Mount Desert Island High School football players hoist the Class C North runner-up trophy after losing to Maine Central Institute 27-6 in the Northern Maine championship game Nov. 11 in Bar Harbor. The Trojans finished the season with a 9-2 record. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

MDI football team stunned in regional title game

BAR HARBOR — Playing on its home field for the final time this season, the Mount Desert Island football team’s outstanding 2017 season came to an end in the bitter New England cold.

As players and coaches took the field for MDI’s Class C North title game showdown with Maine Central Institute, fans of both teams filled every inch of the football field bleachers. It was going to be emotional night for both teams and their fans regardless of the outcome, but for the home crowd, those emotions weren’t the ones it wanted.

Top-seeded MDI’s bid for its first state championship in school history fell short Saturday night with a 27-6 loss to No. 6 MCI in the Northern Maine title game. The result marked an abrupt end to the season for the Trojans, which had beaten MCI earlier in the season and had won nine consecutive games by multiple scores.

“It just wasn’t our night,” MDI head coach Mark Shields said. “We couldn’t get it going offensively like we’ve done most of the season, and it cost us in the end.”

MDI’s Colby Lee is brought down during the Class C North championship football game Nov. 11 in Bar Harbor. Lee ran for an 80-yard touchdown in the first half but sat out most of the second half after suffering an injury. BARRY GUTRADT PHOTO

After both teams were unable to score on their first two drives, MDI took a 6-0 lead with 5 minutes, 49 seconds left in the first quarter on an 80-yard run by Colby Lee. Yet MCI responded on the ensuing possession when Ryan Friend’s 5-yard pass to Pedro Matos put the visitors ahead 7-6.

MDI (9-2) followed the Huskies’ touchdown with a long pass from Andrew Phelps to Abrahm Malloy, but a seemingly promising drive stalled when Phelps completed a dump pass that came up just short of the first-down marker. Both defenses held each other scoreless the remainder of the half, and the Huskies took a one-point lead into the break.

“We were right there with them at halftime because of how well we played defensively,” Shields said. “They moved the ball at times early on, but we were able to get those big stops when we needed them.”

MCI (7-4) seized momentum to start the second half when Matos took the kickoff and ran it back to MDI’s 29-yard line. With 9:32 left in the third quarter, the Huskies capitalized on that return by extending their lead to 14-6 on a 1-yard touchdown run.

The Trojans took the ball into MCI territory on the next possession but were unable to come away with a score. On the next drive, the Huskies rattled off a 21-play drive to melt the clock down to 6:51 to take a 20-6 lead.

MDI failed to move the ball much on offense after the kickoff, and MCI made the Trojans pay once again. Adam Bertrand scored from 2 yards out with 2:14 remaining, and a Phelps interception on the next possession put the finishing touch on the Huskies’ three-score win.

MDI’s Croix Albee carries the ball during the Class C North championship football game against MCI on Nov. 11 in Bar Harbor. BARRY GUTRADT PHOTO

The result was a stark contrast from the two teams’ Sept. 29 encounter, in which MDI raced out to a five-touchdown lead before giving up three late scores to come away with a 35-24 win in Pittsfield. This time, the much-improved Huskies were the ones who controlled the game on the road.

“Give credit to [MCI] because they came out here and played a great game,” Shields said. “They got better every week. Sometimes it’s about catching fire at the right time, and that’s what they did.”

Despite the loss, the 2017 season was still one of MDI’s best to date. The Trojans’ 9-2 record matched that of last year, in which the Trojans made the Class C championship game for the first time in school history.

“I’m going to remember the great leadership and character [this team] had and the resilience they showed,” Shields said. “This has been a really great of kids. I love them, and I’m proud of everything they accomplished.”

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected]