Earnest Edwards and Josh Mack grew up playing football together in the Rochester, New York, area.
The two friends even were teammates for two seasons at the University of Maine.
On Saturday, they will have to put personal loyalties aside when their respective teams battle on the football field.
Maine Black Bears (2-4) at Liberty Flames (4-2), 6 p.m., Williams Stadium, Lynchburg, Virginia: This is the second and final game this season for the Football Championship Subdivision Black Bears against a Football Bowl Subdivision team. Georgia Southern beat UMaine 26-18 on Sept. 7.
Edwards, a wide receiver from Rochester, goes up against Liberty’s Mack, a running back from the Rochester suburb of Pittsford, New York.
“He’s my brother. We grew up together and played football together since we were 6 years old,” Edwards said. “I just talked to him, and he said he was going to try to put up 200 [rushing yards] on us. So I said I was going to try to put 200 [receiving yards] on them.”
Mack rushed for 1,335 yards and was named an All-American in 2017 before he decided to transfer to Liberty University, where he is the Flames’ leading rusher.
Mack sat out the 2018 season due to NCAA transfer rules.
“I was sad to see him go. It should be fun out there,” added Edwards, who returns to the lineup after missing last Saturday’s game against Richmond with a fractured nose.
UMaine senior wide receiver Jaquan Blair also is looking forward to playing against his friend and former teammate.
“He’s my boy. I played with him for two years. It’s going to be great playing against someone you know and someone who used to be your teammate,” Blair said. “I always wanted to see him go up against our defense.”
Mack has rushed for 360 yards on 57 carries, including 177 total yards and the game-winning touchdown in Liberty’s 20-13 win at New Mexico State on Oct. 5. The Flames were off last weekend.
Liberty, which is playing the 500th game in program history, in its second year as an FBS independent team after moving up from FCS. UMaine received a $300,000 guarantee to play the game.
The Flames feature wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden (34 receptions), who ranks second in FBS receiving yards (728) and is No. 2 among active FBS receivers with 3,146 career receiving yards (3,146).
Quarterback Stephen Calvert has completed 114 of 189 passes for 1,569 yards and 10 touchdowns. He is 69 yards shy of 10,000 passing yards for his career.
Liberty is 0-3 in games coming off bye weeks since 2017.
UMaine is without three-year starting quarterback Chris Ferguson, who injured his foot in the second quarter of last Saturday’s 24-17 loss to Richmond. True freshman Joe Fagnano will get his first career start.
In two games, Fagnano has completed 11 of 18 passes for 165 yards. The offensive line must do a good job protecting him, and he will need to get rid of the ball quickly.
Liberty defensive end Jessie Lemonier leads the Flames in tackles (43), tackles for loss (9) and sacks (5.5), so he will be a top priority.
Joe Fitzpatrick is UMaine’s top rusher (60 carries, 301 yds.) the Black Bears have four receivers with at least 19 catches led by Blair (36-460).
UMaine’s defense has forced only one turnover in six games, a fumble. Linebackers Taji Lowe (44 tackles) and Adrian Otero (33) and safety Josh Huffman (35) pace the UMaine defense.