Tyler Bridge, left, of Wells and Anthony Bracamonte of Thornton Academy competed for top year-end awards. Now they’re teammates intent on helping the West all-stars win Saturday’s Lobster Bowl. David Leaming/Morning Sentinel

Who was the Player of the Year in Maine high school football in 2018? It was a discussion that started early in the season, centered on two different but equally dynamic players. Was it Tyler Bridge of Wells High, a tall, strong and swift running back in a traditional offense at a small Class D school? Or was it Anthony Bracamonte of Thornton Academy, a small, shifty, do-it-all hybrid runner and receiver from the largest Class A school in the state?

It was an intriguing and at times polarizing argument that kept building because the two players produced monster seasons capped by exceptional playoff efforts for undefeated state championship teams.

Bracamonte scored 27 touchdowns – seven on returns – rushed for 1,037 yards and racked up 2,137 all-purpose yards, with 925 yards and 11 TDs in three playoff wins. In the Class A final against Portland, Bracamonte had 100 yards rushing, 144 receiving and four touchdowns. He was named the Gatorade Maine Player of the Year.

Bridge (3,055 all-purpose yards, 2,390 rushing yards) set what is believed to be a state record with 45 touchdowns. In the Class D championship game, he rushed for 206 yards and five touchdowns and threw a touchdown pass. He was named the Fitzpatrick Trophy winner and the Varsity Maine Player of the Year.

Bracamonte and Bridge had vociferous social media backers, but they stayed humble. When they met for the first time at the Fitzpatrick Trophy dinner they quickly hit it off and now are teammates on the West squad for the 30th Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Thornton Academy. The starting time was moved from 4 p.m. because of expected hot and humid weather.

We sat down with the new teammates at Lobster Bowl media day earlier this week.

Q: Anthony, had you ever met Tyler Bridge before the Fitzpatrick dinner?

Bracamonte: Nope. I just saw his highlight reels on the news once in a while. Or every week, because, you know, it’s Tyler. But yeah, the Fitzy dinner was the first time I met him.

Anthony Bracamonte routinely made tacklers miss. In three playoff games last fall, he racked up 925 yards and 11 touchdowns for Thornton Academy. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Q: And before you met him, what were your thoughts about him?

Bracamonte: Well honestly, it was more like the typical football-player vibe, like, oh, this guy might be like a little Hard-o, but as soon as we walked in, we instantly had a connection, like, yeah, he’s chill.

Q: Tyler, you’re from a small Class D school and Thornton Academy is a powerhouse. What was your impression of Anthony Bracamonte and his team?

Bridge: Yeah, I would say the same thing. I didn’t know if it was different with the Class A kids, but as soon as we walked in, we realized we were both pretty similar. We both got along really well.

Q: And what have you learned about Anthony during this week as you’ve actually been practicing together?

Bridge: He’s a goofball.

Q: You say Tyler is, too?

Bracamonte: Oh, yeah. He eats all my fruit snacks. He comes to my room, doesn’t even say “Hi,” and grabs fruit snacks.

Q: Are you kidding, or not kidding?

Bracamonte: I’m kidding.

Bridge: But I’m always in his room.

Q: I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but it sounds like you’ve become fairly close friends?

Bridge: Oh yeah. We’re rooming right next to each other, so we’re always in the same room.

Bracamonte: All downtime, we’re just in my room hanging out.

Q: What are you doing during that time?

Bracamonte: Playing PlayStation.

Bridge: Beating him in some Madden 2K.

Q: Before this camp, was there any sort of animosity that Tyler won the Fitzpatrick and you didn’t?

Bracamonte: No. I was happy for him when he won. He deserved it. He had a good season. I just remember that we got along really well there, so I knew it would be the same thing here.

Q: You’re both going to be on the field at the same time. Tyler, what excites you about that possibility?

Bridge: I mean, me running the ball, and then the next play we could throw a 60-yard pass to him, so that’s pretty exciting.

Q: Are you guys willing to block for each other?

Bracamonte: Yeah, I’ll throw some pancakes for Tyler.

Q: Actually, (West Coach) Bill County said that you are a pretty good downfield blocker.

Bracamonte: I’m a great blocker. (Thornton) taught me well.

Tyler Bridge of Wells scored what is believed to be a state record with 45 touchdowns last fall. In the Class D state title game, he scored five TDs and passed for another. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Q: I’ve seen (Tyler) block. I know he can block. Will you have an opportunity to spring Anthony on a jet sweep?

Bridge: Yeah, on a jet sweep, they’ve actually said I might be on the edge to block for him, so that would be pretty cool.

Q: Last year, the West team (in the Lobster Bowl) also had the so-called “stars” and they got whupped. Surprised the heck out of me. Are you guys going to win this year?

Bridge: Yeah. It’s not going to be the same thing as last year.

Q: Why?

Bracamonte: Why? Because we have great guys. The coaching staff is actually coaching us really well. They’ve put in some great plays. The (offensive) line is executing. We’re running on all cylinders now and it’s the second day of practice, so I’m feeling pretty confident.

Q: As a Thornton Academy grad, is there any special feeling about being able to end your high school career on your own field?

Bracamonte: Thornton Academy is where it all started. They’ve done a lot for me. So I’m glad I can go and put on one more show for them.

Q: Tyler, is it important to you that you play well, to sort of validate that the (Fitzpatrick) voters had it right?

Bridge: Yeah, exactly. There is a little bit of that pressure there. I mean, you’ve got the people saying, ‘Class D,’ and that stuff, that ‘the stats aren’t the same.’ So, of course, I want to be able to prove myself a little bit, show the voters, like you said, that they voted for the right person. But we’ve got a bunch of great players here that all want to do well. So I’m happy for anyone. I just want the West to win this year.

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