Nick Charlton (left) addresses the University of Maine football team after a recent practice as Kayon Whitaker looks on. The 30-year-old, who is the youngest Division I head coach in the country, leads the Black Bears into Friday's season opener in Orono against Sacred Heart. Credit: Ronnie Gillis | UMaine Athletics

Nick Charlton will make his head coaching debut Friday night when the defending Colonial Athletic Association champion University of Maine Black Bears entertain Sacred Heart University of Fairfield, Connecticut.

Kickoff is 6 p.m. on Morse Field at Alfond Stadium in Orono.

“I’m excited,” Charlton said. “I’m fortunate in that we have some veteran players who have played a lot of games.”

The 30-year-old Charlton is the youngest Division I head football coach in the country.

“It’s about being organized and disciplined and making sure the week one issues are taken care of,” Charlton said. “We’re very cognizant of that.”

UMaine was the most penalized of the nation’s 124 Football Championship Subdivision teams a year ago (1,120 yards), and there is bound to be plenty of excitement and emotion during a season opener.

“We want to make sure we get off to a good start,” Charlton said.

There is more pressure on this year’s team since 15 starters return from a team that went 10-4 and reached the FCS national semifinals for the first time in school history.

UMaine was picked to finish third in the CAA preseason coaches poll — three spots higher than its previous highest preseason ranking.

“This will be a greater challenge than last year,” said Charlton, who was the offensive coordinator under Joe Harasymiak last season when the Black Bears were picked to finish eighth.

It is the type of challenge the players and staff have embraced.

“To be expected to win is a good thing. We want to be in the [FCS playoff] conversation every year,” Charlton said.

The Black Bears, ranked seventh in the country, expect be tested by coach Mark Nofri’s Pioneers, who went 7-4 last season and shared the Northeast Conference title with Duquesne by going 5-1 in conference play.

Charlton said there has been a positive vibe in the Greater Bangor community leading up to Friday’s opener.

“People are definitely into it,” Charlton said. “The expectations are high. There is certainly some energy around the program, which is a little bit different.

“It’s a good thing,” he said.