There is going to be a significant Massachusetts flavor to this year’s University of Maine football recruiting class.
Drew Belcher, a versatile quarterback at Reading High School, and defensive end/linebacker Connor Walsh of Boston College High School in Dorchester have both verbally committed to attend UMaine in September.
UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove is prohibited by NCAA rules from discussing a recruit until the university has received a signed National Letter of Intent. The signing period begins Feb. 5.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Belcher visited the UMaine campus last weekend and he committed to the Colonial Athletic Association school on Tuesday night, according to his Twitter account.
He reportedly chose UMaine over scholarship offers from Albany of the CAA, along with Lafayette and Bryant. He also had attracted interest from the likes of Delaware and Villanova, two other CAA programs.
Belcher enjoyed a stellar career at Reading, passing for a school-record 44 touchdowns.
In 2013, he completed 115 of 220 passes for 1,382 yards and nine touchdowns with seven interceptions. He helped lead the Rockets to an 8-2 record and their sixth straight Middlesex League Liberty Division title.
Belcher, who was a three-year starter, also rushed for 850 yards on 151 carries and led Reading with 12 rushing TDs last season. He wound up with 2,418 yards, good for second on the Rockets’ career rushing list.
He also scored 254 career points to rank second in school history.
As a junior, Belcher directed Reading to a 13-0 record and the Eastern Massachusetts Division 2 Super Bowl championship. That included a school-record 21 TD passes.
Belcher will be among the candidates to replace two-year starter Marcus Wasilewski, who led UMaine to a 10-3 record, the CAA title and a spot in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs last season.
Walsh, who lives in Milton, was a two-way standout at BC High. As a linebacker, he piled up 86 tackles and an interception on his way to recognition as the Catholic Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
At 6-3, 225 pounds, Walsh told ESPNBoston.com the Black Bears are looking at him as a defensive end and that UMaine coaches compared him to All-CAA end Mike Cole, who last season set the school career sacks record.
Walsh, an ESPNBoston all-state selection and a Boston Globe All-Scholastic choice last season, also was offered a scholarship by Rhode Island. He told Cosgrove of his decision on Thursday and later posted it on his Twitter account.
The student-athletes’ participation at UMaine is predicated on his acceptance at the school and compliance with NCAA initial-eligibility guidelines.
UMaine women’s basketball coach Richard Barron is putting his hair on the line again this year in the hope of raising $10,000 for the Play4Kay cancer awareness initiative.
The Black Bears seek support for the Kay Yow Foundation, which supports breast cancer research. Yow was a former longtime coach at North Carolina State who died of cancer.
Barron is challenging the UMaine community and fans to donate to the cause, with the team’s efforts to culminate in its February 9 game against Binghamton at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
Barron has pledged to dye his hair pink for the game if the $10,000 goal is met prior to the game and will have his head shaved after the contest if the money is raised.
UMaine women’s basketball has raised $16,955 during the first two years of its involvement in the Play4Kay program.
“Having known Kay and having coached at N.C. State in the two years after her passing, I can say that she was such a special person,” Barron said in a press release. “Few coaches have had such an impact — not just with her players, but with her peers as well. Kay was incredibly brave, determined, positive and grounded.
“During her very long and public battle with breast cancer, and after watching her friend and fellow N.C. State basketball coach, Jim Valvano, die of cancer, Kay decided that she would help start this charity to raise money and awareness for breast cancer and cancer research. I have been involved with the Kay Yow Fund and Coaches vs. Cancer for close to 20 years and I am very excited about having Maine participate in this cause.”