ORONO (NEWS CENTER Maine) -- A season that began with such tragedy, ended in a conference championship.

"We lost one of our teammates earlier in the year. He was here with us all season," senior captain Jeff Devaughn said at a pep rally on Thursday.

Devaughn was becoming a mentor to freshman recruit Darius Minor who died during a light workout before the season began.

"He made an impact in his short time here. Especially with the defensive back group," Head Coach Joe Harasymiak says.

That impact is still being felt as the team prepares for its home playoff game against Jacksonville State University.

"We're excited. I mean, it's only the second time there's been a home playoff game here in the history of Maine football, so I just want it to get here for real," Harasymiak says.

The Black Bears were ranked 8th in the CAA in a pre-season poll. Now, they're outright conference champions and all pepped up.

And the team wants to keep it going.

"This team has proven a lot of people wrong and hopefully we continue to do that this weekend because we actually are the underdog. People are picking Jacksonville State," says Harasymiak.

Maine will work to get one step closer to a national championship on Saturday. The Black Bears will face Jacksonville State in a second round FCS playoff match up. Kickoff is at noon.