January 17, 2011

Gwilym takes home Fitzpatrick Trophy

By Tom Chard tchard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND -- Peter Gwilym became Cheverus' first Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Sunday afternoon, beating out Jamie Ross of Deering and Cam Kaubris of Mountain Valley.

Gwilym's name was announced by former winner Gerry Gelinas of Biddeford at the annual banquet as the 40th recipient of the bronze statue that goes to the top senior high school football player in Maine based on voting by the state's coaches and the media.

Vote totals are never revealed. The Fitzpatrick Trophy selection process starts in November when high school football coaches send in a nomination of a senior football player from their team who they feel is deserving. Teams are allowed to nominate one player. A committee evaluates the nominees and selects a list of semfinalists whose names are put on a ballot and sent to head coaches and media.

Voters select their top three choices on a one-time vote. The votes are weighted with a first place vote worth three points, two for second and one for third. The top three votegetters are announced as finalists in December. On field performance, academics and character are chief criteria for the award.

The award culminated a storybook season for Gwilym and the Stags, who won the Class A state title and finished with a 12-0 record.

The Stags' quarterback and defensive back was also named the Portland Press Herald's high school football MVP for the state. He won the state Gatorade Player of the Year Award and was named the most valuable player in the Southern Maine Activities Association.

"It's a nice cap to the season," said Gwilym. "I don't think anything separated me for the other finalists. I wouldn't have been surprised if either one had won it. The voting comes from all over the state so you never know how it will come out. It means everything to me to represent Cheverus. You want to win the Fitzpatrick Trophy because it means so much. I couldn't have done it without my teammates and my coaches."

Cheverus turned out to honor and support Gwilym at the banquet. He had football teammates, coaches, basketball teammates, basketball coach Bob Brown and his assistants, athletic director Gary Hoyt and other school officials hoping their guy would win.

"Peter typifies what the Fitzpatrick Trophy is all about," said coach John Wolfgram, who spoke prior to Gwilym's remarks as an introduction, as is per custom.

"He is a great kid in all ways," said Wolfgram. "In crunch time, he made play after play the whole season. He was the difference for us. Some people have that ability. Peter did everything he could do for us and he did it with self effacement."

Gwilym was a wide receiver his freshman year at Cheverus. Wolfgram came to him at the start of his sophomore year and told Gwilym he wanted him to play quarterback.

"I was real nervous about that," said Gwilym. "At first, I would fumble the snap and I wasn't a very good passer."

But Gwilym kept working at improving and got better as the season progressed. As a junior, he settled into the position and emerged as a running threat and an improved passer. The Stags advanced to the Western Maine Class A final that season, losing by a point to Windham, the eventual state champion.

This past fall with Gwilym and other talented senior classmates, the Stags put it all together under the guidance of Wolfgram. The Stags had some tight games, but their experiences of the season before along with Gwilym's play brought the school its first state title in 25 years. The Stags won half of their games with four quarter rallies

"Some people might be surprised that someone from Freeport is the Fitzpatrick Trophy winner," said Gwilym.

"Through excellent coaching, my teammates, it's an honor to have progressed enough to be the Fitzpatrick winner. Certainly my statistics weren't that impressive."

Gwilym completed 52 of 88 passes for 763 yards and nine touchdowns. He ran 120 times for 705 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Gwilym was known as a punishing tackle. In his remarks, Wolfgram called him "a linebacker masquerading as a defensive back. "

Not exceptionally big at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, Gwilym delivered crunching hits.

He finished with 81 unassisted tackles, five interceptions, none bigger than his 106-yard interception against Deering in the regional final, and three forced fumbles.

Gwilym began playing in middle school in the fledging Freeport youth program. As an eighth grader, a family friend, Chris O'Neil, a former Cheverus graduate, told Gwilym about the school and what it offered. Gwilym went to Cheverus the next year and four seasons later, the Stags had a state title and a Fitzpatrick Trophy winner.

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