Nate Mars of Scarborough High, left, and David Gross of Bucksport were named winners of the Gaziano Lineman Awards on Saturday at Augusta Civic Center. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

AUGUSTA – They both grew up awaiting their chance to play varsity football for their high schools.

They would play, and excel.

Nate Mars of Scarborough High and David Gross of Bucksport High were named winners of the Gaziano Lineman Awards on Saturday afternoon at the Augusta Civic Center.

The event, now in its 10th year, honors the best senior linemen in the state. Mars the best on defense, Gross on offense.

“My heart was pounding out of my chest. I couldn’t believe it,” Gross said. He was chosen over two other finalists, Jack Rogers of Thornton Academy and Leavitt High’s Riley Parmenter.

Mars called the moment “surreal” when he realized he was picked for the defensive award, ahead of Will Horton of Bonny Eagle and another Leavitt lineman, Cam Jordan.

Both Mars and Gross received $5,000 scholarships, while the other finalists received $1,000 scholarships. The awards are sponsored by National Distributors, the company created by the late Frank Gaziano, who was a lineman at Waltham (Massachusetts) High, Holy Cross and in the NFL.

Mars had attended this award presentation before. His brother Logan Mars received the Gaziano offensive award for the 2011 season.

“I was sitting in that seat eight year ago,” said Mars, who admits to enjoying some brotherly competition. “We are eight years apart so it’s hard to be directly competitive. He did set a standard that I’ve tried to surpass in every way that I could.”

Nate Mars could not wait to play for the Red Storm. As a sophomore, he started at defensive end on the Class A state championship team. The past two seasons, he’s started on both sides of the ball at defensive tackle and offensive left tackle.

“He’s just a very, very hard-working kid,” said Scarborough Coach Lance Johnson.

How hard?

“Nobody has ever worked harder for me, in 30 years of coaching,” Johnson said, his voice cracking as he added, “just a great kid.”

Johnson recalled a time last summer when Mars needed to take a two-day visit to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

“We work out Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, so he schedules his visit for after his workout Tuesday, and returning in time for Thursday’s workout,” Johnson said. “Never missed a workout. Sets (high) goals for himself, a great leader.”

Mars will play college football somewhere. He has been accepted to the Coast Guard Academy and Merchant Marine Academy. He’s waiting to hear from the Army, Navy and Air Force academies – he has congressional nominations for all three.

“I want to continue serving others, and I think the best way to do that is at one of the military academies,” Mars said.

Gross will play his college football closer to home. He’s mulling offers from the University of Maine and the University of New Hampshire.

“David is just an outstanding young man with a work ethic that’s through the roof,” said Bucksport assistant coach Sean Geagan (filling in for head coach Joel Sankey, who was out of town).

“He’s had that same ethic since Pop Warner.”

Gross always demonstrated commitment, whether in youth football or his early days as the Bucksport High water boy.

“I couldn’t wait to be on the high school field,” Gross said. “And now it’s over. It’s crazy. Time flies.”

Gross was a two-way starter for the Golden Bucks for four years. He helped lead Bucksport to the Class D title game last fall.

Both Mars and Gross are members of the National Honor Society.

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