DURHAM, N.H. – The University of New Hampshire (UNH) Wildcats (3-7, 2-5) and the University of Maine Black Bears (5-5, 3-4) will meet for the 111th time this Saturday once again vying for the Brice-Cowell Musket. Although New Hampshire has had the stronghold over the Border Battle as of late – winning 16 of the last 18 – this year’s installment will be one where the Wildcats are just trying to end a negative year on a positive note. 

These rivals have gone head-to-head annually for the last 99 years going all the way back to 1922. The only three seasons the teams haven’t been able to meet since then were 1943 and 1945 due to World War II, along with 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. New Hampshire has the all-time lead over Maine with a record of 57-45-8. Since 1948, however, the schools have fought for more than just bragging rights. The Brice-Cowell Musket was first awarded to New Hampshire that season and was named after head coaches Fred Brice of Maine and William Cowell for UNH who each coached in the early 1900s. This musket has served as tangible supremacy for the winning side of the annual matchup for 73 years, and it’s lived inside the Wildcats’ locker room for 727 days. 

Maine has only had five seasons since the turn of the century when they’ve been able to display the musket in Orono. UNH head coach Sean McDonnell isn’t quite ready for his team to have their favorite decoration taken from them on Saturday, however. While McDonnell spoke about the rivalry and said, “Hell yes it’s important to the program to beat this Maine football team,” he also cited the team’s current losing streak as extra motivation heading into the weekend. 

“It’s important to the program to be able to look up every day and see that musket there,” said McDonnell. “The most important thing about it is that it’s the next one and we haven’t won the next one in a while.” 

Along with the festivities that will commence on the field postgame, with one side hoisting the antique at midfield, the celebration will have started long before that for a handful of seniors and graduate students. This Saturday will mark the final game for a handful Wildcats who will be honored pregame as a part of Senior Day. 

McDonnell commended his four senior captains – Evan Horn, Matt Mascia, Elijah Lewis and Nick Lorden – for their leadership throughout the team’s seven-game losing streak.  

“I think everybody feeds off those four seniors that have played a lot of football for us, but [Evan Horn and Matt Mascia] have stood out,” said McDonnell. 

Mascia, the Wildcats’ center, spoke about the disappointing season after such a hot start to their 2021 campaign, and how he won’t take this Saturday for granted. 

“It definitely weighs on our mind to know that this season was not what we wanted it to be,” explained Mascia. “Just going out there this one last time and appreciating what you have and looking up at the crowd and seeing friends, family that are here supporting you. Coming down on the ground and seeing your teammates and coaches – it’s a special moment.” 

The team’s most noted leader recalled how hard he played for some of the previous seniors he played alongside. He expects the same from his teammates this Saturday. 

“It’s really just going out there for your seniors,” said Mascia. “When you pair that with the rivalry with Maine, it’s one of the most emotional games that you’re going to play in.” 

The rivals will kick off from Wildcat Stadium this Saturday at 1 p.m. 

Photo courtesy of Cameron Beall