SACO — Andrew Libby says he and Cody Lynn have a lot in common, and right down to their haircuts, it’s not hard to see that he’s not just saying that.

One of the less obvious similarities was the desire of both from a young age to play football in college. On Tuesday, the pair officially sealed the deal on making that hope a reality; fittingly, they did it together.

The two Thornton Academy seniors each signed National Letters of Intent to continue their football careers at the next level during a ceremony in the Thornton Academy atrium on Tuesday as more than 200 family, friends, teammates and teachers looked on.

Libby will play at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, while Lynn committed to Assumption College ”“ just over an hour away in Worcester, Mass.

“We’ve been together ever since sophomore year, playing safety together,” Libby said of Lynn. “It was an honor to do this with him, I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anyone else.”

By committing to UMass, Libby joins rarefied as a member of a small club of Maine high school football players to commit to a Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) school. That was the goal all along.

“Ever since I was a little kid I always wanted to play at the big level,” Libby said. “I wanted to be a kid from Maine saying that I can go play at Division I, and I’m glad it’s starting to come true.”

The Maine Gatorade Player of the Year in 2012, when he led the Golden Trojans to the Class A football state title, Libby missed nearly the entirety of his senior year after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the season opener against South Portland.

After surgery, Libby has been rehabbing ever since and expects full medical clearance by mid-March, in plenty of time to get ready for the fall season.

“The work ethic has to get a lot stronger. You have to keep on things, you’ve got to go make them happen,” Libby said. “That’s definitely the most-important thing. Now it’s just a matter of getting ready for it and hoping for the best.

“I’m going to find the best player on the team and try to be better than him. I can only go up from here.”

So can UMass.

After three decades as one of the premier programs at Division I-AA (now the Division I Football Championship), the Minutemen moved up to the Bowl Subdivision in 2012 as members of the Mid-American Conference and play their home games at Gillette Stadium. It’s been a rocky transition to the higher level as UMass has gone 2-22 over the last two seasons.

That led to head coach Gary Molnar being fired this past December. His replacement is Mark Whipple, who returns to Amherst after leading the school to a 49-26 record, including a national championship, during his first stint as head coach from 1998 to 2003.

“Coach Whipple is a great coach,” said Libby, who expects to play at fullback his freshman season. “He’s changed the whole thing around, and I know he’ll do a great job at it. I’m excited to have him as my coach.”

Lynn, a tight end who led the Trojans in receptions and receiving touchdowns last season, will join an Assumption team that was 6-5 last year in Division II’s Northeast-10 conference.

“Ever since I was little I wanted to play college football,” Lynn said. “And I think now that will come true.”

A Fitzpatrick Trophy semifinalist, all-SMAA first team selection and team captain, Lynn will join fellow Mainers Alex Shain of Sanford and Patrick Thayer of Cape Elizabeth as well as fellow commit Jed Scott of Sanford, in Worcester.

“I want to thank the Thornton Academy coaching staff,” Lynn said at Tuesday’s ceremony. “They are the best people that I’ve ever met, and they’re my role models, and will be for the rest of my life. They taught me how to be a man, how to carry myself and they taught me so much about the game.”

For Thornton head coach Kevin Kezal, the feeling was mutual.

“Cody and Andrew have been a part of four very successful seasons here at Thornton Academy,” Kezal said. “Both knew exactly how to motivate our team. And as good as they are on the field, both Cody and Andrew are even better off of it, and two of the finest individuals you will ever meet. The entire coaching staff wishes them luck at the next level.”

— Staff Writer Cameron Dunbar can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 323 or [email protected]

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