ORONO — The rule for every football practice or scrimmage is that quarterbacks do not get hit. Apparently that does not apply to Grant Hartley, the former three-sport star at Edward Little High in Auburn.

Hartley, finishing up his freshman year at the University of Maine, had a big impact Saturday in the 15th annual Jeff Cole Memorial Spring Game at Alfond Stadium.

Hartley threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Clark Barnes to give the White team the lead with about four minutes remaining. Then, while playing for the Blue team – all three quarterbacks, including Chris Ferguson and Ryan Walsh, played for both squads – Hartley was intercepted by Erick Robertson on the day’s final play to secure the 21-14 win for the White team.

But it’s the way 6-foot-2, 236-pound Hartley played that made an impression. He ran the ball and took hits. And that’s just how he likes it.

“Believe it or not, some quarterbacks like getting hit,” said Hartley. “They feel they play a little better when they get hit.”

Nick Charlton, wrapping up his first spring as Maine’s head coach, loves what Hartley brings to the Black Bears.

“He’s a competitive kid and I like to let him run around,” said Charlton. “I think he likes playing quarterback and what that means. There’s a lot of things that go with playing that position. He’s a very competitive kid.”

Hartley knows that Ferguson is the starting quarterback. And he saw Walsh get playing time last year. But he loves competing for his spot on the team.

“I’m very happy with the decision I made to come here,” he said. “It’s turned me into a better athlete and a better person.”

In years past, the spring game – named after Cole, the former Black Bears assistant coach who died in 2004 after a long battle with cancer – has had a scrimmage format. Charlton wanted to test his players in game situations, so he split the team into two squads. And he wanted them to have fun.

It was obvious from the start that both sides wanted to win, cheers and whoops going up from either sideline when a big play was made. Wide receiver Jaquan Blair threw a touchdown pass; starting right guard Liam Dobson scored on a 1-yard dive.

“It was awesome,” said Ferguson, who threw touchdown passes to Devin Young and Jayvaun Shears. “The energy is there. I think it pulled us together.”

Maine returns 16 starters from last year’s 10-4 team that reached the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals. But there are holes to fill and depth to be found. And the Black Bears need to discover who will run the ball.

They were missing their top two rushers from last year: Joe Fitzpatrick, of North Yarmouth and Cheverus High, is recovering from shoulder surgery, and Ramon Jefferson is unable to participate in any team activities while his legal issues are unsettled. Jefferson is due in court on May 8 to face charges of domestic violence assault and criminal mischief stemming from a Feb. 6 incident. He has pleaded not guilty.

Adrian Velez, Zac Bouhalloufa, Elijah Brooks and Brandon Washington carried the load Saturday. Bouhalloufa rushed for 41 yards, while Velez, who played in three games last year, had 28 yards.

The spring season ended on a high note. As the team gathered at midfield one final time, Charlton announced that sophomore defensive back Richard Carr had earned a full scholarship.

The team erupted in cheers and piled on Carr, who came to Maine from Philadelphia as a preferred walk-on. “He works really hard,” said Charlton. “From humble beginnings all the way up, he’s a starter and outstanding special teams player.”

“I’m just thankful, grateful,” said Carr. “I can’t wait to call my mom. I know she’s going to cry.”

Carr had originally planned to go to Bryant University, but withdrew after the coaching staff there was let go. Mike Ryan, now Maine’s defensive coordinator, contacted him and invited Carr for a visit. A week later, he agreed to come to Maine without a scholarship.

“My mom and dad made some sacrifices,” said Carr. “This is for them. Without them, none of this is possible.”

NOTES: Hartley wasn’t the only former Maine high school player on the field. The others were wide receivers Andre Miller (Old Town), Hunter Smith (Foxcroft Academy) and Damon Osmond (Bath and Morse High), tight end Jack True (Yarmouth), offensive lineman Gunnar Ducos (Harrison and Oxford Hills), defensive linemen Raffaele Salamone (Portland and Deering High) and Trey Wood (Brewer), linebacker Adam Bertrand (Pittsfield and Maine Central Institute) and kicker John Williams (Portland). Williams walked on just a couple months ago, according to Charlton. “We’re pleased to have him,” said Charlton. “We want to create depth at that position.” Miller, meanwhile, made a highlight catch, leaping over a defender, to set up a touchdown. …  The inactive list included kicker Kenny Doak, wide receiver Earnest Edwards, tight end Michael Laverriere (of Arundel and Thornton Academy), offensive linemen Migel Garcia and Michael Gerace, defensive linemen Charles Mitchell and Garrett Graham (from Veazie and Brewer High), linebackers Jaron Grayer and Owen Elliott (of Saco and Thornton Academy) and Fitzpatrick.

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