BIDDEFORD — The University of New England football team has around 73 players on the roster entering the program’s first year. One thing that will set the Nor’easters apart from every other college team in the country is the number of freshman head coach Mike Lichten will suit up when they play at Curry College on Saturday, Sept. 2.

UNE boasts 59 freshman on its roster with just 14 upperclassmen — which meant Lichten had to treat preseason camp a little different than most coaches.

“We kind of had to shift our focus as a staff,” said Lichten. “We realized we had to do way more team building than strategy and Xs and Os, technique and all that stuff. It was about getting these kids to meld.”

Lichten also had to get the players to buy into his system and really feel like they were a part of something truly special.

“Getting them to believe in something that they didn’t necessarily have any ownership of yet and get them to understand that this was theirs. This was a brand new thing and this is going to be theirs forever, so what they do is going to echo through the course of history,” Lichten added.

When Lichten accepted the job of creating a Division III football program out of thin air he knew it would be a ton of work. The longtime coach, who was previously the head coach at Becker College, made sure to soak in advice from anyone that could point him in the right direction — and that included making a trip to one of the most successful Division III programs in the country.

“We’ve taken a lot of trips. I was at Wisconsin Whitewater this year and that was eye-opening. When you’re a football coach you never stop developing, you never stop learning about what other people are doing, and what’s making them successful and what they would have done differentely,” Lichten said.

While Lichten is always open to listening to other respected football people, he also knows that, in the end, the UNE program needs to carve its own path.

“I’ve taken advice from a lot of different coaches, guys who have started programs, guys who haven’t, but at the end of  the day I’m just always going to make the decision on what I think is best for our football program,” Lichten said. “The only people who really know what this place needs are the people involved here, so I’ve got to keep that in mind no matter what I’m doing, and no matter who I’m talking to that the program and the players have to always come first.”

The Nor’easters will play eight road games this year with their lone “home” game coming on Oct. 21 against Kirkland Academy (New Jersey). The game will be played at Portland’s Fitzpatrick Stadium.

“We are very lucky to have the opportunity to play there. Portland is an incredible town in general, but now that we get to bring college football to it, is a special thing,” Lichten said. “I know the (University of Maine) Black Bears are playing there later in their season, so I think the people of Portland should come out and have an opportunity to see some college football being played at Fitzpatrick Stadium, which is obviously a very historic place. We are honored to be a part of it. Like I said, we want to be southern Maine’s football team and Portland is the epicenter of the southern Maine community.”

Lichten and his staff, which includes offensive coordinator Ed Argast, defensive coordinator Kenny Treschitta and special teams coach Pete Byron, will be working over the next two weeks to get the Nor’easters ready for the first game in the program’s history.

“We’ve ground them down pretty good this past week. Some of these guys have some sore legs, but that’s part of the process. I want to try and get as healthy as we can be but also we’ve got to make sure we have our full offense and full defense installed and special teams, there has to be a huge point of emphasis,” said Lichten.

The UNE head coach credits his staff with putting in a ton of work to get ready for the upcoming season.

“Our coordinators Ed Argast, Kenny Treschitta and Pete Byron have done an incredible job of putting together a great scheme and they have also done an incredible job of teaching a scheme,” Lichten said. “It’s a delicate balance between making sure we have all the install done, and have repped it enough and making sure we are healthy enough to compete.”

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