ORONO — Finding the numbers to support high school football is a problem many teams throughout Maine have to face. The Ellsworth/Sumner Eagles have been no exception.
Between injuries, competitions with other sports over players and other mitigating factors, few of the state’s Class D football programs find fielding a full team to be an easy task. Yet as Ellsworth/Sumner showed in its second game of the season, this year’s Eagles are in position to avoid that pitfall.
Ellsworth/Sumner posted a dominant first half to roll to a 46-10 road win over Orono on Friday. The result was an assuring one for the Eagles, who are at full strength after the return of junior Connor Crawford, the arrivals of new players and one of the biggest blowout victories in the team’s young history.
“Seeing things come together like they have over the past week feels amazing and has given us a big sense of confidence,” senior Charlie Hughes said. “We have new kids coming, and now we have one of our team leaders back now that Connor is back out there.”
The Eagles got off to a perfect start after recovering an Orono fumble on the first play from scrimmage. Several plays later, Crawford marked his return in style when he scored a 1-yard touchdown with 8 minutes, 26 seconds to go to give Ellsworth/Sumner a 6-0 lead.
The rest of the first half belonged to Javon Williams. After reeling off a big punt return that put Ellsworth/Sumner deep in Orono territory, the senior scored on a 4-yard touchdown run to make the score 13-0 midway through the first quarter. He finished off the quarter by scoring from 49 yards with 2:24 left and 9 yards just over a minute later to make it 27-0.
Early in the second quarter, Williams recorded an interception before scoring for the fourth time on a 45-yard touchdown run. After Noah Hughes gave the Eagles (1-1) their second interception of the game, Williams scored one last time with 3:05 left to give the visitors a 39-0 lead heading into halftime.
“We don’t have 50 kids on our team, and that means everybody has to contribute on offense and also on defense,” Williams said. “We did that tonight by scoring when we had the ball and also forcing turnovers.”
Orono (0-2) scored on a safety with 2:35 left in the third quarter before adding a touchdown midway through the fourth to temporarily stop running time. Yet Ellsworth/Sumner put running time back into effect with 1:26 to go when freshman Dustin Dupert ran 35 yards for his first varsity touchdown and the game’s final points.
On defense, Charlie Hughes and Ethan DesJardin posted four solo tackles and two assisted tackles apiece with the latter also recording a sack. Cameron Cote and Jeremy Card had fumble recoveries for the Eagles in the first half.
Williams had 162 rushing yards for the Eagles, who finished the night with 341 as a team. Yet Ellsworth/Sumner coaches and players also praised Hughes, who bruised his way for 45 yards and four first downs up the middle.
“That’s just my style,” Hughes said. “I just like going straight north. I hate cutting back, and I hate going east and west. Running straight at the defense, that’s what I do.”
Crawford’s return from an illness that had kept him out of fall camp as well as the Eagles’ opening loss against Dexter was a significant boost for the team. Few Ellsworth/Sumner players seen more game action than Crawford since the start of the 2016 season, and the junior earned meaningful snaps on both sides of the ball throughout the first half before the Eagles rested their starters in the second.
“Connor is still a little out of shape because he missed the first game and didn’t have the chance to be in two-a-days with us, but we see him getting healthier each week,” Hughes said. “He showed with that touchdown early on that he’s back and ready to go for us.”
The next game for Ellsworth/Sumner will be on the road against Washington Academy (1-1) at 7 p.m. next Friday, Sept. 14. The Raiders defeated Stearns/Schenck 28-20 in their first game before losing to Dexter by 29 points — the same margin by which Dexter beat the Eagles in Week 1 — in their most recent contest.
Although Ellsworth/Sumner has beaten Washington Academy three years in a row, the Raiders still have the weapons to make life difficult for the Eagles. The Raiders have a strong ground attack behind quarterback Finn Furth and running back Jayden Talbot, and they will also get to play the Eagles at home after playing in Ellsworth the past two years.
Yet Ellsworth/Sumner is ready for that challenge. The Eagles showed against Orono that they could stop the run and contain opposing quarterbacks, two things they’ll have to do again if they want to improve to 2-1.
“Two of our keys to the game were to have our offensive line control the line of scrimmage on the offensive line and keep contain on defense, and we did both those things,” Ellsworth/Sumner head coach Duane Crawford said. “We did those things really well, and now we have to do them next week in Washington Academy and when we face other teams down the line.”
Bucksport, MDI post shutout wins
Bucksport and Mount Desert Island joined Ellsworth/Sumner with decisive wins in their first road games of the season Friday to give Hancock County a perfect record in Week 2.
In Millinocket, Bucksport scored early and often against Stearns/Schenck (0-2) to post a 54-0 victory. The Golden Bucks (2-0) have now outscored their opponents 117-6 over their first two games.
MDI (1-1) gave Mark Arnold his first victory as the team’s head coach with a 22-0 win over Hampden Academy (0-2). Senior running back Elijah Joyce rushed for 314 yards and three touchdowns for the Trojans in the win.
MDI will return home to face defending Class C champion Maine Central Institute (1-1) at 7 p.m. next Friday, Sept. 14. Bucksport will be on the road against Dexter (2-0) in a pivotal Class D North showdown at 1 p.m. next Saturday, Sept. 15.