WELLS — The Maine Sunday Telegram Football Player of the Year is from Class D.

There. That’s out of the way.

Tyler Bridge, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound running back/cornerback from unbeaten Wells High with an exceptional combination of power, balance and speed, is our player of the year.

Bridge was the leading rusher in the state with a school-record 2,390 yards on 215 carries, averaging 11.1 yards. Bridge scored 45 total touchdowns (43 on the ground, two on kick returns), which is believed to be a Maine record, topping the 40 scored by Bucksport’s Nick Tymoczko in his 2004 Fitzpatrick Trophy season. Official state records are not kept for football.

“Setting a rushing record and touchdown record for Wells is one thing, but that would be pretty special to set a state record for Maine,” Bridge said.

Bridge accounted for 3,055 all-purpose yards – an average of 254.6 per game. Twenty-one of his touchdowns covered 30 or more yards; 10 were 50-plus yards. Also a devastating blocker and good coverage cornerback (four interceptions), Bridge excelled from the season opener to the finish, when he rushed for five touchdowns and threw for a sixth as Wells beat Foxcroft Academy for its third straight state title.

“It really feels good when it’s your last year and you finish it off like that,” Bridge said.

Bridge’s enormous statistics might suggest that the Player of the Year choice was an easy one.

It was not. Thornton Academy’s Anthony Bracamonte, a 5-foot-7, 150-pound senior running back/receiver, also had a ridiculously good season for an unbeaten championship team, and he did it in Class A. Bracamonte accounted for 2,127 all-purpose yards (194.3 per game) and 27 touchdowns for an 11-0 team, with his best games coming in the postseason.

For some coaches queried, the difference in perceived competitiveness between Class A and Class D made Bracamonte the top choice. Others liked Bracamonte’s unique combination of route running and great hands as a receiver and his game-breaking elusiveness on the perimeter and as a returner (he had five punt returns and two kickoff returns for touchdowns). Bracamonte was selected the Maine Gatorade Player of the Year.

Those in Bridge’s camp noted that he excelled on both sides of the ball, that his size and athletic ability (he’s being recruited by Maine, New Hampshire and Dartmouth among other schools) would translate to any team, and that even if it’s true Class A defenses are relatively better, then it stands to reason a Class A offensive line would also be better.

“He plays defense. He’s on every special team. He punts. He does everything,” said Wells Coach Tim Roche said. “In the regular season alone, Tyler had 1,900-something yards (rushing) and 30-something touchdowns. No one will throw his way and he still had 48 tackles. He had two kick return touchdowns, and then everyone started squibbing it. And, by the way, he did not play in the fourth quarter of the state game.”

The debate will likely intensify in the next month. Both Bridge and Bracamonte are semifinalists for the 48th Fitzpatrick Trophy and are expected to be among the three finalists. Either could win.

“I really do believe that,” Bridge said. “I’m definitely appreciative to be in the position I’m in.”

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

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Twitter: SteveCCraig

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