BANGOR — When he was attending Cony High School, Rick Orio was not the biggest fan of Gardiner’s Alonzo Connor.

After both elected to play college football at Husson University in the fall 2013 though, the former rivals needed to find a way to coexist.

“It was pretty unique,” Orio, now a sophomore with the Eagles, said. “We both knew who each other was but we didn’t know how to approach it.”

That awkwardness did not last very long at all, however, and according to Orio they became equals rather quickly.

The situation Orio and Carter faced is a common one for the Husson football team. Of the 115 players listed on the team’s roster, 70 are from Maine and many of them played against each other in high school.

“It’s different,” Matt Archer, a senior offensive lineman and Mt. Blue grad, said. “You’ve grown up playing against kids from Bangor, kids from Cony and then you’ve got the kids from (Class) B and C.

“You don’t really know how to approach them because you’ve grown up to hate them, but coach (Gabby) Price clears the air of all of that pretty quick.”

Rather than putting aside where they are from, Price instead asks his players to embrace their heritage.

“The process integrates themselves,” Price said. “We really engage them about where they’re from and we like to have them talk about where they’re from.

“We really engage them there and they engage each other.”

Competition amongst teammates often brings about camaraderie as well. Oak Hill grad Luke Washburn, last year’s Gaziano Award winner, said that the idea of playing for a common goal has made the team both closer and better.

“It’s all about competition,” Washburn said. “We all have the same commonality in that we hate losing and love winning.

“Even though we did have some fun rivalries back in the day it’s past us now and it’s all about furthering the team at Husson.”

This past season Husson made its first trip to the NCAA Division III tournament after winning the Eastern Collegiate Football Championship, finishing 8-2 overall and undefeated in conference play.

“You could feel it at the end of last season building all through the spring ball,” Archer said. “When we all got here for this preseason you could pretty much tell what we had from the beginning.”

The Eagles’ ride came to a dramatic stop last Saturday in Bangor as they fell to undefeated Massachusetts Institute of Technology (10-0) 27-20 in overtime after the Engineers tied the contest on a 38-yard field goal at the end of regulation.

It was nonetheless a brilliant season for Husson, one that was made that much more special because so many players were Mainers.

“It’s certainly very special,” Price, a life-long native of the Bangor area, said. “A lot of great football players and we’re from Maine most of us. I think that really means a lot to all of us.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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