A lot of things have changed in the six years that have elapsed since the Husson University football program’s modern history began.
Husson College is now Husson University, the Braves have become the Eagles, and the season win totals have increased year by year.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the desire by head coach Gabby Price and his assistants to continue the program’s improvement while securing conference membership, something that would greatly enhance another primary goal: earning a playoff berth.
Husson is still a year away from joining the North Atlantic Conference, but that NCAA Division III playoff berth may come a bit ahead of schedule.
“That’d be great!” said Bobby Gilbert, a junior linebacker from Beaver Cove. “Especially going into next year, we’re going to have a lot of respect.’
After Saturday’s 39-21 victory over Springfield College, the Eagles are now 4-2 overall with their only two losses coming against Division II teams.
Since Husson is still an independent team with no league affiliation, it has no chance for an automatic playoff bid. The Eagles would likely have to win out and go 7-2 to earn an at-large playoff spot. The Eagles are currently ranked seventh in the New England Division III Football Poll.
Husson’s success is even more impressive, and maybe surprising, considering the Eagles’ off-season roster turnover. About two-thirds of the players are freshmen or first-year players.
Sophomore tailback Justin Lindie, who rushed for a game-high 123 yards Saturday, isn’t too surprised.
“I am and I’m not,” he said. “We kind of clicked real quick in preseason and everyone was pretty much on the same page.
“Everyone’s just playing together right now and we’re all working our asses off, doing what we can to keep winning.”
Team chemistry, combined with the quick development of the underclassmen and new faces, has done more than just bolster the team.
“The thing about it is three of those offensive linemen and a couple of those defensive linemen were JV players a couple years and they just kept working at it and got stronger,” said Husson head coach Gabby Price.
The Eagles’ resiliency was showcased Saturday in various ways as they overcame 11 penalties for 90 yards and got contributions from young and experienced players .
“Our kids are tough. I’m sorry I keep saying that, but it’s true,” said Price. “Most teams get discouraged when they have that many penalties, but it doesn’t look like anything bothers us and that’s just a tribute to them.”
And then there’s the play of “the kids” on the squad who are playing like anything but:
• Freshman quarterback Jack Hersom of Fairfield came in for injured starter James McCandless and completed two of five passes for 33 yards and a touchdown in his first varsity appearance.
• Freshman free safety Kyle Vanidestine of Bangor returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown.
• Freshman linebacker Earl Wilson led the team with 7½ tackles — six solo and two for a loss.
“We just feel if someone goes down, someone else will step up and we want to make it as easy as possible for them,” said junior tailback Julius Williams. “Our youth really helped us [Saturday].”
A playoff spot may have seemed like a passing fancy in preseason, but if the Eagles’ youth continues to serve and they win their remaining three games, Husson’s sixth season may be its best — and longest.