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UMaine hopes for better 2023 season after Jeff Cole Memorial spring game

On Saturday afternoon the University of Maine football team held their 17th annual Jeff Cole Memorial spring game. In the game, the Black Bear offense scrimmages the defense as a way to end the spring camp. The game serves as a way to get players and coaches in a competitive game-like scenario while being able to not have the pressure of a game and having more of an instructional sense. 

This game is as useful for returning key players and starters as it is a first preparation before training camp in the summer. It is also a great experience for younger players looking to rise through the depth chart by showing what skills they possess and get more reps. A spring game is also a very useful experience for incoming freshman recruits. They have been practicing with the team for the month-long session but have never experienced anything of this magnitude yet.

Photo by Liv Schanck

This was also the first time the new captains were announced to the public with fourth-year quarterback Derek Robertson, grad student tight end Shawn Bowman, grad student offensive tackle Kevin Jones and third-year linebacker Vince Thomas being given the honor.

As for the game itself, both sides of the ball had some very bright moments as well as some points for improvement. Both offense and defense were pretty even all day as both units made some big plays, but neither conclusively beat the other side. One of the premier stars of the day was fourth-year running back Tavion Banks. 

The tough back seemed to be the Black Bears’ best offensive player as he had three touchdowns and many bruising runs and showed very good agility and ability to read a hole. He and fifth-year running back John Gay will look to be the top two ball carriers when fall comes. Gay had a solid day as well. 

Photo by Liv Schanck

The best defensive player of the day was definitely second-year defensive tackle Shymell Davis. He recorded four tackles (all for a loss) and a would-be sack if the quarterbacks were allowed to get hit. Davis was a menace in the interior of the D-line and he started the game with a ritual that I found quite heartwarming. 

His mother, Melanie Capers, met him at the fence separating the field from the stands and they embraced each other. She gave him a kiss on the top of the helmet before he ran back onto the sidelines to join the team. This tradition goes back years to when Davis was a child and this was the first time it has happened at a collegiate level. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Mrs. Capers and she explained the whole story to me and I thought it was just a great moment.

Photo by Liv Schanck

Another player who stood out during yesterday’s game was the tight end, Bowman, who made some impressive catches in tight coverage and blocked well additionally. The connection Robertson and Bowman developed was the bread and butter of the passing attack. Robertson had a decent day but did have some overthrows, and also had some really nice throws in small windows on intermediate range. 

As the day progressed, the starters would periodically come out of the game and reserve players were able to make an appearance in the game. The team showed they are very deep in all position groups, especially the quarterback room. All four guys came out and made some really nice plays. 

UMaine had a tough 2022 season, finishing with a 2-9 record, but if the spring game is any indication, it looks like the team is on the right track for the 2023 season and beyond.

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