SACO – In some ways, Thornton Academy’s Michael Laverriere hopes 2016 lasts a bit longer.
After leading his football team all year in hopes of another Class A state championship title, Laverriere ended his career short of the goal he set for himself and the team, but for his efforts and talent, he was singled out for several post-season awards.
First, he was named as one of the finalists for the Fitzpatrick Trophy, an annual award that will be announced Jan. 15. Following that, he was named the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Maine on Dec. 12, and most recently, he was named as the Telegram Player of the Year.
“I knew I was a semi-finalist, but I didn’t know for sure how the vote would come out,” Laverriere said. “I was hoping for the best, and I set my goals high, but you never know.”
As Laverriere’s high school career winds down, he’s trying to determine the best, next step.
“I haven’t decided where I will go, or even what position I’ll play,” he said. “Some schools want me for running and others for defense,” he said. “A lot will depend on the scholarships and the programs they offer.”
Coach Kevin Kezal was notified this past September that Laverriere was a semi-finalist for the Gatorade award and once that process started, he sent in weekly updates based on Laverriere’s performance.
“Michael’s always been one of the hardest-working kids on the team,” Kezal said. “I wasn’t too surprised when I received the notice that he’d been nominated.”
As a winner, Laverriere will also have the opportunity to donate $1,000 to a local charity that helps “play it forward.”
As part of the newly launched “Play It Forward” program, Gatorade is awarding each state winner, in each sport, a $1,000 grant to help the next generation of athletes reap the benefits of sport.
“This award doesn’t represent one specific game or accomplishment,” Kezal said. “It more represents the body of work that he’s put in since he’s been here.”
“We want our best players to be our hardest workers,” Kezal said. “Austin was that way and so was Andrew Libby. Michael fits that to a tee.”
The award has been given 32 times and including Laverriere, a player from Thornton won it four times, most recently, Andrew Libby in 2012.
Libby, now a member of the Division I, University of Massachusetts Minutemen football team, played with Laverriere during his senior year at Thornton and is not surprised by Laverriere’s achievements.
“Mike played with the varsity team as a freshman and I remember we only had to show him the plays once or twice and then he had them down,” Libby said. “Even then he was focused and determined.”
Libby said that winning the award certainly made him more recognizable to schools outside of Maine and New England and he expected the same may happen to Laverriere.
“He’s done so well for himself he now has the choice to do what he wants to do with his future. He’s built his foundation,” Libby said. “I think he’ll go where he wants to go and end up in the right place.”
Libby smiled when he was reminded that Laverriere was one of a few Thornton football players who played on the freshman team and the varsity team.
Coach Jack Morrison has coached the freshmen for more than three decades and he said there have been very few players who played on the varsity during their freshman season.
“I remember Andrew (Libby) and Adam Rooney,” Morrison said. “I think Mike was just the third. It’s hard because often he would play with the freshman in the afternoon and then dress with the varsity.”
Morrison continued to say there aren’t many who at that age are physically or mentally strong enough to play at both levels.
“It’s really tough for a 14-year-old to practice with us on offense and the varsity on defense,” Morrison said. “But I remember he was the first quarterback that was able to run a no-huddle offense as a freshman.”
“Even then we knew he was a special athlete,” Morrison said. “What will be really interesting is the Fitzpatrick award.”
Morrison said that at the Fitzpatrick banquet, which will take place on Sunday, Jan. 15, the award is presented by the person who won the trophy 25 years ago. This year that person is Art Leveris, a Thornton graduate and two-time Gatorade Player of Year.
“Overall, Mike has a body of work that not many kids have,” Morrison said. “He works hard in the classroom and on the field. I hope he wins.”