ORONO — Liam Coen, the offensive coordinator for the University of Maine football team, gathered his four quarterbacks Friday morning and challenged them.

With a wide-open competition for the starting quarterback position needing to be decided soon, Coen’s message before the team’s final scrimmage Friday afternoon was simple: “I told them to come out and act like you’re the guy.”

While Drew Belcher, Chris Ferguson, Max Staver and Isaiah Robinson each have had moments to shine, no one appeared to shake the competition. Still, with the Black Bears season opener at rival New Hampshire just 12 days away, Coach Joe Harasymiak knows a decision has to be made.

“I don’t ever want to rush it,” said Harasymiak, in his second year as head coach. “But I think we’re less than two weeks away and we want to settle in on something. The issue going forward is, ‘What else are we going to evaluate them on?’

“We still have to get guys back (from injuries). We can’t let this trickle on too long.”

Injuries on the offensive line have impacted the evaluation process. For Friday’s scrimmage, Maine had only six healthy offensive linemen, then lost another – Cody Levy – because of back tightness. Six linemen were already sidelined: Jamil Demby (a preseason all-Colonial Athletic Association left tackle), Michael Supp, John Reddington, Daniel Burrows, Archie Callahan and Gunnar Docos.

Not that the quarterbacks could think about who was playing and who wasn’t.

“There was a little pressure,” said Ferguson. “But you just want to go play. You think about it sometimes, but it’s better to just leave it aside when you’re on the field and worry about it later, and just do what you can – make plays and show off your talents and what you can do, lead the team.”

Belcher, who started the scrimmage with the first unit, threw the only touchdown pass of the afternoon, a 6-yard rollout pass to Marquise Adams in the back corner of the end zone. But he also threw the only interception. In fact, Belcher missed his first five passing attempts before completing two passes on his third series.

Ferguson, a redshirt freshman, was second to play at quarterback and had a quick start, with three completions. But a penalty ended his first drive. He finished 3 for 9 with a drop.

Staver, who transferred to Maine as a grad student, took over after Ferguson, and Maine scored two touchdowns with him at quarterback. One was a 45-yard reverse by receiver Jaleel Reed down the right sideline – sprung on a lead block by Staver, who finished 5 for 9. He then directed another scoring drive, capped by a short run by former Cheverus star Joe Fitzpatrick.

Robinson, a talented freshman from Bowie, Maryland, had a couple decent passes in his two series.

Harasymiak and his staff spent Friday night looking at the film and planned to name a starter Saturday. That’s important, said Coen, for a lot of reasons, but especially one: “You want to get a guy and get the team to rally around him.”

The staff will dissect each quarterback’s performance from Friday, taking into account everything that happened.

“It comes down to what coverage was (the defense) in, did (the quarterback) read it right?” said Harasymiak. “What were the play calls? How many reps did they get?”

Coen noted that Friday’s scrimmage won’t be the only factor. “It’s really going to come down to the body of work, of all 14 practices,” he said.

And the quarterbacks know that. Belcher has been through this three times already in his career, always against Dan Collins. “Competition brings out the best in everyone,” he said. “Coach will make the best decision for the team.”

All the quarterbacks can do is try to make that decision a difficult one.

“The position alone, quarterback, is very competitive,” said Staver. “As quarterbacks, we can only do what we can do, control what we can control, how we play in practice. At the end of the day, that’s the coaches’ job and their call. We’ve got to do everything we can to put ourselves in position.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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