PORTLAND — Given his choice, Peter Gwilym probably never would have played quarterback at Cheverus High School.

Wide receiver and running back were Gwilym’s natural positions, or so he thought.

Then John Wolfgram, Cheverus’ coach and long one of the state’s most respected evaluators of talent, called Gwilym into his office midway through the student’s freshman year and dropped a bombshell.

“He told me I was going to be the starting quarterback the next year. That was pretty shocking news. I remember at the first mini-camp, I couldn’t even hold onto a snap. We worked on passing plays and I couldn’t complete a pass, either.”

Gwilym more than grew into the position. He evolved into the best football player on the best team in the state.

Two months after leading his school to its first state championship in 25 years, Gwilym received the 40th annual Fitzpatrick Trophy on Sunday.

Cam Kaubris of Mountain Valley and Jamie Ross of Deering also were finalists for the award, presented each year to the outstanding senior football player in the state at Holiday Inn By the Bay.

Academics and citizenship also are strongly considered as criteria for the award, voted upon by coaches and media.

“Growing up in Freeport, we didn’t have organized football when I was younger. I didn’t really know what the Fitzpatrick Trophy was,” Gwilym said. “Eventually we did get a program, and I was fortunate to play three years.”

That earned him a place on the Cheverus roster as a freshman, giving him a chance to catch Wolfgram’s sharp eye.

Gwilym gradually made the decision look like a stroke of genius. He accumulated 22 touchdowns as a runner and thrower in spearheading Cheverus’ undefeated championship season.

“We won six games in an extremely tough SMAA conference in the fourth quarter this year, and Peter was the reason,” Wolfgram said. “We won those games on the strength of his feet, his arm and mostly his head.”

The coach’s vision also turned Gwilym into one of the most dangerous defensive players in the state.

“He brought a linebacker’s mentality to free safety,” Wolfgram said. “He probably would have been better as a linebacker, but we couldn’t afford that. He loves to hit.”

Gwilym delivered just as many big plays when opponents had the ball. He made 94 tackles, forced three fumbles and recovered another.

The most spectacular of his five interceptions turned into a 109-yard return for a touchdown, one of many key plays in a 35-34 victory over Ross and Deering in the Western Class A championship.

“I never had as much fun on a team as I did this fall,” said Gwilym, also a member of Cheverus’ Class A basketball championship squad. “I’ve never been on a team with such chemistry.”

Kaubris, the second Mountain Valley finalist in three years, was celebrated as an unselfish leader and an overcomer.

A third-generation star athlete from Rumford, Kaubris endured an agonizing junior year on and off the football field.

He suffered a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder while making a tackle in a preseason game against Skowhegan. Although Kaubris was able to return and contribute in a few games, the pain persisted and he was forced to the sidelines before season’s end.

“I wouldn’t wish that injury on any quarterback,” Kaubris said. “I learned the virtue of patience. Every Friday night felt like a week. Every practice felt like a year. The season felt like a lifetime.”

Kaubris and the Falcons also were confronted by real-world trauma.

His classmate and longtime friend, Danny Garneau, was diagnosed with leukemia during the summer of 2009 and died April 29, 2010.

“Cam realized that all that time he thought he’d been dealt a crappy hand, he’d been dealt a pretty good hand compared to his friend,” Mountain Valley coach Jim Aylward said.

Healed and feeling empowered by his late teammate, Kaubris led Mountain Valley to its fourth Class B championship in seven years.

Offensively, he engineered a relatively conservative attack that included 1,000-yard rusher Taylor Bradley at halfback and Campbell Conference MVP Christian Durland at tight end.

Mountain Valley’s calling card was defense, and Kaubris anchored it with a school-record 11 interceptions, including multiple touchdown returns.

“In our offense we asked Cam to be a lead blocker more than we did to drop back and use his God-given ability to throw the football. He never questioned that,” Aylward said.

“We think he was the best defensive back in the state. As coaches we knew we could be aggressive because if we made a mistake, Cam would have the angle, Cam would have the coverage, and we’d all live to play another down.”

Kaubris was in the running to be Mountain Valley’s first Fitzy winner. Marty Milligan won the award for Rumford High School in 1972, the trophy’s second year of existence.

Justin Staires was a 2008 finalist for the Falcons.

Ross produced 41 total touchdowns and 2,862 overall yards as quarterback of Deering’s potent spread offense.

Max Cloutier of Leavitt, a center, defensive tackle and kicker, was honored at the banquet along with eight other semifinalists.

Joining him were Kyle Bishop of Waterville, Michael Cyr of Scarborough, Ethan Drigotas of Kennebunk, Luke Duncklee of Cony, Nick Gagne of Biddeford, Caleb Kenney of Portland, Nick Proscia of Yarmouth and Josh Woodward of Thornton.

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