BRUNSWICK — One by one, football coaches representing Maine’s seven collegiate programs stepped to a microphone Monday afternoon to share their thoughts on the upcoming season. 

They talked about the excitement that accompanies a new campaign. Some, including second-year University of Maine coach Jordan Stevens, talked about the importance of sustained growth. 

“You never want to be in a position where you say, ‘hey, you guys played well, but you didn’t win,’” said Stevens, whose Black Bears went 2-9 last season. “But from that, it’s knowing that, ‘hey, we’re right there.’ If we develop strong relationships, if we believe in what we’re doing more, if we commit ourselves to get ourselves in better shape, knowing our playbooks  — all the things that go along with winning — then we can be the team we want to be.”

The Maine chapter of the National Football Foundation hosted a luncheon Monday at Bowdoin College, which drew coaches from UMaine, Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, the University of New England, Maine Maritime Academy and Husson.

The event serves as an unofficial kickoff to the 2023 campaign. 

Stevens said he is eager for the season to begin.


“I wouldn’t say we’re more comfortable, but you anticipate more what’s going to happen,” said Stevens, a Mt. Blue High School graduate. “Playing with the end (of the season) in mind a little bit more, knowing where we need to be. I’m excited to be in that position, with guys I know and with relationships that are stronger.”

Six of Maine’s nine losses last season came by 10 or fewer points, including a tough 42-41 decision to rival New Hampshire in the regular-season finale. Knowing the Black Bears were in most games, Stevens said, has helped the team stay motivated throughout the spring.

Maine, which returns nine starters (five on offense, four defense), will be led by senior quarterback Derek Robertson, who made seven starts as a sophomore backup in 2021, throwing for 1,505 yards, with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. Robertson saw action in just one game last season as a backup to Joe Fagnano, who transferred to the University of Connecticut.

University of Maine football coach Jordan Stevens speaks during a luncheon Monday at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. The Maine chapter of the National Football Foundation hosted the event. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Robertson will have a productive wide receiver to throw to in junior Montigo Moss — son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss — who had 35 receptions for 398 yards and six touchdowns for the Black Bears last season.

“He’s a guy who can adjust to the ball, a guy where, you can throw it, and even if he’s covered, he’s going to go get the ball,” Stevens said.

Stevens also said he’d like to see the defense improve. The Black Bears were ranked 10th out of 13 teams in the Coastal Athletic Association (formerly the Colonial Athletic Association) last year, allowing more than 353 yards per game.


“I want to see us, and I think we did in the spring, get better fundamentally, and tackling,” said Stevens, whose program has 27 new high school recruits and brought in 10 players through the transfer portal. “I also think, just being better on first and second down. We got better in the red zone on both sides of the ball, and we want to continue that, but we’ve got to put ourselves in more advantageous positions early in downs.”

The Black Bears open the season against FBS school Florida International University on Sept. 2 in Miami, Florida.

Also Monday, Colby head coach Jack Cosgrove said he, too, has reason to be optimistic in 2023. The Mules return 18 of 22 starters from a team that went 4-5 last season. Colby also features a roster of 94 players.

“It’s an exciting time,” Cosgrove said. “We have a lot more experience in how to do things. Our experience last year was not responding after a very big football game (against Middlebury), losing the game late, and then we didn’t finish the season the way we needed to. Those are just things that you learn from, take with you and address them again as they come forward for your football team. But I like the attitude. I like the effort that the guys have put forth all summer in their workouts. We can’t wait to start.”

The Mules will need to find a new starting quarterback after the graduation of Matt Hersch. One candidate for the job is freshman Eli Soehren, who won the Fitzpatrick Trophy — given annually to the top high school senior in Maine —  in leading Oxford Hills to the Class A title.

“I always look forward to competition,” Cosgrove said. “The biggest (question) with a quarterback is, ‘Can he move the chains?’ The thing we like about Eli, he finds a way to get it done. He’s not a one-dimensional guy. I think that’s the game now; you’re not going to see Dan Marino back (in the pocket) chucking it… He’ll be in the mix and we’ll see what happens.”


Bowdoin went 3-6 last year but fourth-year coach B.J. Hammer said he’s been pleased with the program’s progress in recent years.

“We came in (as a coaching staff) with a team, and now we’re developing as a football program,” he said. “A big reason for that is our players set the expectation now, not me. I don’t have to do that anymore. The players understand it; they know the effort and intensity that they have to bring into everything. I’m excited.”

Bates, like Colby, also boasts a roster of 94 players for second-year head coach Matt Coyne. Among the returners is quarterback Colton Bosselait, who was third in the New England Small College Athletic Conference in yards (1,817) and touchdowns (17) last season. Coyne said he’s been impressed with how the Bobcats attacked the offseason program.

Maine Maritime hits the field this fall for the first time since 2019. The school dropped its football program in August 2020, citing financial reasons during the coronavirus pandemic. The school reinstated the program in January, starting with sub-varsity seasons this fall and in 2024.

MMA will officially join the Commonwealth Coast Conference – which is home to Husson University and the University of New England – as a varsity program in 2025.

Bates College football coach Matt Coyne, left, and Bowdoin College football coach BJ Hammer listen to speeches during a luncheon Monday at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The Mariners are led by first-time head coach Calvin Powell, a Texas native who was previously the assistant head coach at Langston University in Oklahoma before taking over in Castine. 


“The fun part is no day is the same. The stressful part is, no day is the same,” Powell said. “The phrase we’ve used (on campus) is, ‘Learn, grow and develop.’ We’re all in the process of learning. I’m learning how to be a head coach… From a program standpoint, we just have to learn how to be together and fight for each other. Everybody is going to have to learn how to be a teammate to the guy they’re playing with.”

Husson finished 5-6 last year. Head coach Nat Clark has several returners on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Nic Visser, the CCC Player of the Year, and linebacker Tucker Buzzell, a Fryeburg Academy alum, who had 134 tackles and four interceptions.

“We’re extremely optimistic, we’ve got a lot of guys back,” Clark said. “We feel like, in key spots, we’ll be experienced, and we’ll be good… To have (Visser and Buzzell) come back and lead our offense and defense, that makes us feel good.”

UNE offensive coordinator Tim Viall, speaking for head coach Mike Lichten, said the program is looking forward to making a jump in 2023. The Nor’easters finished 5-5 last year.

“We’re getting older and established in our fifth year (as a varsity program),” Viall said. “Now we want to play like it.”

Junior quarterback Jarrett Henault (1,841 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, seven interceptions) will be on of UNE’s top returners, Viall said.

Comments are no longer available on this story