Eleven of the state’s top senior high school football players — six of whom led their teams to appearances in state championship games — have been named semifinalists for the 39th James J. Fitzpatrick Trophy.
Among the semifinalists are six players from Eastern Maine schools — Lonnie Hackett of Bangor, Bill Wetherbee of John Bapst of Bangor, Ryan Stroud of Foxcroft Academy, Christian Powers of Lawrence of Fairfield, Ryan Backus of Mt. Blue of Farmington and Eric Theiss of Leavitt of Turner Center.
Representing the West are Jack Mallis of Windham, Nic Crutchfield of Dirigo of Dixfield, Tom Foden of Cape Elizabeth, Ryan Curit of South Portland and Steve Trask of Thornton Academy of Saco.
Players were nominated for the award by their respective high school coaches, and a Fitzpatrick Trophy selection committee then narrowed the field to a slate of semifinalists.
The names of those honorees were placed on a ballot and sent to coaches and members of the media, who each select their top three choices.
A list of three finalists will be released during the weekend of Dec. 20, with the winner to be announced during the annual Fitzpatrick Trophy banquet scheduled for Jan. 17, 2010, at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland.
Hackett led the Pine Tree Conference in rushing during the regular season with 1,491 yards, then the senior tailback and defensive back increased that total to more than 2,200 yards in leading Bangor to the Eastern Maine Class A championship and a berth in the state final. Hackett also scored 26 touchdowns for the 11-1 Rams.
Wetherbee, a tailback and linebacker, led the LTC in rushing during the regular season, topping 1,000 yards for the second straight year. He went on to finish the season with nearly 1,900 yards after helping the 2008 state champions finish 9-2 and advance to the Eastern Maine Class C championship game for the third straight year.
Stroud was one of Eastern Maine’s most improved players this year, setting an LTC regular-season record with 20 touchdown passes. The quarterback-safety finished the season completing 84 of 159 passes for nearly 1,600 yards with 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions to help the Ponies go 11-1 and reach the Class C state final.
Powers was the second-leading rusher in the PTC Class A ranks, finishing the regular season with 1,207 yards and 27 touchdowns as 8-2 Lawrence was seeded second in the division and advanced to the Eastern A semifinals. The running back-linebacker also was credited with 88 tackles.
Backus, a quarterback and safety, led the PTC Class A in passing yards, totaling 1,114 yards with nine touchdown passes during the regular season. Backus also had 53 tackles and two pass interceptions while helping 3-6 Mt. Blue reach the Eastern A quarterfinals before the Cougars fell to top-ranked Bangor.
Theiss, a quarterback and defensive back, helped lead Leavitt to its first Class B state championship since 1988. Theiss passed for more than 1,100 yards with 12 touchdowns, and also rushed for more than 800 yards with 14 scores for the 12-0 Hornets.
Mallis, a running back and defensive back, helped Windham win the Class A state championship, rushing for nearly 1,700 yards with 27 touchdowns. The grandson of longtime Maine high school football coach Mike Haley, Mallis rushed for 123 yards and scored four touchdowns in the Eagles’ 35-21 victory over Bangor in the state final.
Foden, a running back and defensive back, rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and scored 19 touchdowns in leading Cape Elizabeth to its first Western Maine Class B championship.
Crutchfield, a quarterback and defensive back, passed for more than 1,823 yards and 19 touchdowns and rushed for more than 500 yards with 10 touchdowns in leading Dirigo to its first Class C state championship and first state title of any kind since sharing the 1975 Class D state crown. He completed 12 of 23 passes for 255 yards with three touchdowns in the state final, a 37-20 victory over Foxcroft.
Curit, a running back and linebacker, led South Portland to a 4-4 record, with the Red Riots narrowly missing out on a Western A playoff berth.
Trask, a quarterback and defensive back, directed Thornton Academy to an undefeated regular season and the No. 1 seed in Western A. The Trojans reached the regional semifinals before falling to Cheverus of Portland 36-7, a game in which Trask was sidelined with a concussion less than four minutes into the contest.