While Bates, Colby and Bowdoin colleges carried their football tradition into a third different century and a dedicated group of boosters tried and failed to launch a program at the University of Southern Maine, Husson College staked out goalposts, donned pads and quietly started from scratch.

The Eagles are silent no more. Husson pulls the curtain on its fifth varsity season at 7 p.m. Friday against Pace University, in what will be the first home night game in the program’s brief history.

“We’re very grateful for what Maine high school football and the people of Maine have done for us,” said head coach Jonathan “Gabby” Price, who founded the Husson program after a pair of successful stints up the street at Bangor High School.

Expectations are high and numbers are astronomical at Husson, where the Eagles achieved their first winning campaign with a 6-4 mark in 2006. That piggybacked an improvement from two triumphs in 2004 to four victories in ’05.

Former Mt. Blue star Duncan Averill is an assistant coach and Husson’s recruiting coordinator, and the talent pipeline is flowing freely under his watch.

“We’re going to have 110 players. For the first time, we had to refuse football players. Just because of numbers, not because we’re any big deal,” Price said.

Sixty-seven of Husson’s football players are from Maine, including 17 from the tri-county area. Those locals range from raw freshman to one significant, well-traveled grown man.

Senior co-captain Jeremy Shorey shone as a flanker and quarterback at Lisbon High School and ultimately was drafted by Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers.

“He’s probably the same age as Coach (Mark) Harriman from Bates,” Price joked at a recent kickoff luncheon for Maine’s college coaches. “I think he was Player of the Year in 1985.”

Shorey, who actually graduated in 2000, checks in at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, and is a returning starter at wide receiver. But it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Shorey take a few snaps at quarterback, where Oak Hill product and four-year starter David Chase has graduated. Senior Jonah Chappell of Fryeburg is also in the mix to start at QB.

Seven returning starters on offense are the strength of the team, according to Price. Bryan Ferguson, a tailback from Connecticut, led the Eagles in rushing as a freshman.

“He’s going to be really special,” Price said.

Defensive speed has been a weakness in the past but should be vastly improved this fall, Price believes.

Shane Rogers, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound defensive end from Bridgeport, Conn., is “the best player on our football team,” said Price. “He’s the only guy on our team who could play for Jack (Cosgrove, at the University of Maine.)

Captain Ross Salovitch leads the linebacking corps. Two more Connecticut products, Rameal Barton and Doug Blades, anchor the secondary.

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