The Husson University football team kicks off conference play for the 2021 season Saturday, and does so riding some well-earned momentum despite coming off a bye week.
The Eagles (3-1) enter their Commonwealth Coast Football opener against Curry College of Milton, Massachusetts, at 1 p.m. from the Winkin Complex in Bangor coming off their best non-conference effort since posting the same record in 2017.
“We’re starting to gain an identity,” Husson head coach Nat Clark said. “We’ve had some tremendous games, and we’ve said since Day 1 that every game is going to come down to one or two plays and so far in three of the four times we’ve played that’s happened.”
Three of the four games on this year’s non-conference docket were decided by seven points or less: a season-opening 21-14 last-minute loss to UMass Dartmouth, a 10-7 victory at Plymouth State secured when Husson scored the winning touchdown with 14 seconds left, and a 26-21 homecoming win over Springfield in the Eagles’ most recent game on Sept. 25.
Conference play doesn’t figure to be any easier for the Eagles, as the seven CCC members have combined this year for an impressive 19-7 non-conference record.
But Clark believes his team enters CCC competition already battle tested.
“You can see us gaining confidence in those situations where the game’s on the line that we’re going to make the play, whereas when you’re winning games by four or five touchdowns you’re not getting tested,” Clark said. “I think we’re tough enough, now we’ve just got to come out and execute every week.”
Husson’s defense has yielded just 15.8 points and 282 yards of total offense per contest.
Junior linebacker Tucker Buzzell of Lowell, the CCC defensive player of the week after recording a career-high 14 tackles against Springfield, leads the club in defensive stops while senior linebacker Kaleb Caron of West Gardiner and senior lineman Frank Curran of Portland are other top tacklers.
“It looks like we’re going to be good on defense,” Clark said. “We were really happy with the Springfield game, I thought we did a nice job of stopping their triple-option rushing attack. It looks like we’ve got some tough kids up front, and we knew that about our front seven because five of the seven guys are fifth-year seniors.”
Husson’s offense has featured the passing work of sophomore quarterback Nic Visser and senior wideouts Tyler Halls of Lisbon and Jon Bell of Skowhegan.
Visser, a first-year starter for the Eagles, has completed 90 of 146 passes for 1,175 yards with eight touchdowns and six interceptions and leads the CCC in passing yardage, yards per game (293.8) and completion percentage (.616).
Halls and Bell rank 1-2 in receiving yards in the CCC, Halls with 100.5 yards per game on 29 catches for 402 yards and two touchdowns and Bell with 88.3 yards on 23 receptions for 353 yards and three touchdowns.
“Offensively, our identity has been the passing game where we’re averaging nearly 300 yards a game,” Clark said. “We’d like to get that ground game going, which we did against Dean College [a 42-14 Week 3 win] and had some good moments against Springfield but we’d certainly like to get that going this weekend against Curry.”
Curry is 2-2 overall, 0-1 in the conference after a 34-27 loss last Saturday at 4-1 Endicott, which was picked second behind Western New England in this year’s CCC preseason coaches poll after a 9-2 finish in 2019.
The Colonels are led by junior quarterback Justin Mullaney, who ranks second among CCC quarterbacks in completion percentage (.613) and passing yards per game (236.8) and third in passing yardage (975).