Husson kicker Devin Pickett prepares to attempt a field goal as Luke Washburn, front, prepares to block a defender during a game earlier this season in Bangor. Photo by Husson athletics
BANGOR — Devin Pickett took a few steps back, waiting for the snap. He patiently waited for the ball to be placed on the ground. He stepped forward, swung his leg, connected just like he had on nearly every extra point he’s kicked this season, and looked up at the result.
The kick was good.
But it wasn’t just any extra point for the Husson place-kicker and Messalonskee graduate. It was Pickett’s ninth extra point in a 63-0 thrashing his team gave to Alfred State in an East Coast Football Conference game last Saturday at the Winkin Sports Complex.
It was also historic, as Pickett — a sophomore who’s in his first year as the starting kicker — tied the single-season extra points record with 49, a record he’s likely to break this weekend when the Eagles host Mt. Ida in the regular season finale.
“I honestly didn’t know it was a record,” Pickett said. “It was nice to hear it over the intercom….It feels great that our team is doing that good, getting me on the field, kicking that many (point-after attempts) a game.”
Husson (8-1, 6-0 ECFC) locked up a spot in the NCAA Division III tournament with the win, but it can also wrap up the ECFC title with a win over Mt. Ida. It would be the first time in program history that Husson has won back-to-back conference titles, continuing a pattern of success for a team quickly becoming one of the best D3 squads in New England. Not bad for a program that’s only been around for 15 seasons.
Part of that success — on a roster of more than 100 players — is due to a host of central Maine players who are making big contributions. Pickett is a member of that group.
“I think we’re better in the kick game than we’ve been in a long, long time,” Husson head coach Gabby Price said. “Devin Pickett is a wonderful guy.”
Leading that central Maine group is defensive lineman and Oak Hill graduate Luke Washburn. A senior captain, Washburn has been key for a defense that’s allowed just under 11 points per game this season. In nine games, Washburn has racked up 51 tackles — tied for second on the team — and has 2.5 sacks. He even has an interception, which he returned 17 yards for a touchdown in Saturday’s contest against Alfred State.
“We’ve just got a lot of really awesome players,” Washburn said about this season’s success. “But more than that, we love each other and we love football.”
Washburn was joined in the starting lineup by an old friend, fellow Oak Hill alumni Alex Mace. A junior safety, Mace led the Eagles defense with five tackles in the win over the Privateers.
“It’s really fun to be able to play with kids that I played with in high school,” Washburn said. “Alex Mace and I were out there making plays, that’s so exciting for me to be able to cheer with him still. It’s exciting to be able to kind of come and represent where I’m from. Even though we’ve got guys from all over the nation playing for us, we’ve still got guys holding it down up here from Maine.”
Offensively, the Eagles have the third-best running back in the nation for D3 football in John Smith, who has 1,630 yards on 227 carries and 23 touchdowns this season. But one of the reasons Smith is enjoying such a tremendous season is the play of his offensive line, which includes junior offensive guard and Gardiner grad Brad Weston.
“He’s started at left guard since the first day (this season), he’s just done a heck of a job,” Price said. “One day he’s a linebacker, and we said, ‘Brad, you’re going to play line for us.’ That’s the kind of guys we want, guys who are very strong and very unselfish. That’s the type of guys that we have on that offensive line.”
Another weapon, both as a blocker in the run game and receiver in the pass game, has been senior tight end DJ Allen. A Skowhegan alum, Allen is third on the team in receiving, hauling in 24 receptions for 205 yards and two touchdowns.
“It’s a great experience to have kids you played against, kids you knew of playing high school,” Allen said. “That’s a really cool factor. I like the fact that we have guys from all over as well. It’s a different experience for guys from Maine. We play a different kind of football up here, in my opinion. Maine’s a special place, we play a special brand of football and I think it’s a good thing we’ve got a good group of Maine guys.”
Multiple central Maine players filled roles throughout the game as well. Former Oak Hill player Parker Asselin served as the holder on Pickett’s extra points. Both Asselin and Cony grad Taylor Heath saw time at quarterback late in the game for the Eagles.
There’s even central Maine ties attached to the Husson coaching staff. Allen has been reunited with his former high school coach, Matt Friedman, who led the Indians from 2012-2016 before joining the Eagles as a wide receivers coach.
“I’m happy for him,” Allen said. “I knew in the beginning — just from me and him talking — that he wanted to get to the college level. I’m happy for him, especially with this win, to (likely) get a ring, win a (conference title), that’s a big deal. It doesn’t come easy. He understands what kind of hard work (it takes). I think he puts in that work, and this is a great opportunity for him. He’s done his part since he’s been here.”
Then, there’s the head coach. A Maine football lifer, Price has become a regional legend at multiple levels of the sport. Before getting the Husson program off the ground in 2002, he led Bangor High School to six state championship appearances over 18 years with the program, winning Class A state titles in 1979 and 1981.
Price said that — though the program welcomes players from all around the nation — there’s a sense of pride to see Maine players succeed.
“I think the depth and the quality of the young men, that’s just very rewarding to see,” Price said. “We certainly love Maine guys.”
Husson has developed a strong recipe of success. Central Maine seems to continue to be a key ingredient to that recipe.