Portland High quarterback Kennedy Charles, Cape Elizabeth all-purpose threat Nick Laughlin and Oxford Hills quarterback Eli Soehren have been selected as finalists for the James A. Fitzpatrick Trophy, given annually to the top high school senior in Maine football.

The finalists were announced Wednesday by Jack Dawson of the Fitzpatrick Trophy committee.

The three finalists were selected from this year’s list of 10 semifinalists in a vote of Maine media and high school football coaches. The winner will be announced at the annual Fitzpatrick Trophy banquet, scheduled for Jan. 15 at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland.

Coaches from across the state are allowed to nominate one player from their team to the selection committee, which also considers academics and citizenship, and pares down the nominees to a list of semifinalists.

Oxford Hills quarterback Eli Soehren rushes against Thornton Academy in the Class A football state championship game at Fitzpatrick Stadium. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Soehren led Oxford Hills to the school’s first football championship in its 61-year history, as the Vikings went 11-0 and won the Class A title. Despite missing two full games and most of a third because of a high-ankle sprain, Soehren completed 110 of 167 passes for 1,776 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also rushed for 349 yards and six touchdowns while handling the team’s punting and kicking duties and playing in the secondary.

After winning the Gatorade Maine Player of the Year award as a junior, Soehren entered the season as a preseason favorite for the Fitzpatrick Trophy.


“It was definitely a goal for me at the beginning of the year and it would be an honor to win it,” Soehren said. “Everyone who is a finalist has a chance to win it. Going into this year, I was mostly just hoping to have a great season and win a state championship. Having awards come with it, that just happens.”

Soehren said he has committed to play football at Colby College in Waterville and “to be a quarterback.” The Division III program is led by head coach Jack Cosgrove. Soehren was offered a preferred walk-on slot at the University of Maine, he said.

Of Colby, Soehren said, “Their coaching staff and their education is right where I want it and they’ve been in there since day one and I really love them and overall they were my favorite. I definitely wanted to be a quarterback, so that was a good option for me.”

Cape Elizabeth’s Nick Laughlin carries the ball during the Capers’ win over South Portland this fall. Laughlin had five touchdowns and more than 300 all-purpose yards in the game. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Laughlin, who most often lined up as a receiver, played all the skill positions for Cape Elizabeth on offense and made 84.5 tackles as a hard-nosed safety. Earlier on Wednesday, the 5-foot-10, 180-pounder signed a national letter of intent to play for the University of Maine. This past season, he rushed for 1,087 yards and 17 touchdowns on 103 carries, made 57 catches for 852 yards and 10 scores, and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.

“Coach (Sean) Green put in a good offense and we could spread it around. Defensively, I could kind of play all over the field,” Laughlin said. “It’s not just me. The team definitely helped out.”

The Fitzpatrick Trophy has been awarded each year since 1971, except the 2020-21 school year when Maine high schools did not play tackle football because of the coronavirus pandemic. Last season, Cape Elizabeth quarterback Caden McDuffie became the 50th winner, and first from Cape.


“I was happy for (McDuffie). He was definitely the best player in the state last year,” Laughlin said. “It would be pretty cool to go back-to-back.”

Portland’s Kennedy Charles carries the ball during the Bulldogs’ victory over Kennebunk this fall. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Charles started the year as a wide receiver for Portland. But when the Bulldogs slipped to 1-3 and needed a spark, he shifted to quarterback in order to get his playmaking abilities involved more frequently. Charles finished the season with 1,809 rushing yards, 171 receiving yards, 590 passing yards and 341 return yards while leading Portland to the Class B South title and a tough 20-14 loss to Skowhegan in the state final. A standout defensive back the past two seasons, he also made 68 tackles.

“Kennedy put our team on his back,” said Jason McLeod, who stepped down as Portland High’s coach after the season. “He did it while never playing the quarterback position before.”

Staff Writer Travis Lazarczyk contributed to this story.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.