This story was updated at 1:50 p.m. Jan. 19 to correct the spelling of the guest speaker’s last name.
For the three finalists for the James J. Fitzpatrick Trophy, the journey to the head table at Sunday’s banquet represents the realization of a lot of work, guidance by their coaches, support at home and multiple contributions from teammates.
The annual process to select the top senior high school football player culminates with the announcement of the 43rd winner of the bronze statue.
Nicco DeLorenzo of Kennebunk, Ben Lucas of Cony and Justin Zukowski of Portland are the finalists. They emerged as the top-vote getters from a list of 12 semifinalists chosen by the Fitzpatrick selection committee from nominations submitted by the state’s coaches. Coaches and media members who cover high school football on a regular basis vote for the award.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Lucas of being a finalist. “I’m anxious for it to happen. I’ve been waiting for a while.”
Ditto for DeLorenzo and Zukowski. The month-long wait from the announcement of the finalists to the banquet can seem like forever for the candidates.
Lucas, a record-setting quarterback, led Cony to the Class B state title over DeLorenzo’s Kennebunk team.
Neither Cony nor Kennebunk has had a Fitzy winner. Portland has had four – Mike Rutherford in 1982; Shaun Hawkins in 1983; Joe D’Andrea in 1995; and Carl Frye in 2002.
“Mr. Rutherford, my assistant coach, helped me with my speech,” said Zukowski, a running back/linebacker. “Ben and Nicco are really outstanding players. Just to be included with those guys is something special.”
Zukowski sparked Portland to the Eastern Class A final, where the Bulldogs lost 22-19 to Cheverus. Zukowski led Eastern Class A in rushing and was selected as the conference’s player of the year.
DeLorenzo was a two-way standout at running back and linebacker. He started at linebacker as a freshman and became a two-way starter his sophomore year. He helped the Rams to an 11-1 record and a berth in the Class B state final.
“It’s exciting to get recognized as one of the best players in Maine,” said DeLorenzo. “I’m looking forward to it.”
As per custom, the Fitzpatrick winner from 25 years ago – the 1988 season – will be the guest speaker. Kirk Matthieu, a record-setting running back from Lawrence High, will handle this year’s duties.
Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at: