Yarmouth’s Michael McGonagle rushed for 32 touchdowns and more than 2,500 yards in only eight games this season. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Michael McGonagle is proud of becoming the first eight-man football player to be named a finalist for the James J. Fitzpatrick Trophy, awarded since 1971 to the top senior in Maine high school football.

Michael McGonagle

“Maybe this can finally pave the way for eight-man to make it more respected,” said McGonagle, a Yarmouth High senior who rushed for more than 2,500 yards each of the past two seasons.

“It’s often not considered real football. It’s an honor to show the state that we’re real.”

The 6-foot, 230-pound McGonagle is one of four finalists for the Fitzy award this year, along with Leavitt quarterback Noah Carpenter, Bonny Eagle quarterback Terrell Edwards and Oceanside quarterback Cohen Galley. Each was named to the Varsity Maine All-State team.

The winner, voted on by the state’s head football coaches, will be announced at a banquet Sunday afternoon at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland.

Carpenter is a two-time Player of the Year pick by both Varsity Maine and Gatorade Maine who led Leavitt to a historic 11-0 season and a second-straight Class C championship.


McGonagle said he expects Carpenter to be chosen as the 52nd winner of the Fitzpatrick Trophy.

“I think he’s got it in the bag. I think it would be unfair if he didn’t get it,” McGonagle said.

McGonagle had an impressive season as well. He rushed 272 times for 2,543 yards and 32 touchdowns in eight games. Per game, that comes out to  34 carries, 317.9 yards and four TDs, with an average of 9.3 yards per carry.

“Just his strength. He had that big lower body. He was a strong, low-to-the-ground runner,” said Mt. Ararat Coach Frank True. “He was every bit as good a running back whether he was playing eight-man or 11-man.”

Eight-man football debuted in Maine in 2019 with 10 teams. That year, Connor Crawford of Ellsworth and Garit Laliberte of Maranacook became the first eight-man Fitzy semifinalists. The sport has grown dramatically since then. In 2023, more than a third of the state’s high school football programs – 28 of 78 – played eight-man.

Jim Hartman, McGonagle’s coach at Yarmouth, understands the significance of McGonagle becoming the first eight-man finalist. Hartman also wants to make something else clear.


“Michael is not an eight-man fluke,” said Hartman, who retired after the season.

As Portland High’s head coach from 2012-18, Hartman coached 2015 Fitzy winner Joe Esposito and finalists Justin Zukowski (2013), Dylan Bolduc (2016) and Zach Elowitch (2018). All four were running backs.

“Michael is as good as any of them. He’s equal to Esposito, Zuk, Elowitch, Bolduc, all those guys,” Hartman said. “I’m not going to say one’s better than another.”

As a junior, McGonagle rushed for 2,566 yards in 11 games and Yarmouth won the eight-man Large School title. He was complemented by fullback Spencer Labrecque, a standout lead blocker and also a strong runner.

In 2022, Yarmouth running backs Spencer LaBrecque, left, and Michael McGonagle led the Clippers to the eight-man Large School state championship. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

This season, every defense was focused completely on McGonagle. They still couldn’t stop him.

“It felt really good to know that it wasn’t just Spencer. A lot of people said that, and Spencer is a great, great friend of mine,” McGonagle said. “But this year, we also had (an offensive) line that was 100 times better than we had last year. Better organized and better players. The players who had carried over had improved so much and the holes were there. Spencer made the holes last year. The holes were made by the linemen this year.”


This fall, McGonagle ran on a balky knee that prohibited him from practicing and limited his defensive snaps. He had a torn meniscus from a skiing accident that wasn’t fully repaired despite two surgeries.

Each Wednesday during the season, he had fluid drained from his knee.

“There were two of them who did it and I actually broke both of their records for the most fluid they’d ever drained,” McGonagle said. “One time they got 160 cc (about 5 1/2 ounces). It’s like four or five big syringes they’d have to fill up.”

After the knee was drained, with a day to settle, “I would be good for the game, but as soon as I used it for the game, it would be unusable for practice.”

Hartman said: “He was not healthy all season. The doctor cleared him every week. If he was on both legs, no way we’re not champions again, but he had a heck of a season.”

McGonagle said he never once thought about sitting out a game. Asking quarterback Sam Bradford to take an occasional carry was hard enough.

“That hurt me, dude. I wanted to run the ball. That’s my favorite thing to do,” McGonagle said.

McGonagle intends to play next season at the NCAA Division III level. He said his top two choices are the University of New England, where he would reunite with Labrecque, the 2023 Commonwealth Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year, or the College of New Jersey.

“I still love football and want to play football, but academics are going to come first in college, for sure,” McGonagle said.

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