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Xaverian's Gaziano is ESPN Boston Mr. Football

ESPNBoston.com and its high school section today announced that Joe Gaziano, senior defensive end of the Xaverian Brothers High School Hawks, is the recipient of its fifth annual Mr. Football award, presented annually to the top high school football player in Massachusetts.

The Mr. Football Award was chosen by a panel of experts made up of ESPNBoston.com staff and correspondents, as well as analysts from Scouts Inc. Gaziano will be presented the award this Sunday on the field at Gillette Stadium prior to the New England Patriots’ game versus the Miami Dolphins. Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Tippett are expected to be on hand for the presentation.

"We are pleased to present Joe Gaziano with our fifth annual Mr. Football award," said ESPN Boston High Schools editor Brendan C. Hall. "In our five years presenting this award, this was our closest race ever. There were several candidates that were clearly head and shoulders above the rest of the competition. But Joe was the most dominant player on the most dominant team in the state of Massachusetts, and it’s hard to overlook what a game-changer he was off the edge despite being schemed against all year. The numbers he posted in spite of how much he was double-teamed and run away from reflect that."

The 6-foot-4, 245-pound Gaziano, a Scituate resident, came into this fall as the reigning ESPN Boston Defensive Player of the Year after a breakout junior season in which he recorded 53 tackles, 12 sacks, three blocked punts and an interception for the MIAA Division 1 state finalist Hawks. This season, the Hawks went wire to wire as the No. 1 team in ESPN Boston’s statewide poll, capped with a Division 1 state title on Saturday in beating rival Everett High 38-29. Gaziano was the most integral piece of the Hawks’ vaunted defense, recording 60 tackles (22 for loss) and 16 sacks. He also factored heavily into the Hawks’ running game as a blocking tight end, and handled kicking duties, with a season long of 45 yards.

Gaziano has been active in his family's fundraising efforts as well, assisting with Joshua's Run, a Jimmy Fund fundraiser based in Scituate, and the Andrea Gaziano Memorial Fund -- established in the memory of his late sister -- which raises money for pediatric oncology research.

"Joe Gaziano is the embodiment of what our Mr. Football award is about," said ESPN Boston High Schools editor Scott Barboza. "On the field, he's a standout in all three phases of the game. In addition, off the field, he's a tremendous student in the classroom who takes his studies as seriously as he does football. His work in charitable endeavors, in particular associated with the Jimmy Fund, go to show the kind of high quality character young man he is. He's a true All-American kid."

Everett cornerback Lukas Denis, Natick wide receiver Brian Dunlap, Shepherd Hill offensive/defensive lineman Chris Lindstrom and East Longmeadow running back Mike Maggipinto were the four other Mr. Football finalists announced for the award back on November 24.

Gaziano is the first player from Xaverian to win the award, and is the first player to win the award primarily for his play on the defensive side of the ball. He joins Natick's Troy Flutie, St. John's Prep's Alex Moore, and Everett's Jonathan DiBiaso and Matt Costello among past Mr. Football winners.

Earlier this season, Gaziano was named a Semper Fidelis All-American, and will participate in its All-American Game on Jan. 5, 2015 in Carson, Calif. Last week, Gaziano was named the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year, becoming the second Xaverian player ever to win the award.

Gaziano will continue his career next year at Northwestern University, where he hopes to be a pre-medical student in addition to his duties on the football team.