ORONO — They were too small, too inexperienced, not good enough.

Yet the 1965 University of Maine football team had one of the most celebrated seasons in the history of the program. Coached by Harold Westerman, the Black Bears had an 8-2 record, won the Yankee Conference and played in the Tangerine Bowl.

And although Maine lost to East Carolina, 31-0, that is the only Black Bear football team to ever qualify for a bowl game.

That team was inducted into the UMaine Sports Hall of Fame Friday night and honored at halftime of the Black Bears game against Towson Saturday night. Maine wore throwback helmets from that team in its game against the Tigers.

Thirty-eight members of that team returned to Orono to reminisce and catch up with each other.

“What it was is that we just all came together,” said Jerry Perkins, the former Rumford/Mountain Valley wrestling coach who started at left tackle. “The coaches talked to us about family, caring for your buddy. We didn’t want to let the other guy down, we didn’t want to let our teammates down. We didn’t want to let our coaches down. And that’s how we played.

“We turned Maine on its ear, we turned the Eastern Seaboard on its ear because we did some of the special things,. I feel fortunate, just blessed, to have been part of that team.”

Perkins, 75,  said the offensive line featured four Mainers. He was the largest at 192 pounds.

Maine  was led by quarterback Dick DeVarney, who was injured in the Tangerine Bowl, and linebacker John Huard, who would play for the Denver Broncos and later become a highly successful coach.

Dennis Carey, 72 and originally from Rumford, was a receiver on the team. He said getting together with his former teammates was an experience he and his family will never forget.

“I’m just very proud of that team,” he said. “And getting together for this short period of time, it’s like you’ve never skipped a day. It’s the same jokes. You call each other the same names you used back then. The camaraderie is just outstanding. Respect for one another. We have some real storytellers.”

Walter Abbott, 82, was an assistant coach on that 1965 team. He said its success on the field has been eclipsed by the players’ success in life.

“You look at the success they’ve had in life and that sums it all up,” said Abbott. “I think this is a great moment. These kids, they had a very close bond and over these years, these good many years, the bond is still there.”

Perkins, who is from Orrington, said the university has been extremely good to members of the team. Earlier Saturday they met with head coach Nick Charlton and members of the team and took a tour of the facilities.

“This has been one of the best experiences of my life,” said Perkins. “The university, we met the players, they treated us with great respect. We looked up at them because they’re so big now.”

INJURED LINEBACKER Deshawn Stevens, who  suffered a torn Achilles tendon in his right leg in the season opener, was on the sidelines on crutches.

Stevens had season-ending surgery 10 days ago. But as one of the team’s four captains, he will maintain close ties with the Black Bears. “He’s going to be involved in everything we do,” said Charlton.

Stevens said he has received great support from the school, but especially from his mother, Andrea Anderson, and girlfriend Emma Cossette.

While his teammates are there for him, Stevens said the off-the-field support from his mother, who stayed  for a week after his surgery to “make sure I was settled in” and Cossette has given him a boost.

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