Fitzpatrick Trophy XXXVI will make the transition from motivational tool to mantelpiece next month, and the only logical conclusion is that Jared Turcotte of Lewiston will take the handoff and run into Maine high school football immortality with a landslide victory.

And I guess that’s what worries me. There is logic involved here. There are media involved. There are panelists involved who are enfranchised until death and likely haven’t watched a football game in years that wasn’t preceded by an obnoxious, one-hour pre-game show.

I’m trying to keep faith and believe that common sense and integrity will prevail when the three finalists are announced on Christmas Eve and the winner is unveiled Jan. 14. Then I look at the list of semifinalists, read the biographies and take stock of who’s missing, and I’m frightened by the possibilities.

Ten candidates were submitted to the state’s pigskin rank and file last month. If you’re keeping score, that’s only double the number of personalities who ran for governor this year. Some of the alternatives in the football sweepstakes are equally bizarre.

According to the unchanging, annual cover letter, the semifinalists are chosen after a review conducted by members of the State of Maine Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. Oh, and the ubiquitous “media representatives,” whomever they are. I don’t believe I work with any of them.

The Fitzy folks made what we should assume was a good-faith effort a while back to make their award more representative of the entire state and less of a gratuitous glorification of one player’s enormous on-field talents. Changes were imposed because – hmm, how can we say this delicately? – a couple of the early 1990s winners were not National Merit Scholars.

So every coach in the state is now invited to nominate a senior player for what was once an exclusive Class A party. After further review, the rest of us receive a ballot with two pages of player biographies in alphabetical order, and the charge is issued to weigh character, sportsmanship, leadership and achievement when voting for the top three.

This year, as in most seasons, there is a distinct geographical and size-matters slant to the semifinal list. Brandon Morrow of Maranacook and Josh Ranger of Hampden are the only non-Class A representatives. They’re linemen, which means they have a snowball’s chance on Super Bowl week of winning the brass.

Other than Morrow and Ranger, the only two players on the roster not hailing from Cumberland or York County are Turcotte and Aaron Champagne of Class A champion Lawrence. The rest of the players probably covered the distance from their locker room to the Holiday Inn By The Bay (site of the award presentation) in sprints during their first week of two-a-day sessions last August.

Did anybody with a preliminary vote check out Campbell Conference players of the year Andy Shorey of Mountain Valley and Mark O’Shea of Livermore Falls? Was there even a remote consideration of throwing a bone to one of the interchangeable parts that landed Lisbon its third state title since 1997?

None of those kids fall shy in the character, sportsmanship, leadership or athletic column, and each of them could match the classroom exploits of some of this autumn’s actual nominees by sheer accident. Three of the 10 rank in the bottom one-third of their senior class, for goodness sake. Either take grade-point average seriously or don’t insult everyone else’s intelligence by including it in the discussion.

All of these will be peripheral, piddling problems if Turcotte rightfully gets to hoist the heavy metal. We’re talking about a young man who rushed for more than 200 yards per game, who holds down a 93 average, who had a hand in 24 touchdowns and 113 tackles, who looks adults in the eye and treats them with the respect and dignity that defines the rest of his daily life.

One right will override a half-dozen wrongs. Having witnessed the weirdness that characterized the first wave of the selection process, however, I shall not hold my breath.

Kalle Oakes is a staff writer. His e-mail is [email protected]


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