ORONO — It was the moment Najee Goode had been preparing for: his first college football game, an opposing wide receiver in his sights.

This was not how he pictured it unfolding: Goode was left clutching air as Isaac White kept heading down the sideline for a first down.

Goode, a redshirt freshman cornerback for Maine, made the next two tackles in that first-quarter sequence Aug. 30. The second of those was particularly satisfying. He brought down Norfolk State quarterback Malik Stokes after a 4-yard gain. Stokes was a big name in Philadelphia, a hotshot senior when Goode was an eighth-grader across town. Tackling him in a college game was surreal, Goode said, and quickly made up for that earlier miscue.

Goode finished with four tackles as the Black Bears beat the Spartans 10-6.

“I was trying to take a shot and hit his leg out, and it didn’t work. I said, ‘No more of those,'” Goode said of that early hitch pattern, which turned into an 11-yard gain. “The next time I just slowed it down a little bit, chopped my feet and I made the tackle, made it easier.

“As the game went on, I got a lot stronger. Everything slowed down. I learned that I can play at this level.”

He wasn’t alone. In the third quarter, Goode looked across the field and saw a familiar face in an unfamiliar setting. Fellow redshirt freshman Tayvon Hall had entered the game at the opposite cornerback spot, after starter Sherrod Baltimore suffered a bruised knee.

Goode and Hall were roommates last fall.

“We always talked about playing together, so this was like, ‘Hey, it really happened, in the first game,'” Goode said.

“We were talking to each other after every play, saying what to look for in certain formations.”

Hall was called on to assist on only one tackle. But the two rookies got valuable experience that they might soon need to draw upon. Maine had a bye this week, but travels to Bryant on Saturday. Goode figures to start again for the injured Axel Ofori Jr. Baltimore could be able to play, depending on the level of pain he is experiencing, but Hall is likely to see action at least in a relief role.

“Tayvon, who was brand-spanking new to everything, went in and did a nice job,” Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove said.

Ofori, a senior who had surgery to remove chipped cartilage in his ankle last month, hopes he can be back on the field by Maine’s third game, at Boston College on Sept. 20. His coaches believe the fourth or fifth game is a more realistic target.

Regardless, he said he was impressed with the way the freshmen responded and knows the position is in good hands.

“They had confidence. They just looked like they’d done it before,” said Ofori, who has been mentoring the newcomers. “Nobody was scared or nervous or anything.”

Goode, who sat out last year to put 15 additional pounds on his frame, which is now 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, said he was uncharacteristically nervous leading up to his first game. That went away as soon as the team suited up, he said.

Hall, of West Hempstead, New York, arrived at Maine last year as a running back. He was immediately converted to cornerback, then broke his left fibula in August training camp.

He was back in action for spring practices in April, and was playing on special teams Saturday until he was called on to replace Baltimore.

The first play was a run to the opposite side of the field, which bought Hall a little time for the jitters to subside. Hall said he felt himself holding back a little on the initial plays, not rushing up to get in on tackles. That timidity soon evaporated.

“I just have to do my job, set the edge, contain. When I have to make tackles, I do,” he said. “They didn’t really throw the ball much, so I wasn’t really tested.”

Goode and Hall are both aware that they could be embarking on a four-year career as stalwarts on a salty Maine defense. They will eventually be picked upon by offenses looking to pass the ball more than Norfolk State.

They promise to be ready.


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