In this Nov. 22, 2019, file photo, Maine Central Institute quarterback Ryan Friend (left) avoids being sacked by Leavitt's Jack Boutaugh during the Class C football state championship game at Alfond Stadium in Orono. Boutaugh is a finalist for the Frank J. Gaziano defensive lineman award. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Two teammates from Thornton Academy of Saco and Leavitt Area High School of Turner Center were among the six finalists named Tuesday for the 2021 Frank J. Gaziano High School Scholarship and Awards.

The awards recognize Maine’s top high school senior football linemen each year, with the winning offensive and defensive linemen each receiving a $5,000 scholarship while the four runners-up each will receive a $1,000 scholarship.

The two winners will be announced on Jan. 22, 2022.

Finalists for the Gaziano offensive lineman award are Thomas Horton of Bonny Eagle High School in Standish, Reeve Twitchell of Leavitt and Seth Beyea of Thornton Academy.

Horton — also a finalist for the Fitzpatrick Trophy, symbolic of the state’s top high school senior football player regardless of position — has been described by veteran Bonny Eagle coach Kevin Cooper as “the best two-way lineman I have ever coached.”

A right guard on offense, Horton registered 42 knock-down blocks as a senior while not allowing a single quarterback sack.

Twitchell played center along the Leavitt offensive front, starting on the Hornets’ 2019 state championship team and being a captain and two-way starter this year as his team reached the Class C South championship game.

“He combines great physicality, superior technique and an intuitive mind for schemes to be a very complete offensive lineman,” Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway said.

Beyea, an offensive tackle, was named to the Class A coaches all-state team at two different positions and captained Thornton Academy to the Class A state championship.

“[His] work habits, motivation and enthusiasm are excellent,” Thornton Academy coach Kevin Kezal said. “[His] innate work ethic also carries over to the playing field.”

Cody Ruff of Thornton Academy, Jack Boutaugh of Leavitt and Casey Mills of Cony High School in Augusta are the Gaziano defensive lineman award finalists.

Mills, a left defensive end, is considered by his coaches as one of the most well-rounded athletes in school history. A team captain and three-year starter, he finished his senior season with 87 tackles, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

Cony head coach B.L. Lippert described Mills’ play as “smart” and “relentless.”

Boutaugh, like Mills a left defensive end, amassed 71 tackles this fall with 12 tackles for a loss, six quarterback sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two pass deflections in just eight games, as two of Leavitt’s games were canceled due to COVID-19.

“[He has a] strong work ethic and commitment to the team” and is “a reliable player who our coaches know they can count on,” Hathaway said.

Ruff, another defensive end, averaged 6.5 tackles per game as a team captain for undefeated Thornton Academy this fall with four quarterback sacks, two fumble recoveries, one pass interception, 15 pass deflections and two defensive touchdowns scored.

“[He] is one of the best defensive ends to ever play for us,” Kezal said, “and a quality person, personifying the characteristics all educators and coaches look for when working with young adults.”

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...