Andrew Libby verbally committed to attend the University of Massachusetts and resume his football career. He made the decision after a visit to the campus in Amherst and meeting with new coach Mark Whipple last weekend.

“It was the right choice,” said Libby, a Thornton Academy senior who hopes to realize his dream of playing NCAA Division I football. “It felt like I fit. The opportunities to play are there.”

Libby suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game of the 2013 high school season. He was a starter for Coach Kevin Kezal since his freshman year and a versatile offensive star as a sophomore and junior. Libby expects to get his full medical clearance in mid-March, seven months after his surgery. He has been rehabbing the knee and building up his body strength in preparation for next season.

“I didn’t have any doubts (during his recovery),’’ Libby said Monday. “I’ve trusted the surgeon. My knee is the strongest it’s ever been.”

Libby said he and Whipple talked about a role for him at fullback in his freshman year.

Libby will join a football program in transition. UMass fired Coach Charley Molnar on Dec. 26 after only two seasons and a 2-22 record. The Minutemen left the Colonial Athletic Conference and what was once called Division I-AA three years ago to move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision, the NCAA’s highest level of football. It plays home games at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

Whipple was hired about a month ago, returning to the program he led to the 1998 national championship. He left UMass after six seasons and a 49-26 record for several stints as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns.

Kezal has little doubt Libby will succeed. Libby helped lead TA to the 2012 state championship. Winning back-to-back titles was the goal. The knee injury was a big setback.

Kezal has watched Libby’s work ethic and commitment to football for four years. Although Libby’s mobility was limited after surgery, he attended practice regularly and was on the sideline during games, verbally working with teammates.

“He battled through (the injury),” said Kezal. “Everything happens for a reason. Andrew got a year off. Nobody wanted to see that but he’s made the most of it. He’s very mature.”

BOYS’ HOCKEY

SOUTH PORTLAND 9, MASSABESIC/OLD ORCHARD BEACH 0: Andrew Whipple scored four goals and assisted on two others as the Red Riots (9-5) scored eight times in the second period to pull away from the Sea Stangs (0-15) at Portland Ice Arena.

Kyle Halvorsen added two goals and two assists for the Red Riots and Chris Mitchell collected one goal and two assists.

Freshman goalie Sky Friedland-Farley made six saves to record the shutout in his first career start for South Portland.

Friedland-Farley also assisted on the opening goal, which was scored by Whipple 2:40 into the second period. 

GORHAM 4, YORK 1: Carl Bear, Jordan Ward and Shawn Sullivan each scored first-period goals as the Rams (11-3) raced to an early lead and held off the Wildcats (5-10) at Dover Ice Arena in Dover, N.H.

After a scoreless second period, York cut the deficit to 3-1 when Colin Palmer scored a power-play goal with 2:48 left in the game.

Tucker Buteau scored the final Gorham goal 43 seconds later.

Bear and Sullivan each added an assist for the Rams, who outshot York 37-12. 

LEWISTON 8, LAWRENCE/SKOWHEGAN 4: Evan Gosselin scored two goals and added an assist to lead the Blue Devils (12-3-0) over the Bulldogs (9-6-0) at Sukee Arena.