Luke Washburn of Oak Hill and Colin Richards of Mt. Blue each played a pivotal role on a state championship high school football team.

Now, both athletes are one step closer to punctuating that career with the state’s top individual award for players with their underappreciated talents.

Washburn and Richards were named Thursday among the six finalists for the Frank J. Gaziano Awards, created in 2010 to honor the top offensive and defensive lineman in Maine.

In their short history, the Gazianos have become the largest scholarship awards of their kind in the country. The two winners, to be announced Jan. 25 at Augusta Civic Center, each will receive a $5,000 college scholarship. Runners-up will receive $1,000 each.

All six will receive a trophy and a leather jacket. The scholarship money is provided by National Distributors Inc., of South Portland.

Semifinalists were announced prior to the holidays.

Both local players are finalists on the defensive side of the ball.

Washburn was a relentless defensive end for Class D champion Oak Hill. He also played H-back on offense, serving as lead blocker for Campbell Conference rushing yardage leader Kyle Flaherty.

Richards’ team won the Class B title his junior year, when he started on both the offensive and defensive lines for the lone undefeated team in the state. The Cougars again made the playoffs in 2013 before falling to Skowhegan in the regional quarterfinals.

Joining Washburn and Richards in the running for the defensive Gaziano is Jacob Fogel of Portland.

Finalists for offensive lineman are Greg Grinnell of Cheverus, Ethan Liberty of Skowhegan and Jedidiah Scott of Sanford.

The late Gaziano, founder of National Distributors, Inc., was a college All-American and professional football player. The award criteria includes leadership on the field, in the classroom and in the community.

All finalists and family members and coaches will receive free tickets to attend the banquet, which is at 1 p.m. on Jan. 25. For ticket information, or to make a contribution to the scholarship fund, contact event coordinator Charlie Gagnon at 363-9141 or email [email protected]

The selection committee is comprised of 13 current and former high school coaches, including Leavitt Area High School assistant coach Mark Bonnevie.

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