Justin Bryant of Marshwood High holds the James J. Fitzpatrick Trophy on Sunday, flanked by the other two finalists for the award: Jarett Flaker of Scarborough, left, and Zach Maturo of Bonny Eagle. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Justin Bryant came to Sunday’s Fitzpatrick Trophy banquet purposely keeping his own expectations in check.

“Honestly, when I came here today, I thought any three of (the finalists) could have won it. We all had incredible careers and seasons,” Bryant said. “I figured, hope for the best but don’t be too disappointed if you don’t get it, because either way you still have three state championships and a great career.”

Now it’s a great career with “the cherry on top,” as Bryant put it. The standout fullback/linebacker for Class B champion Marshwood High was voted by the state’s high school coaches and media representatives as the 49th winner of the James J. Fitzpatrick Trophy, given annually to honor the top senior high school football player in Maine.

The presentation was made Sunday at an awards banquet at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland.

Class A standouts Zach Maturo of Bonny Eagle and Jarett Flaker of Scarborough were the other finalists.

Bryant, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound fullback/linebacker, is the third Marshwood player to win the Fitzpatrick Trophy, following Steve Knight (1989) and Brett Gerry (2015).

“Brett Gerry, who I grew up watching, that’s who I tried to be like,” Bryant said. “I was always watching him when I was younger and in middle school.”

Bryant becomes the fourth Fitzy winner from Class B, joining Jordan Hersom of Leavitt (2011), Ben Lucas of Cony (2014) and Gerry.

Midway through Bryant’s freshman season, the year after Gerry graduated, he earned the starting fullback position. He became a defensive starter as a junior, and this past season shifted to inside linebacker, where he excelled while continuing to be the Hawks’ top rusher.

Bryant rushed for 1,522 yards as a senior, gaining 10.6 yard per carry and scoring 33 touchdowns. In the Class B championship game against Brunswick, Bryant rushed for five touchdowns. On defense, he recorded 68 tackles, 19 for loss, with four sacks as Marshwood went 11-1 and won its third straight Class B title.

John Caverly, Marshwood’s superintendent, introduced Bryant to the crowd, which included seven of the nine semifinalists along with their coaches and family members. Caverly was subbing for Marshwood Coach Alex Rotsko, who was unable to attend after the event was postponed a week.

“He’s a great kid, really happy for him, but he’s a kid who really earned everything he got,” said Caverly, whose son, Connor, was Marshwood’s quarterback. “Work ethic (sets him apart). Here you have a kid who’s deadlifting over 600 pounds, squatting over 500 pounds.”

Maturo, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound running back/cornerback, led the Scots to the Class A championship as their leading rusher, a top receiving threat, punter and returner. Previously named the Varsity Maine and Maine Gatorade Player of the Year, Maturo rushed for 1,264 yards, caught 21 passes and scored 25 touchdowns. Defensively, he was a top coverage cornerback and sure tackler.

“I think all three of us deserve it as much as each other, so I had no clue who was going to win,” Maturo said. “It was cool. They recognized the three best players in the state. So congrats to Bryant.”

Flaker, a 6-0, 190-pound big-play threat, combined his superior speed (he is the reigning New England 200-meter champion) with improved strength. He gained 1,266 yards on 110 carries (11.5 yards per carry) with 16 touchdowns, caught 17 passes for 314 yards and seven touchdowns, and returned a kickoff and two punts for scores, racking up a total of 470 yards on 17 returns, while also starting at cornerback.

“Yeah, I wanted to win, but Justin is like an amazing football player,” Flaker said. “He’s won three state titles, so it’s hard to compete with that. So congratulations to him.”

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