put in during the season is paying off,” Laliberte said. “I can’t do anything else to change anybody’s mind, so it just tells me that the hard work and my stats hold up.”

Laliberte said the Fitzpatrick wasn’t even on his radar when he began the season.

“My goal coming into this season was to win the first game, win the second game, then win the third game,” he said. “That’s how it goes.”

He soon put himself in the conversation. As a quarterback, he threw for 897 yards and 16 touchdowns, and rushed for 1,105 yards and 16 more scores. As the team’s top defensive back, he made 39 tackles and picked off five passes. And as one of the state’s most dangerous returners, he brought back 24 kicks for 656 yards and four touchdowns.

“There’s no moment too big for him,” DeMillo said. “His ability, even in close games, to rise under pressure is exquisite. I don’t know if I’ll see anything like it again. I hope so.”

Laliberte was at his best against Mt. Ararat, the eventual state champions. He totaled 366 yards in one victory, ran for three scores, threw for one and caught one in another, and returned a kickoff for a touchdown in a playoff defeat.

“I was just trying to help my team win, whatever way I could,” Laliberte said. “Wherever they needed me, I was going to be that person and do my best at that role.”

The second of those Mt. Ararat wins came after Cody Holman returned a kickoff to give the Eagles a 24-20 lead late in the second half.

“(Laliberte) literally looked at me and said ‘Give me the ball,’ ” DeMillo said.

Laliberte got the lead back with a 1-yard dive, then ran for a 78-yard touchdown to seal the win.

“That character, and to be able to be like ‘To heck with adversity,’ ” DeMillo said, “really says a lot about him.”

Laliberte said he was happy to be representing the eight-man class. Ellsworth’s Connor Crawford was the only other semifinalist from the new league.

“It feels really good. I’m excited for the future of eight-man,” he said. “It goes out to all those people that are saying that eight-man’s different than 11-man football.”

DeMillo said he’s happy with the recognition for his player, regardless of how the voting goes from here.

“Do I think coaches and media are going to vote him top three? Probably not. I’d love to see it. I think it’d be really cool for him,” he said. “But just the fact that the Fitzpatrick committee kind of took the time and made an eight-man player a semifinalist, I think is pretty cool to see.”

Other semifinalists include: Zach Maturo (Bonny Eagle), Cam Jordan (Leavitt), Ryan Connors (Kennebunk), Jarett Flaker (Scarborough), Kobe Gaudette (Thornton Academy), Payton MacKay (Wells), Anthony Poole (South Portland), Owen Richardson (Brunswick) and Sean Tompkins (Cheverus).

After the field of semifinalists are paired to a handful of finalists, the winner will be announced Jan. 19 at a ceremony in Portland.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.