Justin Bryant of Marshwood High accepts the 2019 James J. Fitzpatrick Trophy at a banquet in Portland. The Fitzpatrick Trophy was not awarded last year after the tackle high school football season was called off because of the pandemic. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

Like seemingly everything else related to high school football in Maine, the James J. Fitzpatrick Trophy spent 2020 stuck on the sidelines.

Instead of celebrating the 50th year of the award, created by the late Yudy Elowitch to honor his former Portland High coach and the top senior football player in the state, the Fitzy was idle. Justin Bryant of Marshwood High was the last winner of the award, after the 2019 season.

This year, the Fitzpatrick Trophy is back. The annual banquet and awards ceremony at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 16. Yes, the ongoing pandemic could force some accommodations come midwinter, but for now, football is being played and athletes across the divisions are excelling, creating a wide-open field of candidates, including those presented here, in alphabetical order, in the Varsity Maine midseason Fitzy Watch List.

This is an unofficial list based solely on football performance. The actual Fitzpatrick Trophy selection committee considers academic and citizenship qualities when choosing the semifinalists, which typically number between 10 and 12. Also, each team is allowed only one Fitzpatrick nomination. Our list has multiple players from a few teams.

Brandon Boyle, Portland RB/LB: The transfer from Deering has keyed the Bulldogs’ impressive 5-0 start in Class B. Combining speed and power, Boyle has rushed for 577 yards (7.8 per carry) and six touchdowns and also has 11 receptions for 202 yards and two scores. On defense, he has 41 tackles, four sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery.

Tate Chork, Windham RB/LB: The defensive leader for the top team in Class B North, Chork has been in on 44 tackles while rushing for 172 yards (5.5 per carry) and five TDs. Windham’s starters have not played in the second half in three of their four games – all victories.

Ashton Dennett, Cony WR/DB: The top receiver in the Rams’ spread offense, he has 17 catches for 365 yards and six touchdowns. Dennett also has three interceptions.

Jack Emerson, Thornton QB: A dual-threat quarterback for the unbeaten Trojans (5-0), Emerson has rushed for 237 yards (6.2 yards per carry) and six touchdowns and has completed 30 of 42 passes for 592 yards and six scores, with only one interception.

Jayden Flaker, Scarborough WR/DB: At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds with top sprinter speed, Flaker had 18 carries for 215 yards and a score, 13 catches for 200 yards and two TDs, and two kickoff return touchdowns in the first three games, along with 23 tackles. He has missed the last two games because of an upper-body injury, and his return is uncertain.

Thomas Horton, Bonny Eagle OG/DT: Coach Kevin Cooper knows that having a lineman even make the semifinalist cut is rare, “but we feel Thomas is the best lineman in the state.” A force as a blocker, he’s leading the Scots in tackles despite routinely being double-teamed.

Will Ledbetter, Windham QB: Ledbetter has completed 29 of 41 passes for 579 yards with eight touchdowns against one interception while leading an offense averaging 42 points per game.

Caden McDuffie, Cape Elizabeth QB/OLB: He’s been equally effective as a passer (28 of 52, 506 yards, 10 TDs) and a runner (48 carries, 412 yards, seven TDs) and is also a force defensively. McDuffie and the Capers (4-0) are at Leavitt on Friday in a key Class C South test.

Joey Morrison, Bangor RB/LB: With 570 rushing yards (7.4 per carry) and another 179 receiving yards (11.1 per catch), Morrison is a top option for senior QB Max Clark and has accounted for 12 touchdowns. He also is a big hitter at outside linebacker.

Zac Oja, Bonny Eagle RB/LB: The powerful 6-1, 220-pounder has been the Scots’ top offensive threat with 757 rushing yards – averaging over 6 yards per carry – and seven rushing TDs in five games. He’s also returned an interception for a score.

Isaiah Oufiero, Oxford Hills TE/FB/LB: The Vikings (5-0) have allowed only 19 points, and Oufiero is a big reason why. He has 34 tackles, including four sacks and six tackles for loss, with a fumble recovery and a forced fumble. Also a special teams ace, he’s scored four TDs as a goal-line fullback, and has 10 catches for 169 yards and three TDs.

Anthony Prak, Noble RB/FS: The Knights have never had a Fitzy winner, but Prak deserves a look for a team that is 4-1 in Class B South. Prak has 751 rushing yards, 183 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns. He’s averaging over 200 all-purpose yards per game.

Liam Von Oesen, Waterville QB: Van Oesen has rushed for 1,070 yards and 15 touchdowns in just four games in the eight-man division. He also has thrown five touchdown passes and has run or thrown for 14 2-point conversions.

Dave York, Kennebunk FB/LB: After a bit of a slow start in the season-opening loss to Portland, York has racked up 689 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 62 carries (11.1 yards per carry). The Rams’ defensive leader has also kicked 16 of 20 PATs and has four receptions.

UPDATE: This story was updated at 10:46 a.m. on Oct. 8 to correct the name of Waterville quarterback Liam Von Oesen.

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