BANGOR, Maine — In spite of the hype surrounding the start of the college football season, there is only one game Saturday involving a Maine team.
Husson University of Bangor has a monopoly on the state’s college football action as it opens the campaign with a home game against Hartwick College.
The University of Maine has a rare first-week bye as it continues to gear up for its Sept. 8 opener at Boston College.
Hartwick Hawks at Husson Eagles, noon, Winkin Complex, Bangor: Coach Sean Murphy’s team hopes to begin erasing the frustration of a winless 2011 season with a strong start to the new one.
Husson, which went 0-10 a year ago, including 0-6 in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference, is playing the first of three consecutive home contests to start the season. The Eagles have six home games among 10 contests this fall.
“The big thing right now for us is definining, solidifying our culture,” said Husson head coach Sean Murphy. “We had a great offseason and the kids that are still in the program from the last couple years are hungry.”
The Eagles return 15 starters, including eight on defense.
Husson struggled offensively in 2011, averaging 10.8 points and 217 total yards per outing. The Eagles’ offense will again be directed by senior quarterback Kash Keezer of Orono (137 passing yards per game, 8 touchdowns, 20 interceptions).
He is working with a running backs corps that includes senior Byron Jackson and sophomore Ryan Dorso, the top returning rusher (35.3 ypg) behind a line group led by junior Cody Ziegenfus of Oakland. The receivers are paced by junior wideout Ben Foss of Wales (21 receptions, 317 yds., 1 TD).
Hartwick, which went 2-8 in 2011, looks to linebacker Bryan Schweitzer (98 tackles), junior cornerback Clyde Miller (52) and junior tackle Joe Seney. The Hawks of the potent Empire 8 Conference surrendered 32.4 points and 428 yards per game.
On defense, the Eagles must replace talented end Chris Dalecki, but feature sophomore linebacker Stephan Dance. The All-American piled up 102 tackles last season and led all of Division III with 8.5 solo stops per game.
Junior tackle Ernest Wiggins (61 tackles) and junior linebacker Ben Dalecki (51 tackles) are two other key veterans, while Husson is rebuilding its secondary around the likes of freshman safeties Derek Smith and Ronald Robbs.
Hartwick graduated some potent offensive players but is rebuilding around junior QB Keegan Corbett, junior tailback Kurtis Ahart and junior receiver Frankie Molina (32 rec., 475 yds., 2 TD). The Hawks averaged 22.4 points and 349 yards per contest last year.
Hartwick leads the series 3-1, but the teams have not met since 2006.
“Our objective is to raise the bar and make things more competitive,” Murphy said. “We have competitive guys who are very motivated and focused athletes.”
UMaine wraps up training camp
UMaine finds itself in unfamiliar territory as it must wait another week before donning game uniforms.
The Black Bears will have the chance to watch their first opponent, Boston College, play Miami in Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. opener on TV (ABC, ESPN).
“It’s strange not having a game,” said UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove. “It’s a place we’ve never been as a program where we’re sitting the first week out.”