Marshwood’s Justin Bryant named Fitzpatrick Trophy semifinalist. Here’s his case.
By Mike Zhe firstname.lastname@example.org
Dec 2, 2019
Bryant finished the season with 1,494 yards rushing (on 144 carries, for a 10.4 average) and scored 31 touchdowns for a team that went 11-1 and won the Class B championship for the third year in a row
Opposing coaches sang his praises all season. His own coach says he’s one of the hardest workers he’s ever had.
When it comes to Marshwood High School senior Justin Bryant, it’s not just the teammates and coaches in his backyard who have taken notice.
On Monday, the fullback/linebacker was named one of 12 semifinalists for the Fitzpatrick Trophy, awarded to the state’s top senior student-athlete in football.
“I think he has a great chance,” said Marshwood coach Alex Rotsko. “Statistically, he certainly matches up with anyone and he had great team success this year.”
Bryant finished the season with 1,494 yards rushing (on 144 carries, for a 10.4 average) and scored 31 touchdowns for a team that went 11-1 and won the Class B championship for the third year in a row.
He capped his season by rushing for 219 yards and scoring five touchdowns in the state championship game against Brunswick, a 48-28 win.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better way to go out playing with these guys,” said Bryant.
On defense, he starred at middle linebacker on a unit that allowed just 9.8 points per game.
“They’re very good on defense,” noted Kennebunk coach Joe Raffferty, whose team lost to Marshwood twice. “They proved that all season long.”
Bryant is joined on the list of semifinalists by Ryan Connors of Kennebunk, Connor Crawford of Ellsworth, Jarett Flaker of Scarborough, Kobe Gaudette of Thornton Academy, Camden Jordan of Class C champion Leavitt, Garit Laliberte of Maranacook, Payton Mackay of Wells, Zach Maturo of Class A champ Bonny Eagle, Anthony Poole of South Portland, Owen Richardson of Brunswick and Sean Tompkins of Cheverus.
The winner will be announced next month. The only Marshwood players to ever win the award, which began in 1971, were Brett Gerry (2014) and Steve Knight (1989).
After rushing for more than 1,100 yards as a junior, Bryant dedicated his offseason to strength training.
“He’s in the weight room more than anybody else,” said senior quarterback Connor Caverly. “After every game, Saturday and Sunday, he was in there busting his butt. It paid off.”
“Biggest thing, I think, is probably just his work ethic, during the season and in the offseason,” said Rotsko. “He’s one of the strongest kids we’ve ever had in the program, physically.”
Due to graduation losses, Bryant was one of three players on defense who switched positions, moves the coaching staff made in the preseason with their fingers crossed. He moved from outside linebacker in a 4-4 defense to middle linebacker in a 4-3, with Michael Cruz shifting from tackle to end, and Cullen Casey moving from safety to outside linebacker.
“I think that suited his skill-set better,” said Rotsko. “He had more run (stopping) responsibilities. He’s got good speed and he’s a big, strong kid.
“You hoped those moves would work out and they did. I think Justin was a much better middle linebacker than he was an outside backer.”
Bryant’s next move? Though he has the ability and the grades — a 91 average — to play college football at some level, he’s leaning toward joining the Marines.
“I’ve been thinking about going into the military for a while now,” he said during the season. “Not sure about playing in college.”
The Hawks held their end-of-season banquet on Sunday, celebrating their accomplishments but also leaning on the program’s two pillars of trust and being unselfish. Bryant’s numbers — along with those of Caverly and running backs John Valentine and Cam Cornett — were stunted by an offense that distributes carries and a team that often played second- and third-stringers after halftime.
“In Justin’s case, he could have run for 4,000 yards this year but that’s not what we’re all about,” said Rotsko. “The kids are great about that, being unselfish.”