National Distributors and KeyBank Announce 2021 Finalists for Gaziano Lineman Awards

The Gaziano Awards selection committee has selected the finalists for the 2021 Frank J. Gaziano High School Scholarship and Awards.

You can read more below.  You can click here to download this press release as a PDF for offline viewing or printing.

National Distributors and KeyBank Announce

2021 Finalists for Gaziano Lineman Awards

Scholarships for Maine high school linemen will be awarded on Jan. 22

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine – December 21, 2021 - The Gaziano Awards selection committee has selected the finalists for the 2021 Frank J. Gaziano High School Scholarship and Awards. The list of six finalists consists of three defensive linemen and three offensive linemen from high schools across the state. From these finalists, two winners will be announced on Saturday, January 22, 2022. The winners receive $5,000 each and a trophy, and four runners-up will receive $1,000 each and a trophy. 

The Gaziano Awards are the largest high school scholarships of their kind in the country and honor the memory of the late Frank J. Gaziano who was a college football All-American and professional player before founding National Distributors Inc. in South Portland. In the past 10 years, National Distributors has donated $140,000 to Maine students.  This year, for the first time, KeyBank has stepped up to co-sponsor the awards in partnership with National Distributors and will provide the four runners-up scholarships.  National Distributors will continue to award the two top awards.

The three finalists for the Frank J. Gaziano Memorial Defensive Lineman Award are:           

Casey Mills, Cony High School, Augusta ME Position: Left Defensive End

Mills’ coaches consider him to be one of the most well-rounded athletes to play for the Cony Rams in school history.  A two-way starter, his success as a defensive end indicates his remarkable talent and competitive spirit.  His athletic capability is enhanced by “his strong work ethic, compassion for others, and dedicated leadership” – as described by Cony High School Principal Kimberly E. W. Silsby.  A 3-year starter on defense, Head Coach B.L. Lippert describes his play as “smart” and “relentless”.  It is clear watching Mills play that these characteristics define him, and he completed his senior season with 87 tackles, 8 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.

Mills’ character and drive are evident in all his accomplishments - as a student-athlete and school citizen.  Ranked 3rd in his graduating class with a GPA of 97.9, Mills has been on the honor roll for his entire high school career.  He serves as the President of Student Council and Key Club and has written for the school newspaper for four years.  A state champion wrestler, he also has served as captain of the Football, Lacrosse, and Wrestling teams (3 times), further demonstrating his leadership, athletic ability, and dedication.  In his junior year, he was All-Conference Track in Javelin.  He showcased determination and adaptability by joining the cross-country team in the fall of 2020 due to the cancellation of the football season caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.  Mills offers significant service to his community through his commitments as huddle leader for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and work as student body liaison during the Covid-19 pandemic.  He also is a member of the Outing Club and Spanish Club and served as delegate to Seeds of Peace in 2019. His volunteerism is substantial and shows strong community service, with a multitude of areas served, investing significant time with the Augusta Food Bank, youth sports, Togus VA, and Kennebec Humane Society, and annually giving 250 hours to these commitments.  Overall, Mills is an outstanding defensive lineman, role model, and community member.

Cody Ruff, Thornton Academy, Saco ME Position:  Defensive End

Ruff was a team captain for the Thornton Academy Trojans and helped lead the team during their victorious 2021 Maine State Championship season.  He is described by Thornton Athletic Administrator Gary R. Stevens “as one of finest overall student-athletes in his class” and “the anchor of the defense…a disrupter to the opponent’s offensive schemes.”  His Head Coach, Kevin Kezal, explains that Ruff “is one of the best defensive ends to ever play for us” and “a quality person, personifying the characteristics all educators and coaches look for when working with young adults.”  A two-year starter – a third year as a starter eliminated by the Covid-19 pandemic – Ruff challenged his opponents and imposed on them game-disrupting play.  This is clearly demonstrated by his season totals: 6.5 tackles per game, 4 sacks recorded, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 interception, 15 pass deflections, and 2 defensive touchdowns.

Ruff is committed to academics, earning a 3.99 GPA and ranking in the top 10 percent of his class.  He has taken on the challenges of numerous Honors courses and an AP course in his schedule and achieved induction into the National Honor Society.  In addition, he was named to the Class A Football Coaches All-Academic Team in his senior season.  Ruff is a multi-sport athlete, playing varsity basketball all four years, with key contributions to the 2019-2020 State Championship team with his rebounding and inside presence.  It is clear Ruff stands for the ethic of what he describes as “playing for something bigger than yourself”.  He demonstrates great respect as a mentor to underclassmen teammates on classroom success, social integrity, and athletic achievement – all components in his own conduct.  Ruff has given back to the future of the game with his work at annual football clinics, where he exemplifies hard work, humility, and commitment to excellence.

Jack Boutaugh, Leavitt Area High School, Turner ME Position: Left Defensive End

A dedicated football player, Boutaugh’s on-the-field success begins with work put in during the offseason, both in the weight room and as a shot-put thrower for indoor and outdoor track.  He embraces the hard-fought job of defensive lineman and takes great pride in it being foundational to successful football.  Head Coach Michael Hathaway describes Boutaugh as having “strong work ethic and commitment to the team” and as “a reliable player who our coaches know they can count on.”  His dominant ability is reflected by his impact: 71 tackles – 12 for a loss, 6 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and two pass deflections.  This was accomplished in 8 games, with two games cancelled due to Covid-19 protocols.  Simply put, his play is defined by well-rounded skill, consistent effort, and high level of physicality combined with intuitiveness.

Boutaugh demonstrates academic commitment in addition to athletics.  Science and math are subjects he is passionate about and seeks to deepen knowledge especially in these areas.  He has been on the Honor Roll his entire high school career, taking Honors courses and an AP course, and earning a GPA of 3.52.  These efforts are confirmed by being named to the 2021 Football All-Academic team.  Leadership characterizes his work ethic, being named 2021 Football Senior Captain and volunteering at the Leavitt Youth Football Summer Camp.  He was a leader for his teammates as the Covid-19 pandemic required new commitments to teamwork.  Boutaugh also emphasizes experience he gained from his job with EJ Drywall – in particular hard work, mindset, and perseverance. Boutaugh’s actions define him in the eyes of his coaches and peers with the highest respect and show his exceptionalism as a student-athlete.

The three finalists selected for the Frank J. Gaziano Memorial Offensive Lineman Award are:

Thomas Horton, Bonny Eagle High School, Standish ME Position: Right Guard

When comparing Horton to the previous seven Gaziano Award recipients from Bonny Eagle, Head Coach Kevin Cooper described him as the “the best two-way lineman I have ever coached...Thomas stands alone at the top.”  Horton’s play on offense showcases his exceptional ability as a drive blocker and pass blocker.  He is one of the best at his craft, especially when pulling, where he imposes his will on his assignment and any other opponents in his path.  As a sophomore, he registered 21 knock-down blocks and as a senior he registered 42 knock-down blocks plus no sacks given up.  Head Coach Cooper, classified these statistics as, “...unheard of.”  His athletic skills are top-notch and further reflected in his additional nomination for the Fitzpatrick Trophy.

There is a consistent focus on excellence seen beyond the football field; Horton is not only an exceptional athlete, but he is also exemplary as a student.  He challenges himself academically and has achieved an impressive GPA of 3.935.  He is a National Honor Society member and has been on the High Honor Roll all trimesters, while having completed four AP Courses and fourteen Honors courses.  In 2019 & 2020 he was recognized with a Male Scholar Athlete Award.  As a member of his school community, he takes on leadership roles. Horton is a member of the Student Council and served as captain of the football team.  During the school day, he volunteers in a semi self-contained classroom working with special needs students.  His service in the community is significant with time spent volunteering at the Falmouth Food Pantry, working with youth football, Special Olympics, and Furniture Friends of Greater Portland, along with other service-oriented commitments.  Insight into Horton’s remarkable success as an athlete, school citizen, and scholar are reflected in his comments regarding the critical element of mental strength in times of difficulty, such as the Covid-19 pandemic.  He has proven himself to be outstanding regardless of the difficulties faced.  He was undaunted by challenges and committed to persevering, while also working to inspire this same determination in his teammates.  Horton is an outstanding right guard, leader, student-athlete, and role model.

Reeve Twitchell, Leavitt Area High School, Turner ME Position: Center

Football is an area of excellence for this superior student-athlete, and remarkably football is only a part of what defines the success of this young man.  Head Coach Michael Hathaway summarizes the totality of Twitchell’s tremendous football talent, stating “He combines great physicality, superior technique and an intuitive mind for schemes to be a very complete offensive lineman” and that “his leadership and ability to be a positive influence on his teammates has been nothing short of awesome.”  In all capacities on the offensive line, Twitchell stands out for his ability, whether it be in pass protection, blitz pickups, or relentlessness to get to the second level, time-and-again completing his assignment and taking on whoever stands next to neutralize.  The offense rises across the board with this athlete on the field, reflected in part by his starting on the 2019 State Championship football team, and being Varsity Football Senior Captain and 2-way starter in 2021.

Twitchell is as accomplished in the classroom and in his community, again demonstrating an equal commitment to character, leadership, and service.  The caliber of his achievements and dedication to his commitments set him apart as a leader, both now and for the future.  Engaging in the classroom to meet any challenge, he shows adversity is part of his methodology for excellence, taking ten Honors Courses and one AP course, and proving his classroom ability with a 3.5 GPA, uninterrupted Honor Roll membership since middle school, and designation to the 2021 Football All-Academic Team.  He pursues his passion and leadership relentlessly, being a member of the Androscoggin County 4-H Club for seven years, three of these as Vice President and two as President.  It is through 4-H that Twitchell again commits to excellence – exhibiting dairy cattle at the state and national level, winning numerous champion prizes.  He is a multi-sport athlete, also playing basketball, indoor track, and outdoor track.  And his community service extends to being a volunteer coach at the Youth Hornet Pride Camp since 2016, with the Turner Timberland ATV Club, and at the Topsham Fairgrounds through 4-H.  Twitchell exemplifies the work ethic, character, consistency, and perseverance that the greatest football lineman and most dependable leaders demonstrate in their service and achievements.   

Seth Beyea, Thornton Academy, Saco ME Position: Offensive Tackle

Head Coach Kevin Kezal states that Beyea’s “work habits, motivation, and enthusiasm are excellent” and his “innate work ethic also carries over to the playing field.” As a three-sport athlete (football, wrestling and track and field), and two-way player on the football field, Beyea demonstrates his exceptional athletic ability, clearly evidenced by being named to the Class A Coaches All-State Team at two different positions.  Beyea’s leadership as captain is viewed by Coach Kezal as having been key in propelling the team to victory in the 2021 State Championship season.

Along with athletics, Beyea’s achievements are seen in the classroom and in his extracurricular activities and community service.  Beyea has exhibited sound work habits, motivation, and independence in taking responsibility for his own learning.  A member of the National Honor Society, he has challenged himself with rigorous course load, including three AP Courses and ten Honors Courses.  His focus on academics is reflected in a GPA of 3.94 and having been on the Honor Roll for thirteen quarters.  His achievements as a student-athlete were also acknowledged by his being named to Class A Coaches All-Academic Team.  He appreciates the importance of education in providing opportunities for the future, and this guides his academic quest.  Gary Stevens, Thornton Athletic Administrator shares that beyond academic and athletic success, Beyea “…is a quality person who demonstrates a sincere respect for other people through both his actions and his interactions with them.”  His investment in his community is seen in his volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and in tutoring students at Thornton Academy.  Football has given him a place to showcase his talent and love of athletics and he has proven himself to be an outstanding offensive lineman, a diligent student, and a contributing member of the community.

For more information on the scholarship program, visit Frank J. Gaziano Memorial Offensive and Defensive Lineman Awards - Maine Football Scholarships (

About National Distributors:

Established in 1960, National Distributors Inc. is a family-owned company that has been providing quality beverages to retailers for the benefit of consumers for more than 50 years. Though predominantly servicing retailers in southern Maine, the company continues to provide a variety of products and expand their distribution to central and coastal Maine. National Distributors maintains a strong vision for a greener future with an active environmental program. The company and its more than 170 employees also continue to be proud community leaders and promote the responsible consumption of their products. For more information, visit

About KeyBank: 

KeyBank's roots trace back nearly 200 years to Albany, New York. Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, Key is one of the nation's largest bank-based financial services companies, with assets of approximately $187.0 billion at September 30, 2021. Key provides deposit, lending, cash management, and investment services to individuals and businesses in 15 states through a network of 1,000 branches and approximately 1,300 ATMs. Key also provides a broad range of sophisticated corporate and investment banking products, such as merger and acquisition advice, public and private debt and equity, syndications and derivatives to middle market companies in selected industries throughout the United States under the KeyBanc Capital Markets trade name. For more information, visit  KeyBank is Member FDIC. 

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Karen Crane