ORONO — In 2013, the University of Maine football team won the Colonial Athletic Association title and advanced to the second round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

Incoming recruit Jeff DeVaughn, a defensive back from Pennsylvania, saw that success and thought to himself, “Can’t wait to do it again.”

Well, it took five years for Maine to make the playoffs again and DeVaughn, now a senior safety and co-captain, is grateful to be part of the team that did it.

“I’ve never seen the playoffs until senior year,” DeVaughn said Tuesday. “I’m very grateful and humble. But now that we’re in there we want more. The game we put on last week, I know we can keep going. If we play like that nobody can stop us. We want to see how far we can go.”

Maine (9-3) will play at Weber State (10-2) in Ogden, Utah, in the FCS quarterfinals at 8 p.m. Friday. The Black Bears, seeded seventh in the tournament and winners of five straight, are coming off a 55-27 thumping of Jacksonville State in the second round. The Wildcats, who are seeded second and have won seven straight, defeated Southeast Missouri State 43-28 in the second round.

It will be Maine’s third trip to the quarterfinals and first since 2011, when it lost 35-23 at Georgia Southern. Coach Joe Harasymiak, who was an assistant coach on the 2011 and 2013 staffs, knows how special this season has been.

“As I told the staff when I came in this morning,” said Harasymiak, “any time that they’re putting up Christmas trees and you’re still playing is a great year.”

His seniors realize this. Coming into a program that had such a great year in 2013, they expected more of the same. But Maine went 5-6 and 3-8 the next two seasons.

Harasymiak replaced Jack Cosgrove in 2016 and Maine went 6-5, missing the playoffs on a last-second loss to New Hampshire in the season’s final game.

Last year Maine went 4-6, the season bookended by one-point losses to FCS playoff teams New Hampshire and Stony Brook.

Senior wide receiver Micah Wright has gone through those struggles – and some of his own, including a couple of suspensions and last year a season-ending knee injury – and seen the program come out stronger.

“It’s pretty surreal to think about,” he said. “After everything I’ve been through, the team’s been through, the seniors especially … the past four years haven’t been the greatest, a couple of bad losing seasons. … We could have ended it like other groups of seniors in the past. Elon (the regular-season finale) could have been our last game.

“Now we’ve got one more guaranteed game this week. Let’s get one more. That’s our focus, take it one game at a time.”

Senior tight end Drew Belcher, one of Maine’s co-captains, said he knew this team was better than expected. Maine was picked to finish eighth among the 12 teams in the annual CAA preseason poll.

“It’s something I envisioned before the year,” he said. “I haven’t been in the playoffs until this year so to be one of the final eight is definitely awesome. But there’s still work to be done. We’re not happy just being in the final eight. We want to keep going and it starts this week on the road.”

Senior linebacker Sterling Sheffield said this game is another opportunity for Maine to make a statement.

“We’re ready,” he said. “The whole team is 100 percent confident. We know that we’re legit and we need to keep showing that.”

DeVaughn said no matter what happens, this has been a memorable season.

“How this plays out, I don’t know,” he said. “But seeing how the community came back together, how the fan base came back together, that was the most beautiful thing I’ve seen.

“The stuff on Twitter. The pep rally. It’s a nice thing to have. To finally get that college football feel is a great thing.”

SENIOR SAFETY Darrius Hart didn’t practice Tuesday, his left foot in a plastic boot. Harasymiak said the team was simply being cautious with Hart, who suffered the injury in practice the week leading into the Nov. 17 regular-season finale against Elon but hasn’t missed any game time.

Junior defensive tackle Charles Mitchell (ankle sprain) was a full-go in practice. He was injured in the first half of the Elon game. Mitchell dressed but didn’t play in last Saturday’s 55-27 win over Jacksonville. He is expected to be in the starting lineup against Weber State.

MAINE WILL fly to Utah at noon Thursday out of Bangor International Airport. The Black Bears will return Friday night after the game, arriving in Bangor early Saturday morning.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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