The University of Maine football team played four games in the spring, the only team in the state to play any games last spring. Mike Lowe photo

WATERVILLE — The annual Howard Vandersea Maine Chapter of the National Football Foundation’s kickoff luncheon is always a celebration of football. Monday’s event held at Colby College, was even more so.

Last year’s luncheon, like the season for all but one of the state’s six collegiate football programs, was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Anticipation for the upcoming season is high.

“We’re all so anxious to get back to this game and teaching and coaching and playing,” Colby Coach Jack Cosgrove said. “Not having it in our lives is a challenge.”

Maine’s college football season begins Wednesday when the University of Maine begins preseason practices. The Black Bears will be the first team in the state to play a game – Sept. 2 vs. visiting Delaware.

Husson opens the season two days later, hosting UMass-Dartmouth. The University of New England opens the same day, at home against Coast Guard. As usual, the three New England Small College Athletic Conference schools will be the last to start. All three play their first game Sept. 18. Bates will host Amherst, Bowdoin plays at Hamilton and Colby hosts Wesleyan.

Maine was the only program in the state to get anything resembling a normal season in 2020-21. The Black Bears were able to play four of the six spring games scheduled in an abbreviated Colonial Athletic Association season. At times in February, practices had to be canceled because of too much ice on the field, Coach Nick Charlton said. When the Black Bears played, they did so in empty stadiums.

“Our guys showed a tremendous sense of resiliency throughout the entire process,” Charlton said. “I have a group of freshmen I just met in person for the first time three weeks ago, and another group of freshmen that came last year that have never been in a normal training camp.”

Charlton said he hopes his players learned that playing football is a privilege.

“Don’t ever take anything for granted ever again. When it’s Day 16 of training camp and we’re all tired, I’ll remind our players, remember where we were a year ago.”

COSGROVE LOOKED at the positives of only being able to practice last season, with no games for his Colby football team.

“You just get better. You don’t worry about game planning. Everybody’s getting better, top to bottom,” Cosgrove said.

While more than half of Colby’s roster is comprised of first- or second-year players who have never played college football, Cosgrove feels the Mules have a strong leadership base in the four senior captains: offensive lineman Lou Gordon, quarterback Matt Hersch, defensive back Brett Holmes, and defensive lineman Nick Wilcox.

“All four guys have started since they got here. It all starts with what they do and the leadership they provide,” Cosgrove said.

MONDAY’S LUNCHEON was the first opportunity for Bates interim coach Ed Argast to introduce himself to those who didn’t recognize him from his recent stint as the offensive coordinator at the University of New England or any of his other stops in coaching.

Argast takes over for Malik Hall, who left the program last week after serving as coach since 2018. According to the Bates Student, Athletic Director Jason Fein notified the athletic department in an email sent last Tuesday that Hall would not return this fall.

Argast began his coaching career as an assistant at Bates in 1979.

BOWDOIN COACH BJ Hammer said it will be nice to work with the entire team when it reports for camp later this month. Last season, Bowdoin’s first-year students were on campus in the fall, while upperclassmen were on the Brunswick campus in the spring semester.

Of the approximately 90 players expected in camp for the Polar Bears, more than 50 are new to college football, Hammer said. There will be battles for starting jobs at a number of positions, he said.

“We have six quarterbacks. I can’t tell you right now who is starting,” Hammer said.

Hammer took over as Bowdoin coach in 2019.

ONE OF the newest Division III football programs in the country, UNE reached a milestone last spring.

“We graduated our first-ever recruiting class last May,” Coach Mike Lichten said. “They did an incredible job mentoring the players behind them.”

The 2021 season will be the Nor’easters’ third season of competition. After going 2-7 in 2018, the debut season, UNE went 4-6 in 2019.

UNE and Husson will renew their rivalry on Oct. 23 in Biddeford. Husson defeated UNE 47-7 in 2018 in a nonconference game. After Husson joined UNE in the Commonwealth Coast Conference starting in 2019, the Nor’easters took the first conference game, 31-21.

“We love our in-state rivalry. This year more than ever,” Lichten said.

HUSSON COACH Nat Clark said he expects big things this season from Lisbon’s Tyler Halls and Skowhegan’s Jon Bell at wide receiver.

Halls caught 71 passes for 1,057 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2019, and was named to the New England Football Writers All-New England team. Bell saw action in nine games in 2019 and will be a key slot receiver, Clark said.

Defensive lineman Frank Curran, a Cheverus High graduate, will be back for his sixth season with the Eagles. Curran sat out his freshman year as a redshirt, and is using the extra season of eligibility granted by the NCAA to athletes who lost a season to the pandemic.

“He’s 24. He’s older than some of our coaches,” Clark joked.


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