BAR HARBOR — Hancock County’s first football game under the Friday night lights this year gave two rival schools one last chance to leave good preseason impressions.
Whereas the visiting Ellsworth/Sumner Eagles returned the vast majority of the roster that led them to a historic playoff appearance last year, the Mount Desert Island Trojans brought a new head coach, brand-new uniforms and a relatively new group of freshmen and sophomores to the table. After four hard-fought quarters, both teams had established building blocks for the season to come.
MDI edged Ellsworth/Sumner 28-27 on Friday in the latest showdown between the two teams in Bar Harbor. The exhibition game served as a final tune-up for both teams with the regular season set to begin this week.
“It’s a weekly process with a lot of learning for every team this time of year, and it’s important to get that last good look of where you are building up to the season in a game situation,” MDI head coach Mark Arnold said. “I think if you ask both coaches, we’ll both say our teams showed growth.”
With the teams agreeing not to use kickoffs, Ellsworth/Sumner got the ball first at its own 35-yard line. Five plays later, the Eagles took a 6-0 lead with 10 minutes, 24 seconds remaining in the first quarter when Javon Williams ran a quarterback bootleg around the right end and sprinted 48 yards to the end zone.
MDI, though, was quick to respond. The Trojans drove all the way to Ellsworth/Sumner’s 4-yard line behind three big gains from senior running back Elijah Joyce, and the Trojans took a 7-6 lead with 8:23 left in the quarter with a touchdown run from starting quarterback Baylor Landsman and the first of four made extra points from kicker Alex Fernald.
After Ellsworth/Sumner regained the lead with 4:46 left in the quarter, Joyce scored from 65 yards out on the very next play to put MDI ahead 14-13. MDI forced a defensive stop on the next series and stretched its lead to eight points when Joyce added a 32-yard touchdown run with 10:26 remaining in the half.
Ellsworth/Sumner cut the deficit to 21-20 on another Williams touchdown run shortly after recovering a botched MDI snap, but the Trojans would respond again. With 4:53 remaining the half, Landsman found senior Coady Modeen for a 41-yard touchdown pass to make the score 28-20.
“Baylor came out and made some big-time plays like that in this game and showed a lot of progress,” Arnold said. “Looking back on the time I’ve spent here at MDI, I’d say he’s about as developed as any quarterback we’ve had as a sophomore. He’s one of many guys who have put in a lot of time in the weight room.”
With both sides switching to their second-team offenses in the second half, the scoring spree stalled. Ellsworth/Sumner scored the only points of the half when Dustin Dupert scored a running touchdown from 28 yards out with 2:11 left to play, but MDI’s offense ran out the clock on the ensuing possession to ice the win.
Joyce ran for 202 yards on 10 carries to lead MDI, and Landsman completed three passes for 56 yards. Williams carried the ball nine times for 104 yards for Ellsworth/Sumner and completed two passes for 25 yards.
“We made some mistakes on both sides of the ball, but that was what tonight was for: to get that out of our system,” Ellsworth/Sumner head coach Duane Crawford said. “I’d say we saw more good things than bad out there, and now we can focus on fixing the bad.”
MDI’s performance, Arnold said, marked a significant improvement from the team’s showing in Waterville four days earlier. The young Trojans made a number of mistakes in that game, but Friday’s exhibition showing marked a big step forward.
“The first time you into it with a number of kids with no varsity football experience, it’s going to be difficult,” Arnold said. “What we saw in this game is those guys coming back and getting better. They showed they improved on what the coaches have been stressing.”
Both teams will kick off their regular seasons at home at 7 p.m. next Friday, Aug. 31. Ellsworth/Sumner will take on a Dexter team that defeated it in the first and last games of 2017, and MDI will battle Oceanside in a rematch of last season’s Class C North semifinal encounter.
Bucksport beats Bapst
Bucksport closed its preseason slate on a high note Friday when it defeated John Bapst 34-8 in Bangor.
The Golden Bucks will open their regular season at home next Friday night when they take on Houlton at 7. The two teams last met in 2016 with Bucksport winning 39-8.