Offensive line winner Aidan McGlone of Bonny Eagle, left, and defensive line winner Thomas Palmer of Thornton Academy hold the Frank Gaziano Lineman Award trophies they won Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center. (Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan)

AUGUSTA — Even before he had been named a finalist for the Frank Gaziano Award, Thomas Palmer had his sights set on the hardware.

“A lot of the guys that won in the past, I’ve looked up to them,” he said. “It’s been a dream of mine since my junior year.”

On Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center, the dream became a reality. Thornton Academy’s Palmer and Bonny Eagle’s Aidan McGlone took home Gaziano Awards, given to the state’s best offensive and defensive linemen. Palmer, a defensive tackle, beat out Cony’s Nic Mills and Leavitt’s Cole Melanson for the defensive trophy and the $5,000 in scholarship money awarded to both winners.

“Let me tell you, when they were about to go to the second runner-up, my heart was beating so fast,” Palmer said. “These are all great competitors, and … I knew there were going to be some great guys going up against me.”

McGlone, a center, was named the top offensive lineman ahead of Kennebunk’s Chase Lamontagne and Scarborough’s Zachary Reed.

“I’m ecstatic. … I can’t find the words,” McGlone said. “This recognition … shows people are looking out for those guys who are down in the trenches, working their (buts) off for everyone.”

Saturday meant more hardware for two of the state’s football powerhouses. Palmer’s win gave Thornton, which won the Class A title, its second Gaziano Award in three years after Nick Bartholomew won the offensive award two years ago, and the Golden Trojans also saw Michael Laverriere win the Fitzpatrick Trophy that same year.

McGlone kept the Gazianos coming for Bonny Eagle, which saw Arlo Pike (defense) and Zach Klein (offense) sweep the awards last season.

“We’re really proud of that fact,” Bonny Eagle coach Kevin Cooper said. “There’s no secret to what makes our program go. It’s the guys up front.”

Palmer may have had visions of winning the award, but his path to Gaziano glory was a winding one. He was an outside linebacker before an injury ended his sophomore season early, and he moved to defensive tackle last year, where he was undersized and unable to compete against the better linemen in the state.

“We talked last season about what he would have to do if he wanted to be one of the top linemen in the league,” coach Kevin Kezal said. “We knew he had the speed, we knew he had the work ethic. It was just a question of if he’d be big and strong enough to compete against the best linemen in our league.”

Palmer took the constructive criticism to heart, and showed up the next spring with 35 pounds added onto his frame.

“I never stopped working,” he said. “Over the summer I worked out six days a week, two times a day. I knew that I had to do it, because it wasn’t something I wanted. It’s something I had to do.”

Up to around 240 pounds, Palmer’s athleticism — he runs the 55 hurdles for the indoor track team — stood out even more, and allowed him to emerge as the game-changer he had envisioned himself becoming.

“I truly wanted to dominate,” said Palmer, who plans to play in college but is undecided on a school.

“He’s got a great work ethic, he plays hard every single play,” Kezal said. “He had a great season for us.”

McGlone bounced around the field as well at a young age, but settled at center by his sophomore year. With Bonny Eagle losing a slew of seniors and starters after last year, McGlone knew he had to be a leader as well as a top player.

“I knew I had to step up as one of the few (starters) returning,” he said. “So just having to step up has made me work so much harder, and I pushed everyone else as they pushed me too.”

McGlone was never the biggest lineman on the field, but Cooper said the intelligence that has helped him rank third in his class translated to the position.

“He’s very, very smart. He knows our offense as well as anybody,” he said. “He makes our line calls. He helps out the other four guys around him, gets us directed the right way. … He’s going to be hard to replace next year.”

McGlone got to hold the trophy, then pose for it with last year’s winner — Klein, his former teammate, who played two positions down at tackle.

“It makes me feel good because it’s passing the torch down through the generations,” said McGlone, who is hoping to attend Cornell but is also considering Maine and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. “When we did work together, we usually moved some bodies.”

Mills was named a finalist after an impressive senior season in which his work ethic and weight room commitment, coach B.L. Lippert routinely stated, became renowned throughout the team.

“I’ve always tried to give my best effort,” he said. “There was a really strong sense of family throughout the team. … That was really one of the biggest things about this year. Playing as a family.”

Cony High School’s Nicholas Mills was a defensive lineman runner-up for the Frank Gaziano Lineman Award on Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center. (Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan)

Peter DeSimon speaks during Frank Gaziano Lineman Award banquet Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center. (Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan)


Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: