FRYEBURG — Tucker Buzzell closed the book on his high school football career with a dynamite final chapter. The recent Fryeburg Academy graduate was named the defensive Most Valuable Player of Saturday’s 30th annual Shrine Lobster Bowl East-West All-State Football Classic at Hill Stadium on the campus of Thornton Academy in Saco, Maine. Played in 98-degree conditions, the only thing hotter than the weather was the West squad, which dominated in a 60-14 victory.
Buzzell, 18, the son of Jacki and Rick Buzzell of Fryeburg, played linebacker in the game, which was pushed back to later in the day for hopefully cooler conditions. The game was also shortened from 60 to 48 minutes.
When asked about playing in 90-degree heat Tucker answered, “It’s football. You play in any weather — rain, snow, cold or heat. — it’s football.”
“When we first got out here, you could feel (the heat). My feet were on fire,” Buzzell told the Portland Press Herald after the game. “But honestly, as the game got on and the adrenaline kicks in, none of that matters.”
Fellow Fryeburg standout Reece Kniessler was also selected for the team but chose not to play.
The Fryeburg Academy Athletics Facebook page was quick to recognize Buzzell.
“Congratulations Tucker Buzzell ‘19 on not only being selected as the top Class C player in the state but being named the game’s West Defensive MVP! Way to represent Fryeburg Academy! Onward to Husson (University).”
Buzzell plans to play football at Husson University in Bangor, Maine.
Among his teammates next year will be a pair of Kennett High alumni in junior Jacob Cameron, a two-time All-America lineman for the Eagles, and Patrick Cullen, a tight-end for Husson.
Husson went 8-3 last fall, including going 6-0 in the conference and winning a third consecutive Eastern Collegiate Football Conference.
Buzzell was one of five athletes presented with John R. Schmidlin awards along with Dirigo's Alex Gorham (Class E), Wells' Tyler Bridge (Class D), Skowhegan's Marcus Christopher (Class B), and Thornton Academy's Anthony Bracamonte (Class A). He was presented with the Class C award.
According to the Maine Football Coaches Association, each head football coach in Maine, in each class, is asked to nominate a player “who he feels meets the criteria and is deserving of the award. Whether you nominate a player or not, each head coach is asked to vote on nominees from your class.”
The award, according to the website is meant “to recognize the Most Outstanding Senior Football Player in each class. It was created to help recognize those student-athletes whose accomplishments might have gone unnoticed this past season.”
Along with the outstanding play on the field, the criteria for selection are good citizenship, team play, loyalty and reliability.
“John Schmidlin selected the criteria. John was a longtime coach and athletic director at Gardner High School and was also the executive secretary of the Maine Coaches Association for many years,” the website states.
Buzzell and Kniessler helped guide the Raiders to the Class C State Championship game last fall. Fryeburg came within 4 minutes and 19 seconds of hoisting its first gold ball in the sport since 1965 on Nov. 17. The Raiders were leading 12-7 at that time over Nokomis in the Class C State Championship game at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland, Maine, and were playing their trademark lights out defense. The Warriors turned the game around on a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown and the 13-12 win.
In December, a number of post-season accolades were handed out to the Fryeburg football team. Buzzell was named the Campbell Conference Player of the Year, while David Jones was named Assistant Coach of the Year and head coach David Turner was tabbed as Coach of the Year in the Campbell Conference.
“We’d trade all of the awards for two points in a heartbeat,” Turner said.
Turner also praised Buzzell for his accomplishments.
“The last three years, Tucker has been one of our leaders,” he said. “He makes plays that not many guys are able to make.”
Turner paid the center/linebacker the ultimate compliment.
“Tucker always does what’s best for the team,” he said. “He has always put the team first.”
He added: “I know he wants to play in college. I certainly think he can play. I know he’s only going to get stronger, better and smarter as a football player.”
The Lobster Bowl Classic, according to its website, “is a Kora Shrine sponsored event where 100 percent of the net proceeds from the game are for the benefit of the 22 Shrine hospitals for children across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Game has been created to raise money and to help make the public aware of the expert orthopedic and burn care facilities available to children who desperately need this specialized care, regardless of the patients’ ability to pay.”
This East vs. West game brings over 150 student-athletes and coaches from all over the Pine Tree State for a week of football.
“All participants commit to a week-long training camp,” the website states, “where they make new friends and more importantly learn why we play the game… ‘Strong Legs Run … So that Weak Legs May Walk.’ The student-athletes are high school seniors who have just graduated and are about to enter college. They are nominated to play in this prestigious game by their coaches and selected by a committee from the Maine Athletics Association.”
Each player has to fundraise $500 in order to play in the game.
Buzzell raised more than $1,800.
“What a great way to finish a high school career,” Jacki Buzzell wrote on Facebook. “A week spent playing the sport he loves and making a ton of great friends! Thank you to all who donated, came to watch and wished him well. He really enjoyed the experience. Now home to sleep for 24 hours straight.”
A tip of the cap for Tucker on his outstanding award-winning football career at Fryeburg Academy.