This past Saturday, April 27, the University of Maine football team took to the field for the 15th annual Jeff Cole memorial football scrimmage game. This is the first scrimmage game that the Black Bears had in the 2019 season.
The contest is a memorial to Jeff Cole, who served as an assistant coach to the Maine football team for six years. Cole passed away in 2004 after a long battle with cancer. His work with the Black Bears affected many student athletes, and he is remembered for the positive impact that his relationships as a teacher, mentor and friend had on people.
In differing fashion from recent years, the Black Bears split the roster into two teams, Team Blue and Team White, instead of their typical offense versus defense scrimmage. The idea came from new head coach Nick Charlton, allowing players to shift around and interact with everyone on the roster.
Incumbent starting quarterback, second-year Chris Ferguson, finished the day completing nine of 14 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown.
Honorary captain for Team White was Mike DeVito, former defensive end for the New York Jets and then the Kansas City Chiefs. DeVito had attended the University of Maine and played for the Black Bears during his undergraduate career, and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Jets in 2007.
“Every opportunity you have to put this helmet on is a blessing … It’s an honor to be out here with you guys, make the most of every second on that field. Play like a group of savages, alright?” Devito told the Black Bears as they got ready to hit the field.
After the game, Coach Charlton presented second-year defensive back Richard Carr with a full scholarship, amid much cheering from his peers. In a jovial speech, Coach Charlton noted, “I taught Rich Carr how to clap the other day, and now I get to give him a full scholarship.”
With several young players making impacts on the field, including first-year players Jayvaun Shear, Shawn Bowman, Adrian Velez and Zac Bouhalloufa, Maine has a strong nucleus to build around for the coming season.
Interestingly enough, the most impressive touchdown of the game came from second-year guard Liam Dobson, who punched the ball in from two yards out.
Multiple in-state talents, such as first-year quarterback Grant Hartley from Auburn, Maine, flashed skills that will hopefully translate in the coming years. Hartley hit fellow first-year wide receiver Clark Barnes on a 55-yard bomb in the end zone. First-year walk–on kicker John Williams replaced an injured second-year Kenny Doak, and kicked all of the extra points for both teams.
In other Black Bear football related news, fourth-year linebacker Sterling Sheffield and fourth-year wide receiver Micah Wright were invited to NFL minicamps by the Cincinnati Bengals and Arizona Cardinals, respectively. After watching Sheffield fly around the Alfond Memorial Field for his entire collegiate career, any team that chooses to pick him up will not be disappointed. On top of this, former quarterback turned tight end Drew Belcher signed a contract with the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent. As a school typically not known for producing football players, Maine’s improving program will produce prospects for years to come.