Major college football teams have been playing for three weeks already. But the NCAA Division III teams at Bowdoin, Bates and Colby colleges will start their seasons Saturday. And they cannot wait.

“Finally,” said JB Wells, the first-year coach at Bowdoin. “We’ve been practicing since … I can’t even remember, it’s been so long. It’s good to be in a game week.”

The Polar Bears, coming off a 2-6 season, open against Williams at Whittier Field in Brunswick. Bates (4-4 in 2014) opens against defending NESCAC champion Amherst at Garcelon Field in Lewiston. Colby (2-6 in 2014) opens with Trinity at Seaverns Field in Waterville. Kickoff for each game is 1 p.m.

“It’s time to get going,” said Mark Harriman, entering his 17th year as Bates’ head coach.

The Bobcats have enjoyed the most success of the three schools recently, going 4-4 in each of the last two seasons and 5-3 in 2012. Neither Bowdoin nor Colby has had a winning record since 2005.

Colby Coach Jon Michaeles said the football rivalry among the three schools is something special. “There’s nothing like it,” he said. “There’s a great deal of respect among the teams. It’s everything that’s good about college football.”

Harriman said they’re all looking for the same type of player: “We look for guys who have a passion for football. They’re here to get an education, but the thing they need to do and realize is that they have to put in the time, too. We need guys with great work ethics and passion.”

Here’s a quick look at the teams:

BATES: There’s a little shift for the Bobcats, where most of the experience is now on offense. Eight starters return, only three on defense.

They have two of the best returning players in NESCAC in senior wide receiver Mark Riley (41 catches, 572 yards, four touchdowns) and junior linebacker Mark Upton (73 tackles, 3.5 sacks), both first-team selections last year. Senior Patrick Dugan, injured much of the last two years, is back to quarterback the triple-option attack, which includes senior running back Shaun Carroll of Clinton (Lawrence High). Frank Williams is another talented slot back.

The Bobcats have some talent on defense as well: junior linebacker Ben Coulibaly is a big hitter and sophomore Andrew Jenkelunas makes the move from safety to outside linebacker. Junior Trevor Lyons will move from cornerback to safety. Junior Brandon Williams provides experience at cornerback. Junior Sean Antonuccio could be a force at defensive end.

“I think we’ve got a great group this year,” said Harriman. “We’ll see where we are Saturday.”

BOWDOIN: Tyler Grant, a junior, was the Polar Bears’ leading rusher last year with 893 yards and eight TDs. Senior center Matt Netto anchors the offensive line. Sophomore Bryan Porter and freshman Brian Thompson are talented tight ends. Senior Daniel Barone led the Polar Bears with 36 catches for 390 yards last year.

Junior Tim Drakely played some at quarterback last year but is being pushed in preseason by freshman Noah Nelson of Falmouth. Inside linebacker Brendan Lawlor led the team in tackles in 2014 with 55 and, Wells said, might see some time at fullback this year.

Jibrail Coy (44 tackles, one interception) and Reeder Wells (36 tackles) solidify the secondary. Senior Nadim Elhage and sophomore Isaiah Williams should be stout on the defensive line. And, Wells said, Bowdoin “might have the best kicking duo in the conference” in place-kicker Andrew Sisti and punter Andrew Murowchick.

Wells, who coached previously at Endicott College, said the Polar Bears are not that far from having a winning program.

“It’s a program that needs a realignment,” he said. “It’s not going the wrong way but it’s drifted from the winning path.”

COLBY: Injuries played a pivotal role last year, and a lot of young players gained valuable experience because of them. So the Mules could be much improved.

Michaeles said the defensive line “has to be a strength for us.” Defensive end Ryan Ruiz (42 tackles) and defensive tackle Harry Nicholas (36 tackles), both seniors, should be among the team leaders again. Senior middle linebacker Stephen O’Grady and junior defensive lineman Chris Marano are pivotal defenders as well.

On offense, the Mules return running backs Jabari Hurdle-Price (team-high 533 rushing yards, two TDs) and Carl Lipani (188 yards rushing in the first two games before being injured).

Junior quarterback Gabe Harrington started seven games last year, throwing for 1,423 yards and 11 TDs. Two of his top targets are back in junior wide receiver Ryder Arsenault (team-high 25 catches for 263 yards and four TDs) and senior tight end Glenn Parsons (nine catches, 96 yards).

THE UNIVERSITY of New England has a date for its first varsity football game – Aug. 30, 2018 – and now is working on a coach.

Athletic Director Jack McDonald said the school would post the position by Oct 1, with the hope of having a coach within three months.

“We’ll review candidates in November, hopefully do interviews in December,” he said.

The Nor’easters plan on starting their football program in 2017 on a sub-varsity level. “Right now we’re also working on the master plan, what our facility needs are,” said McDonald.

CROSS COUNTRY

New England College freshman Saad Zackaria of Westbrook was named the North Atlantic Conference rookie of the week for the second consecutive week. Zackaria ran an 8-kilometer time of 28:31 to finish 151st of 324 runners in the UMass-Dartmouth Invitational.

n Keene State College freshman Iid Sheikh-Yusuf of Portland (Deering) was named Little East Conference men’s rookie of the week. He finished 22nd overall in the UMass-Dartmouth Invitational, finishing in 25:59.14.

n Saint Anselm College sophomore Shannon Conley of South Portland has had a fast start to the season. Conley won the Smith College Invitational to open the season, completing the 5K course in 19:40.27 seconds. Then Conley finished 71st of 299 runners in the 25-team college division in the National Catholic Invitational at Notre Dame. She completed the 5K course in 19:08.2 seconds.

Sophomore Heather Evans of York finished 158th in the National Catholic Invitational with a time of 20:17.5 while sophomore Sarah Panteleos of York finished 193rd at 21:01.1.

FIELD HOCKEY

Bowdoin senior forward Rachel Kennedy of Trumbull, Connecticut, was named NESCAC player of the week after scoring nine goals and one assist in three Polar Bear NESCAC victories. She scored three goals in each game. Kennedy now has 12 goals this season and 80 in her career.

n UNE sophomore forward Vonde Saunders of Conway, New Hampshire, was named Commonwealth Coast Conference offensive player of the week and freshman back Marge Gardiner of East Northport, New York, is the CCC rookie of the week.. Saunders scored five goals and one assist as the Nor’easters went 2-1. Three of the goals came in a 6-0 win over Roger Williams.

n Colby senior midfielder Megan Fortier of Falmouth has five goals and three assists for the Mules (3-2). Fortier, who also plays ice hockey for Colby, has 37 goals and 16 assists in her career.

n St. Joseph’s College sophomore Elyse Caiazzo of Scarborough (Cheverus) was named Great Northeast Athletic Conference rookie of the week. She had two goals and an assist in a 6-0 win over Rivier.

n Saint Michael’s College freshman midfielder Maddy Dobecki of Scarborough, the 2014 Miss Maine Field Hockey winner, has one assist for the Purple Knights(3-2).

FOOTBALL

Three local players had a big hand in Maine Maritime Academy’s 47-41 victory over Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Sophomore fullback James Ferrar of Cumberland (Greely) gained 157 yards rushing on 23 carries. Senior linebacker Alex Gamester of Kittery (Traip Academy) had 10 tackles, four solo. And senior defensive back Matt Clifford of Kittery (Traip Academy) had an interception.

GOLF

St. Joseph’s freshman Cam Letourneau of Hebron was named the GNAC golfer of the week and rookie of the week after finishing second with a 3-over-par 147 in the Maine Collegiate Championship. He shot a 72-75. St. Joseph’s won its second state championship, by one stroke over Husson, at the Fairlawn Golf and Country Club in Poland.

n Husson freshman Daulton Wickenden of Rockport (Camden Hills) was the NAC golfer of the week and rookie of the week after winning medalist honors with a 4-under 140 in the Maine Collegiate Championship. He shot a 4-under 68 on the first day and a par 72 on the second.

SOCCER

St. Joseph’s College senior forward Hannah LeBlanc of Andover, Massachusetts, was named GNAC player of the week and freshman Haley DeGraca of Saco (Thornton Academy) was named GNAC rookie of the week. LeBlanc had four goals and two assists in a 2-1 week for the Monks. DeGraca had four goals in the three games, including three against New England College.

VOLLEYBALL

St. Joseph’s senior middle blocker Felicia Wachowiak of Milton, New Hampshire, was named the GNAC defensive player of the week. She totaled 53 kills and 17 blocks to help the Monks go 6-0.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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