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Photo by Ian Ligget

Football finds new spark

The University of Maine men’s football team went young when they hired new head coach Joe Harasymiak and it has paid off thus far. The Black Bears football team has fresh energy this season under Harasymiak as they have already won five games and have playoff aspirations; opposed to three wins in total last season.

Harasymiak is just 30 years of age, making him the youngest head coach in the country for all Division I football. His players and assistant coach have all responded to him and they have torn up a five-game winning streak after a tough 0-3 start. Harasymiak may have had big shoes to fill after replacing long time head coach Jack Cosgrove, but he has certainly done a good job.

Fourth-year starting quarterback and captain, Dan Collins, has helped with the Black Bears success this season. Collins has been an excellent game manager under center and has aired it out for 1,782 yards to go with 14 touchdown passes through eight games. He definitely believes in his team, but doesn’t want them to get too ahead of themselves as there is still a lot of work to do with the final three games of the season.

“We’re taking it day by day. I could have told you in the beginning of the season we were going to be a winning group. We are a real close group of guys, so when that happens and there’s a common goal in the room everybody goes together to try and reach it. Every game is like a playoff game from here on out,” Collins said.

Collins’ favorite target this season is second-year wide receiver, Micah Wright. Wright does it all for Maine as he is the No. 1 wide receiver and their electrifying punt returner. If you haven’t seen Wright play, you should. He has lightning fast speed, great hands, poise and toughness; everything you want in a receiver. Wright has been the catalyst of this team with his play making ability and locker room presence. Wright has 421 yards on 27 receptions and six total touchdowns. He has five touchdowns that were received and the other one being the game winning punt-return touchdown against University of Rhode Island two weeks ago. Wright sees a big difference in the team last year compared to this year’s team .

“The biggest difference is us finishing games. We were in a lot of close games last year too, but they ended up slipping away from us down the stretch. During this five-game winning streak we have won by a touchdown or less,” Wright said. “Just closing out games and the way we finish is the biggest difference.”

Aside from Collins’ productivity this season, there have been plenty of other players contributing greatly to these victories. First-year running back Josh Mack has exploded on the scene for Harasymiak and the Black Bears. Mack ran the rock 70 times for a team-high 440 yards and five touchdowns. Mack’s also hauled in eight passes for 134 yards and a receiving touchdown.

Mack’s fellow classmate, first-year wide receiver Earnest Edwards, has also been a pleasant surprise in his freshman year campaign. Edwards has 12 receptions for a whopping 200 yards and three touchdowns. When third-year wide receiver Jaleel Reed has been healthy, he’s been a monster in the receiving game for Collins. Reed has 18 receptions, 321 yards and three touchdowns in five games this year.

On the defensive side of the ball it has been a group effort. However, a few people have stood out and really helped make a difference in Maine’s success this year. Fourth-year linebacker Christophe Mulumba has been a beast with a team-high 70 tackles, to go along with two sacks despite missing a game. Third-year defensive back Jason Matovu has also caused chaos this year for Maine with 61 tackles, an interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery. Second-year linebacker Sterling Sheffield has posted 47 tackles to go three sacks and a forced fumble. Sheffield looks like the future of the Maine defense. And last but not least, fourth-year defensive lineman Patrick Ricard. Ricard has recorded 34 tackles and leads the team with four sacks.

Harasymiak is not only enjoying coaching great talent and great success in his first season, he is having a good time while doing it. He loves his team’s willingness to compete and be all in on his system. He has also already learned a lot in his first eight career games as a head coach.

“These kids battle everyday, believe in what we are telling them. I think that’s the biggest thing, we’ve tried to make an impact and build a relationship. Their belief in what we are doing and seeing the joy on them when we win has been my favorite thing,” Harasymiak said.

Harasymiak has certainly turned Maine football around and the future looks extremely bright as long as he is at the helm.

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