It has become harder in recent years for Maine high school football players to earn a scholarship at the University of Maine.
Max Andrews of Holden has proven he has what it takes — and he hasn’t even committed himself to football full time yet. The senior tight end from John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor will do so next fall as a member of the the University of Maine football team.
“I always wanted to see if I could play at the Division I level and to have this opportunity to play at Maine, it’s definitely a huge honor for me,” said Andrews, a three-time, All-LTC first-team choice.
Andrews was among 12 players, including defensive end Josh Ingalls of Wells, to sign National Letters of Intent to play at UMaine on Wednesday. At least two other players’ NLIs are pending.
“We’ve been recruiting him [Andrews] since the spring,” said UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove, who saw him at UMaine summer camps. “Coach Dan O’Connell has done a great job with him and the whole Bapst program, which helped with our evaluation of him.”
UMaine was the only Division I scholarship offer for Andrews, who made his official recruiting visit two weeks ago.
“I talked to Colby and Middlebury and a bunch of Division III schools for football,” Andrews said. “I was actually considering playing baseball at Saint Joseph’s [in Standish].”
The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder played fullback, tight end and wide receiver on offense and anchored the Crusaders’ defensive front at end.
“He has outstanding skills in his ability to catch the ball and do multiple things from different positions on the field,” O’Connell said. “Max is a really good blocker, too.”
Andrews, who is projected as a tight end at UMaine, has lofty aspirations.
“I want to play in the NFL. That’s my goal,” said Andrews, using former UMaine players as evidence of what can happen.
Andrews was thrown into the fire as a freshman at John Bapst and helped the Crusaders earn the 2008 Class C state championship and two subsequent Eastern Maine runner-up finishes. Last fall, he was a finalist for LTC Player of the Year and for the Frank J. Gaziano Lineman Award.
“Coach O’Connell definitely teaches us to be cerebral on the football field,” Andrews said. “It’s a physical game, but it’s also an emotional and psychological game.”
Andrews also plays basketball and baseball at John Bapst. He plans to work to improve his strength, speed and quickness.
“He has not even scratched the surface [in terms of strength and skill] because of his commitment to playing three sports,” O’Connell said of Andrews’ potential once he begins training hard for football.
“When he does that, he’s going to be scary,” he added.
Ingalls (6-4, 240) helped lead Wells to the Class B state title last fall. He was an all-state choice and a two-time Campbell Conference all-star.
UMaine spread its recruiting class among several positions. It found a quarterback in Daniel Collins (6-3, 195) of Williamstown (N.J.) High School, who directed a wing-T offense.
“It showed him as an athlete and as a runner, which we liked,” Cosgrove said.
UMaine brings in at least two players with college experience to help account for significant losses on the defensive line.
The Bears have signed former Marist College defensive lineman David Toriola (6-3, 290) of Corona, N.Y., a graduate student, and junior Alban Dedvukaj (6-3, 255) of Brookfield, Conn. He played at Santa Barbara (Calif.) City College, which produced UMaine linebacker Sam Shipley.
“We needed to get older in that position specifically because it’s such an important part of our defense,” Cosgrove said.
UMaine also landed Ingalls and defensive end Patrick Ricard (6-3, 235) of Spencer, Mass., a two-time Central Massachusetts Division II Defensive MVP at Prouty High.
The Bears have added two running backs in Nigel Jones and Sacoy Malone. Jones (5-9, 198), from Pleasantville, N.J., played at Holy Spirit High School where he ran for 1,331 yards and 17 touchdowns last fall on his way to 4,000 rushing yards in his career.
Malone (5-8, 175), who starred at Springfield (Mass.) Central High, gained 2,001 yards and tallied 22 TDs last season.
“We’re excited about both of them,” Cosgrove said. “There’s a physical component in Nigel and a little bit of speed and niftiness in Sacoy.”
UMaine also signed kicker and punter Sean Decloux (6-2, 184) of Ottawa, Ontario. He played last season at Red Lion Christian Academy in Delaware and booted a 52-yard field goal.
“He’s a great student, he wants to study engineering. He wants to be a kicker and he wants to watch Black Bear hockey,” Cosgrove said.
The other signees include defensive back Davonte Burke (6-1, 190) of Gainesville, Md., and Fork Union Military Academy, tight end Sean Reuss (6-3, 230) from Monticello, N.Y., and offensive lineman/tight end Calvert Schaefer (6-6, 265) of Westminster, Md., out of Winters Mill High School.
The eligibility of all student-athletes is contingent upon admission to UMaine and compliance with all NCAA rules, including registration with the NCAA Clearinghouse.