Coming off its first conference title and first appearance in the NCAA Division III football playoffs, Husson University opens the new season with a tough non-conference home game.

The Eagles host Alfred University at noon on Saturday at the John Winkin complex. Alfred was the only opponent to beat Husson in the regular season last year, a 34-17 win in Week 1.

Husson’s 2014 success set the bar high for this season. The Eagles were the unanimous pick to win the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference in the league’s preseason coaches poll. Husson went 7-0 in league games last season, and returns a number of starters, six on offense and nine on defense. Among Husson’s top returning players are offensive tackle Matt Archer, a Mt. Blue graduate, defensive lineman Luke Washburn of Oak Hill, Lawrence grad Bryant Wade (linebacker) and Cony’s Rick Orio (safety).

Husson opens ECFC play on Oct. 3, at home against Castleton.

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Maine Maritime Academy opens the season Saturday, playing at noon at New York Maritime. The Mariners are coming off a 2014 season in which they won three games, improvement from one win in 2012 and 2013 combined.

The Mariners led Division III in rushing last season, averaging 393.9 yards per game, far better than the second-best rushing team in the nation, Luther (340.9 ypg). Lawrence graduates Jacob and Josh Doolan return to MMA’s backfield after combining for more than 1,500 yards rushing last season.

Gardiner’s Justin Lovely, a defensive back, is a captain for the Mariners this season.

The Mariners’ home opener is Sept. 19, when MMA hosts rival Massachusetts Maritime in the 43rd annual Admiral’s Cup game.

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For the past decade, it’s been commonplace for the University of Maine to take on a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent early in the season. This year, the Black Bears face two FBS teams.

Maine opens the season at Boston College on Saturday at 1 p.m. After a week off, the Black Bears play at Tulane on Sept. 19. Maine has two wins over an FBS team. The Black Bears won at Mississippi State in 2004, and beat Massachusetts at Gillette Stadium in 2013.

Saturday’s game is Maine’s ninth against Boston College, and third game in four season against the Eagles. Maine has three wins over BC, but it’s been a while. Those wins came in the 1913, 1914 and 1915 seasons. Last season, the Eagles took a 40-10 win over the Black Bears, holding Maine to six first downs and 139 total yards.

Winslow native John McCabe, a senior linebacker for Maine, is listed as No. 2 on the depth chart at middle linebacker for the Black Bears.

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While Maine, Husson and Maine Maritime start their seasons this weekend, the state’s three other college football programs won’t play for a few more weeks. Colby, Bates and Bowdoin are members of the New England Small College Athletic Conference, which does not begin play until Sept. 26.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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