SACO — This season wasn’t easy for Michael Laverriere.

He had to replace a Division I recruit and good friend, Austin McCrum, as Thornton Academy’s quarterback. Every other skill position was also filled by a new starter. Defenses quickly realized Laverriere, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound power runner, would be carrying the lion’s share of the load. Bruises accumulated, and an injury to his throwing shoulder curtailed practice reps with his new receivers.

And, ultimately, Thornton lost its final two games – by a point to eventual Class A champion Bonny Eagle to end the regular season and a 36-29 upset loss to Scarborough in the Class A South semifinals.

But one thing didn’t change. Laverriere continued to be a highly productive all-around player.

“He ranks right up there with some of the best I’ve ever coached,” said Kevin Kezal, Thornton’s head coach for 18 seasons. “We were young and inexperienced, and in those big-game situations we had to rely on Michael – certainly more so than we have with any one guy the last four, five years. It’s just the way it was constructed.”

For his all-around play in the state’s toughest league, Laverriere is the Maine Sunday Telegram Player of the Year, getting the nod over running back/linebackers Trey Wood of Brewer and Dylan Bolduc of Portland. All three are finalists for the Fitzpatrick Trophy, to be awarded on Jan. 15.

“It’s great to be recognized as a standout at Thornton Academy and to be able to say that I did my time here and to be recognized for it and to set an example,” Laverriere said.

Laverriere, who lives in Arundel with his parents Chris and Michelle, started playing youth football in Saco in the second grade.

“Coming to high school games as a youth player and always watching (former Thornton players) Josh Woodward and Steve Trask and guys like that, you’re always thinking they’re a star. As a kid, they’re everything,” Laverriere said. “So to be able to be that kind of player matters. It means something. They’re remembered. I mean, I remember those guys and they have no clue who I am.”

Opponents sure knew who Laverriere was.

“There’s no secret when I’m getting the ball,” he said. “(Other teams) are calling it out. Scarborough had a guy mirroring me.”

In the season-ending loss, Laverriere rushed for 140 yards and three touchdowns to bring his team back from a 14-0 deficit. He gave Thornton its only lead, 29-28, with 1:44 to play, scoring on a 19-yard run and powering in for the 2-point conversion.

Scarborough responded with a 60-yard drive for the winning score, ending Thornton’s two-year hold on the Class A title.

“A couple of plays here or there and the end of the season changes pretty well with different outcomes,” Laverriere said.

In nine games, Laverriere ran the ball 157 times for 1,384 yards, averaging 8.8 yards per carry. He rushed for 20 touchdowns.

As a passer, he was 49 of 86 for 813 yards with seven touchdowns and six interceptions.

“Early on in the season I could throw well,” Laverriere said. “I actually have a shoulder injury that I’ve had for years now. I threw on game day. That was really it for practice. I might throw a couple of short routes, hitches and slants, if I was feeling well. And we had all young receivers and transfers, so that doesn’t help at all in terms of getting the timing down.”

Defensively, Laverriere started at safety and made a team-high 63 tackles.

A four-year varsity player, Laverriere has played a variety of roles. In addition to being the backup quarterback his first three seasons, he was a short-yardage specialist as a running back, ran some Wildcat offense his first two years, played safety on defense, and did his fair share of blocking.

His willingness and ability to play so many roles has brought recruiting interest from NCAA Division I programs such as Maine, New Hampshire, Stony Brook and Fordham, along with Division II Assumption and Division III Springfield.

“I’m going to play somewhere, but I’m not really sure where,” Laverriere said. “Obviously if I move up to the Division I level, I’m not playing quarterback. I’m like a utility linebacker, fullback, short-down runner or blocking back. I’m really a hybrid type of a player. We’ll figure it out.”

Offense

Michael Laverriere, Thornton Academy senior quarterback: A four-year varsity player, he earned Telegram Player of the Year honors by completing 49 of 86 passes for 813 yards and seven touchdowns and rushing for 1,384 yards and 20 touchdowns on only 157 carries. He also had 63 tackles, five for loss, with three interceptions.

Trey Wood, Brewer senior running back: A strong contender for player of the year honors, the 6-0, 240-pound Wood rushed for 2,014 yards and 27 touchdowns on 304 carries. He also scored eight 2-point conversions. As a rugged linebacker, he was in on 83 tackles and returned his one interception for a touchdown.

Miece Loureiro, Westbrook senior running back: A strong runner with breakaway speed, Loureiro rushed for 1,582 yards and 18 touchdowns on 184 carries. He also caught 14 passes for 205 yards and one touchdown, and added 380 yards in returns. A hard-hitting outside linebacker, Loureiro scored two defensive touchdowns.

Ethan Belanger, Sanford senior wide receiver: A good route runner with better hands, Belanger snared 48 passes for 848 yards and nine touchdowns. He also rushed for two touchdowns and threw a 2-point conversion pass. “He killed us. We couldn’t defend him,” said Bonny Eagle Coach Kevin Cooper.

Jordan Roddy, Cony junior wide receiver: Roddy dominated in Class B North and was at his best down the stretch. The Kennebec Journal Player of the Year caught 68 passes for 1,074 yards and 17 TDs. He also had two rushing touchdowns.

Cam Day, Bonny Eagle senior utility: Day quarterbacked the Scots to the Class A state title and was known for his ability to make plays at big times. He completed 51 of 83 passes for 807 yards with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions, and rushed for 1,045 yards and 15 scores.

Trey Fallon, Falmouth senior offensive lineman: The 6-foot-4, 306-pound tackle has committed to play at Lafayette. He was a dominant presence in Class B South as a run blocker and pass protector. A team captain, he was a Class B South first-team all-star.

Dakota Joy, Scarborough senior offensive lineman: A two-way tackle who excelled as both a run blocker and pass protector, Joy “changed the way we played football,” according to Coach Lance Johnson, by demanding and getting his teammates to improve their conditioning, focus and attention to detail.

Nick Bartholomew, Thornton Academy senior offensive lineman: A three-year starter and two-time first-team SMAA pick at center, Bartholomew distinguished himself as the best long snapper Coach Kevin Kezal has coached. He was also an All-Academic selection.

Courtland Austin, Wells senior offensive lineman: Despite playing the last four games with a club-like wrap around a broken hand, Austin was the top lineman for the Class C state champions – the highest-scoring team in the state. He also excelled as a defensive tackle.

Nick Giaquinto, Portland senior offensive lineman: The Bulldogs typically ran left behind Giaquinto, a stout two-way tackle who also stuffed the middle on defense for the Class A North champions.

Telegram All-State team

Defense

Raffaele Salamone, Deering senior defensive lineman: Playing tackle, the 6-4, 250-pounder made 70 tackles, with 16 for a loss, to go with 20 quarterback hurries and three sacks despite facing consistent double-team blocking. Salamone, who played tight end on offense, added two fumble recoveries and an interception that he returned for a score.

Austin Lufkin, Brewer senior defensive lineman: Called a “man among boys” by one Class B North coach, the 6-4, 260-pounder was a first-team all-conference player on both sides of the ball. He had 11 sacks and 47 tackles and blocked two field goals.

David Redmond, Westbrook senior defensive lineman: A two-way standout lineman, the 6-2, 265-pound defensive end led the Blue Blazes with 70 tackles despite constant double-teaming. He had 11 tackles for loss, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.

Paul Buchanan, Greely senior defensive lineman: The 6-4, 210-pounder was a two-way starter and played on all special teams, and specialized in big plays on defense with 14 sacks, 10 tackles for loss and 10 passes batted down. Buchanan finished with 76 tackles, 45 of them solo.

Jesse Devereaux, Brunswick senior linebacker: Devereaux was the emotional leader for the Class B champs. “He’s the reason we had 21 seniors. He kept them together,” said Coach Dan Cooper. Instinctive and ferocious despite his 5-7, 165-pound frame, Devereaux led a first-team defense that allowed only 45 points. He also played fullback and rushed for 765 yards with 10 touchdowns, added 150 receiving yards and threw two touchdown passes.

Parker Gammon, Bonny Eagle senior linebacker: A two-year captain and arguably the best player for the Class A champions, he was voted SMAA South lineman of the year as a center and was a first-team pick at linebacker, where he made 77 tackles, with five for loss, and forced one fumble.

Dylan Bolduc, Portland senior linebacker: A strong candidate for player of the year honors, Bolduc switched roles on both sides of the ball because of injuries to teammates. A converted defensive back, he was in on 134 tackles and had three sacks and an interception return for a touchdown. He also rushed for 1,464 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Ben Ekedahl, Cape Elizabeth senior defensive back: An all-around player, Ekedahl pursued the ball well and made 62 solo tackles, with two forced fumbles and two interceptions, returning one for a score. On offense, he had 610 receiving yards and six touchdown catches, and 295 rushing yards with four touchdowns. He also had a kick-return touchdown.

Cam Theberge, Bonny Eagle senior defensive back: A shutdown cornerback who was rarely tested, he still finished with six interceptions – five coming against the Scots’ toughest opponents (three vs. Scarborough, one each against Thornton and Portland). He was also a dangerous receiver, runner and return man, catching 23 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns.

Ben Palizay, Brunswick senior defensive back: Playing in a league that featured pass-heavy teams Skowhegan and Cony, Palizay distinguished himself as a shutdown cornerback and sure tackler. He also rushed for 523 yards and 11 touchdown, had 250 yards and three TDs as a receiver and was a dangerous return man.

Joey Curit, Biddeford senior utility: The Tigers’ quarterback was also the signal caller on defense at safety, where he made 56 tackles with two forced fumbles, three interceptions and a sack. He led the Class B South finalists with 701 rushing yards and five touchdowns and 1,015 passing yards for 10 touchdowns.

Coach of the year

Dan Cooper, Brunswick: Cooper kept a talented team focused and playing hard all season, as the Dragons completed an 11-0 season with their first state title since 1963 in their third straight appearance in the Class B championship game.