Zeb Leavitt gets his hand raised after winning the Class A state championship in February 2017. Leavitt, a 2018 Cheverus graduate who also starred in football, was remembered by the school community as a leader, a defender of the less fortunate, a skilled musician, an outdoorsman and terrific athlete. Photo courtesy Jason Gendron Photography

A former standout athlete and student at Cheverus High School in Portland was killed Sunday morning after his truck left a road in Gorham and hit a tree.

Zeb Leavitt, 20, of Newfield died at the scene of the crash on Harding Bridge Road, Gorham police confirmed Tuesday evening. Lt. Dana Thompson said the cause of the crash remains under investigation.

About 20 students and faculty at the Jesuit high school gathered Tuesday in the school’s chapel to share memories of the star football player and wrestler who graduated in 2018.

Cheverus football coach Mike Vance, who attended the vigil, said that Leavitt’s death has devastated the Cheverus school community.

“Zeb is not an easy kid to sum up. He was so multifaceted. This was a shocking loss for our community, and a really hard day for us,” Vance said.

Leavitt, a Gorham native whose full first name was Zebulun, played offense and defensive tackle for Cheverus, standing 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighing around 285 pounds, Vance said. Leavitt played in the 2018 Lobster Bowl, an all-star game featuring Maine’s top seniors. As a senior, Leavitt was a semifinalist for the Gaziano Lineman awards, which are given to the top offensive and defensive lineman in Maine high school football. He also played French horn, loved mechanics and repairing machinery, and most recently had expressed an interest in pursuing a career as a church pastor.

Vance struggled trying to describe the broad impact Leavitt had on his teammates and the school community, calling him a leader, a defender of the less fortunate, a skilled musician, an outdoorsman and terrific athlete. Vance said he will never forget the times when Leavitt would go to the store, buy ingredients for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and then go to Deering Oaks, where he would hand out sandwiches to homeless people.

“He was part hunter, part poet and extremely intelligent,” Vance said. “He marched to his own beat.”

Vance described his former team captain as a leader who went out of his way to help others.

“He was never interested in being perfect, but in just being a better person each day of his life,” Vance said.

Leavitt also developed into a star wrestler for Cheverus. He won the state title in the heavyweight division of the Class A wrestling championship as a junior in 2017. The Press Herald named Leavitt as one of the top 25 wrestlers to keep an eye on during the 2018 season.

Jason Barriault, Cheverus’ wrestling coach, said Leavitt joined the wrestling team as a freshman and helped Barriault build it into a competitive program.

“He became a big brother, a protector and a leader in our program,” Barriault said. “He bought into our program. Zeb recruited his football friends and gave the sport a good name.”

His 2017 championship victory represented a huge accomplishment for someone who had only been wrestling for a couple of years.

“To be able to make that jump. It was a surreal moment,” Barriault said. He said Leavitt’s influence stretched beyond wrestling and that he served as a role model for students throughout the high school.

“The Cheverus community is devastated by his loss. His memory is alive in the halls of Cheverus High School,” Barriault said.

Christian Gilliam played football at Cheverus and forged a bond with Leavitt.

“We were best friends,” said Gilliam, who lives in Topsham. “I’m heartbroken.”

Gilliam said his friend will be impossible to forget. He described him as a “gentle giant.”

“Zeb was the type of person that people flocked to. He changed peoples’ lives,” Gilliam said. “When he walked into a room, he put a smile on everyone’s face.”

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