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High school sports

Ten semifinalists whittled to five finalists for boys athlete of year

Courier Publications/VillageSoup honors student-athletes in Knox, Waldo, Lincoln counties
By Mark Haskell | Sep 16, 2020
Artwork by: Christine Dunkle

Coronavirus be damned, there were plenty of high spots for teams and student-athletes throughout the 2019-20 high school sports seasons.

And now, the question becomes: Who were the best of the best?

The Courier Publications/VillageSoup sports department — sports director Ken Waltz, associate sports director Mark Haskell and sports reporter Zack Miller — will attempt to answer that question as the trio sorts out the 2019-20 Courier Publications/VillageSoup schoolboy athletes of the year.

Courier Publications publishes three weekly newspapers, The Courier-Gazette in Rockland, Camden Herald and The Republican Journal in Belfast. The company also has two websites: knox.villagesoup.com and waldo.villagesoup.com.

A lengthy list of potential athlete-of-year candidates was whittled to 10 male semifinalists — and, ultimately, five finalists — by Waltz, Haskell and Miller.

This year’s selection process is unprecedented as, for the first time since the honors began in 1991-92 (Waldo County athletes became eligible in 2009-10), only two high school sports seasons (fall and winter) will be part of the overall judging process after the spring sports season was canceled due to COVID-19.

Students from Oceanside High School of Rockland, Camden Hills Regional High School of Rockport, Mount View High School of Thorndike, Belfast Area High School, Medomak Valley High School of Waldoboro, Vinalhaven School, North Haven Community School, Searsport District High School and Islesboro Central School are eligible for athlete-of-year honors.

The 2019-20 schoolboy athlete-of-the-year finalists are: Mount View’s Elijah Allen, Draedyn Furrow and Mark Ward; Medomak Valley’s Erik Benner; and Oceanside’s Matt Spear.

The five finalists were whittled down from a list of semifinalists, who include Searsport’s Colby Snow; Belfast’s Brian White and Cole Martin; and Medomak Valley’s Connor Daigle and Patrick McKenney.

There were many other student-athletes considered for the top 10, but, ultimately, did not make the final lists.

As is the case with any list where one determines a top all-around athlete for a full school year (or, in this case, three-quarters of a school year), the process is subjective. However, the final decision lies with the Courier Publications' sports staff on the schoolboy athlete of the year.

Athletes who excelled in two sports, particularly who were given all-conference awards, receive additional consideration given the fact their overall ability in a variety of sports makes the case for them being more well-rounded “athletes."

In rare cases, athletes who participate in a single sport are considered, since one could argue the athlete who focuses solely on perfection in one sport and outshines the competition in that sport should not be excluded.

A story on the winner will appear in the future.

The 2019-20 athlete-of-the-year finalists and semifinalists, with a recap of notable accomplishments during the school year, follows, with athletes listed in alphabetical order and their grades in 2019-20 from which they are being considered listed:

Finalists

Allen, a senior, was a two-sport athlete for Mount View, as he played soccer and basketball for the Mustangs. On the pitch, Allen was one of the state’s best players as he was not only named Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference first-team all-conference, but also was tabbed as the conference’s Class B North player of the year. A forward, Allen booted in a whopping 29 goals to go with 19 assists and helped lead Mount View to the Class C state championship game. On the basketball court, Allen was a steady, consistent contributor as he averaged 8.1 points and 11.2 rebounds, as he helpd guide the Mustangs to a Class B North prelim playoff game.

Benner, a senior, was a two-sport athlete for Medomak Valley, where he was an offensive lineman on the football team in the fall and a standout wrestler in the 195-pound weight class over the winter. On the gridiron, Benner played offensive and defensive line and was a Big 11 Conference first-team selection, as he racked up 33 solo tackles, eight assisted tackles and two quarterback sacks. Benner, despite being constantly double-teamed, was a focal point of Medomak Valley’s offensive scheme as running plays often went into Benner’s gaps. He helped lead the Panthers to the Class C North quarterfinals and also was selected to participate in the Maine Senior Lobster Bowl.

On the mats, Benner proved one of the best grapplers in the state, regardless of class, as he won his KVAC conference title, finished second in the Class B South championship and second in the state championships, all in the 195-pound weight division. His efforts earned him a spot in the New England qualifier — where he won the 195-pound weight class — and went on to finish with a 2-2 record in the grueling, New England competition. He finished with an overall record of 56-4, with 38 of those victories coming via pin.

Furrow, a sophomore, was a two-sport athlete for Mount View, where he played soccer and basketball for the Mustangs. On the pitch, he was tabbed KVAC first-team all-conference, after he compiled 11 goals and 13 assists, which helped the Mustangs boot to the state Class C championship game. On the basketball court, Furrow was second-team all-conference and averaged 11.1 points and 4.2 assists, and helped lead the ‘Stangs to a Class B North prelim playoff game.

Spear, a junior, was a two-sport athlete for Oceanside, where he was part of the Mariner football and wrestling teams. On the gridiron, Spear was a linebacker and running back, with his work at linebacker nabbing him Big 11 Conference honorable mention. On defense, Spear had 91 solo tackles to go with five quarterback sacks, while at running back, he compiled 300 rushing yards, 132 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He helped guide the Mariners to a Class C North quarterfinal playoff game.

On the mats, Spear finished with a sensational 51-11 record. After going 2-2 in the KVAC championships, Spear racked up back-to-back third-place finishes at the regional and state competitions, the latter of which earned him a spot at the New England qualifier. Spear finished third at the qualifier and went on to compete in the New England championships.

Ward, a senior, was a two-sport athlete for Mount View, where he was a member of the football and wrestling squads. On the gridiron, Ward was a Little 10 all-conference selection at linebacker and led the Mustangs in tackles and quarterback sacks, as he averaged about 10 tackles, according to Mount View coach Rick Leary. Offensively, he also rushed for roughly 650 yards and 10 touchdowns.

On the mats, Ward, for the second straight year, pinned down conference, regional and state championships in the 152-pound weight class, went on to win his weight class in the New England qualifier and finished 3-3 in the prestigious New England wrestling championships. Ward was a KVAC first-team all-conference selection and finished the year with an eye-popping 55-4 mat record.

Semifinalists

Daigle, a sophomore, was a two-sport athlete for Medomak Valley, where he participated in cross country and indoor track for the Panthers. He was a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference first-team selection in both sports. In cross country, Daigle finished sixth among 74 runners in the KVAC Class B championships (18:38.7) and 31st among 113 runners in the regional meet (17:9.28). His efforts qualified him for the state Class B championships, where he finished 31st among 113 total runners with a time of 18:06.12.

In indoor track, Daigle continued to move long distance in short clips as he clinched the KVAC Class B title in the two-mile event with a time of 10:36.53 among eight competitors and improved on his time in the state Class B championships, where he finished fifth (10:27.81) among 14 competitors.

Martin, a junior, was a two-sport athlete for Belfast, where he was a defensive back and receiver for the football team and a multi-event contributor on the indoor track team. On the gridiron, Martin collected 500 all-purpose yards on offense and special teams and scored four touchdowns, including one on a 60-yard punt return. He also led the team with four interceptions and had 35 tackles.

In indoor track, Martin was a member of the 4x200-meter relay team and a long jumper, but it was his lightning quick speed that got him the most attention as he sped to the state Class B 55-meter championship at a blistering 6.67 seconds. He also won the KVAC Class B title in the same event at 6.7 seconds and also finished second in the 200 meters (24.34 seconds) and long jump (20-0).

McKenney, a sophomore, was a two-sport athlete for Medomak Valley, as he played soccer and basketball for the Panthers. On the pitch, McKenney played defensive midfield for a Panther team that booted to an undefeated regular season before falling to an experienced York team in the regional playoffs. McKenney had one assist on the campaign. On the court, McKenney was the floor general for the Panthers, as he nabbed KVAC first-team all-conference honors and averaged 15.8 points and 3.9 assists. He also netted 34 3-pointers and shot 82 percent from the foul line.

Snow, a senior, was a two-sport athlete for Searsport, where he played soccer and basketball for the Vikings. On the pitch, Snow was primarily the team’s starting goalie (but also saw time at forward) and was named first-team all-conference in the Penobscot Valley Conference’s small school division. Snow also compiled 11 goals and four assists for Searsport, including a six-goal performance in a regular-season win against Deer Isle-Stonington. On the court, Snow, despite missing five games due to injury, was a PVC third-team all-conference selection and also was named to the conference’s all-defensive team. On the court, he averaged 19.7 points and roughly 13 rebounds.

White, a senior, was a two-sport athlete for Belfast, where he was on the school’s football and wrestling teams. On the gridiron, White, a team captain who played linebacker and fullback, had 100 tackles and three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. He was a Big-11 Conference second-team selection. On the mats, White was a KVAC first-team all-conference selection. He pinned down the KVAC title, finished second at the regional championships and second at the state Class B championships, all in the 182-pound class.

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