Nolan Potter of Wells High didn’t think of himself as a candidate for the James J. Fitzpatrick Trophy when his senior season started.

“I probably only had about five or six carries as a junior,” he said. “My coaches believed in me and I was able to show them what I could do, and it paid off, I think.”

Potter was one of the 12 players named Wednesday as semifinalists for the Fitzpatrick Trophy, awarded to the top senior high school football player in Maine.

Already a proven linebacker, Potter became a nearly unstoppable force with the ball – rushing for 1,550 yards and 28 touchdowns – and made over 100 tackles on defense to lead Wells to an undefeated Class D championship.

“I personally always thought I was a better linebacker. That was the position I played through most of high school but I was very pleasantly surprised and ran my hardest,” Potter said.

Owen Garrard of Scarborough is another powerful running back/linebacker on the semifinal list. The best player on the state’s best team, Garrard rushed for 1,204 yards with 24 touchdowns and made 77 tackles (10 for loss) as the Red Storm won their first Class A state title. He scored five touchdowns in the 57-0 championship win against Windham.

Even when Garrard didn’t have the ball, he impacted plays.

“He was a great pass protector and a great lead blocker, especially on our sweeps,” said Coach Lance Johnson. “There were plays where he was knocking two guys down.”

Five of the 12 semifinalists are quarterbacks, including Jack Bryant of Falmouth. A three-year starter, Bryant became a dual threat this season, rushing for 1,036 yards and 18 touchdowns, and passing for another 1,509 yards with 17 scores. He also started at safety.

“It’s definitely a cool honor with so many good football players around the state to be named one of the top players,” Bryant said. “It really represents all the best players that have come through Maine, a bunch of great guys, and guys I remember watching in middle school and youth. To be mentioned with those guys is definitely a cool thing.”

The other semifinalists:

• Tim Albert, Leavitt quarterback: Rushed for 780 yards and 11 touchdowns, and completed 66 percent of his passes for another 1,254 yards and 12 TDs.

• Nick Clawson, Foxcroft Academy quarterback/safety: Topped 1,000 yards in rushing (1,083) and passing (1,178), accounting for 32 touchdowns.

• Grant Hartley, Edward Little quarterback/safety: Threw for 999 yards and 12 touchdowns and ran for 256 yards and six scores.

• Cameron Houde, Thornton Academy linebacker/running back: Had 111 total tackles, three sacks and two fumble recoveries, and rushed for six touchdowns.

• Colby Lee, Mt. Desert Island running back/safety: Rushed for 1,236 yards and 16 TDs, made 27 tackles and played on special teams.

• Jordan Roddy, Cony wide receiver/safety: Ran for two touchdowns, and caught 76 passes for 703 yards and eight scores.

• Connor Sirois, Bonny Eagle quarterback/safety: Set a school record with 22 touchdown passes and rushed for five scores. Was a first-team SMAA defensive back.

• Ryan Weare, Cape Elizabeth fullback/linebacker: Carried 228 times for 1,332 yards and 16 TDs, made 92 tackles, and played on special teams.

• Sean Whalen, Madison running back/linebacker: Rushed for 1,011 yards and 18 TDs on 98 carries; caught 20 passes for 470 yards and four TDs, and scored three times on returns, also making 47 tackles.

The semifinalists were selected by a committee that reviewed nominations from the state’s coaches.

A team can nominate only one player. Each nominee is judged for on-field performance, and academics and service within the school and community.

Football performance accounts for 70 percent of the total score.

The state’s head football coaches and media have until Dec. 15 to vote for their top three choices. The three finalists will be announced and then the winner will be named at the annual Fitzpatrick dinner, set for Sunday, Jan. 14, at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland.

The Fitzpatrick Trophy, named for former Portland High coach and educator James J. Fitzpatrick, began in 1971 and is supported through a trust that was established by Julius “Yudy” Elowitch.

The 2016 winner was Michael Laverriere of Thornton Academy.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

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Twitter: SteveCCraig