ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine football team is excited about its prospects for 2009.
The Bears demonstrated their enthusiasm Saturday morning during the fifth annual Jeff Cole Memorial Spring Scrimmage on Morse Field at Alfond Stadium.
Coach Jack Cosgrove and his staff put the team through several series of plays to exhibit the gains made since their 8-5 NCAA playoff season in 2008.
“It’s a stepping stone to let people know where we’re going, where we want to be and how hard and physical we’re going to come out and play each and every game,” said safety Jerron McMillian, who will be a sophomore next season.
McMillian made his presence felt with several tackles and two pass breakups, including a big hit on wide receiver Des Randall near the goal line.
McMillian is among several players with some experience who will be expected to make a bigger impact during 2009.
The Bears have several holes to fill on defense, including spots vacated by National Football League signees Jevon Belcher at end and Andrew Downey at inside linebacker.
No fewer than 21 players registered at least one tackle Saturday. Linebacker Vinson Givans had a forced fumble among his tackles, while cornerback Troy Harris capped the scrimmage with an interception of Cape Elizabeth’s Chris Treister at the 1-yard line that he returned 45 yards.
“I think we’re never satisfied,” said senior Brandon McLaughlin, who was selected by his teammates as one of three captains for next season along with quarterback Mike Brusko and defensive end Jordan Stevens of Temple.
“This is the end of spring ball, but it’s not the end of our preparation,” said McLaughlin.
The defense controlled the later part of the scrimmage, including the last six series. Two of those started at the defense’s 40-yard line and three began at the 25.
Key plays included Givans’ sack of QB Warren Smith and the ensuing fumble recovery by Raibonne Charles of Windham; and McLaughlin’s fourth-down tackle to stop on Treister a yard shy of a first down at the 16.
“The second half of the scrimmage I thought our defense took charge and really played well, especially well for where they were on the field,” Cosgrove said.
The offense enjoyed some success early in the scrimmage, manufacturing consecutive drives resulting in field goals.
Tailback Derek Session’s 15-yard run and a nine-yard completion from Mike Brusko to Jared Turcotte of Lewiston helped set up Brian Harvey’s 38-yard field goal.
On the next drive, Treister went 4-for-5 passing for 49 yards, hooking up with Randall on completions of 22 and 16 yards. Jordan Waxman booted a 25-yard field goal.
“I thought our offense came out with that type of mentality and really focused and they executed at a high level,” Cosgrove said.
The offense then scored on its first condensed drive, starting at the plus-40. Tailback Roosevelt Boone scored the day’s only touchdown when he took a handoff to the left, found the hole shut off, then reversed his field and outraced the defense to the right pylon.
“It’s a real hardworking group of guys,” Cosgrove said. “Their attitude and effort is a great reflection of each other.