ORONO — On a day where the University of Maine’s offense struggled, its special teams took center stage. And the spotlight was brightest on Earnest Edwards.

Edwards set some Black Bears history Saturday in the 27-26 victory over Elon at Alfond Stadium, returning two kick-offs for touchdowns as Maine clinched the Colonial Athletic Association championship.

Edwards returned a second-quarter kickoff 95 yards up the right sideline for his first touchdown, then a third-quarter kickoff 93 yards up the middle for his second.

No Maine player had ever returned two kickoffs for scores in one game.

“That was probably one of the easiest kick returns I’ve ever had in my career,” said Edwards. “Both of them.”

On the first, Edwards ran toward the right, then exploded through a hole to the right. “Right outside the hole was the kicker,” said Edwards. “And I knew I could outrun him.”

The second was similar: Edwards went up the middle through a huge hole, made a move on one player at the Maine 40, then easily ran into the end zone. That one gave Maine a 24-13 lead.

He has returned four kickoffs for touchdowns in his career.

Coach Joe Harasymiak said the Black Bears have come close to breaking kickoff returns this year.

“We’ve been stressing to keep plugging away at it,” said Harasymiak, “and a lot of teams don’t kick to him, that’s the thing, too. And when you kick to him, he’s got a chance. He’s such a dynamite returner.”

MAINE LOST quarterback Chris Ferguson in the second quarter when he injured his right shoulder for the third time this season.

Ferguson was hurt when he was tackled while throwing an interception with 6:25 left in the second quarter and replaced by Isaiah Robinson. While Maine’s offense struggled after he left, Harasymiak said that was the right call.

“For his safety, number one,” said Harasymiak. “And he just can’t effectively play. We tried to work him out at the half and he just didn’t have it. There’s no one more than Chris who wants to play. It was a very tough moment at the time. But ultimately you just can’t put him in there with that.”

Maine also lost defensive tackle Charles Mitchell in the second quarter with a left foot injury. Harasymiak said it was a high ankle sprain and Mitchell had X-rays that were negative. He was on the sidelines in the second half with crutches and his left foot in a plastic boot.

Running back Joe Fitzpatrick of North Yarmouth and Cheverus High also didn’t play. According to Harasymiak he was “banged up from last week’s game. We probably could have pushed it and played him but we do a great job with the training staff here, and we just made the right decision for the young man.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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