ELLSWORTH — Island vs. mainland; family vs. family; green vs. maroon; bragging rights on the line. Any way you slice it, there’s something exceptional about Mount Desert Island vs. Ellsworth.
Showdowns between MDI, Hancock County’s largest high school, and Ellsworth, its second-largest, have been taking place across sports of all kinds since the former was consolidated in 1968. 2018 marked 50 years of games, meets, matches and tournaments between the Trojans and Eagles, and athletes from both schools made the year a memorable one.
Although the Trojans swept the season series against the Eagles in boys’ and girls’ basketball in January and February, the rest of the year was evenly matched as could be. The teams split head-to-head series in baseball, softball, boys’ soccer, girls’ soccer and volleyball with Ellsworth finishing as Class B North runner-up in baseball and MDI in boys’ basketball.
“It’s exciting [to play in an Ellsworth vs. MDI game] because it’s a rivalry game and a chance to get an important win,” MDI girls’ basketball’s Maddy Candage said after the Trojans’ 51-32 win in Ellsworth on Jan. 9. “Both teams are playing really hard, and you have to bring your best.”
At meets and tournaments, the two teams found themselves battling each other for trophies more often than not. Both schools added state titles in Class B with the MDI boys winning swimming and track and the Ellsworth girls winning cross-country.
That MDI boys’ swim title came less than two weeks after the Trojans fell a single point short of the Eagles at the Penobscot Valley Conference championships Feb. 9. The two teams claimed the top-two spots once again at states, where Ellsworth capped off a terrific season with a runner-up finish.
Then came baseball, in which MDI edged Ellsworth in the first of the teams’ two contests with a 5-4 win in extra innings April 24 before the Eagles won 8-3 in the rematch a month later. As Ellsworth head coach Dan Curtis said of the matchup between the No. 1 Eagles and No. 2 Trojans, “Neither one of us ever gives in.”
In girls’ cross-country, the Eagles’ championship was the culmination of a season in which MDI and Ellsworth were miles ahead of the field. After the Trojans followed the Eagles’ Oct. 5 Hancock County title win with their own first-place effort at PVCs, the two fought for first in a Northern Maine championship meet so close it took more than two full days to determine Ellsworth, not MDI, as the winner.
Even in football, the only sport in which the two are in different classes and thus don’t meet in the regular season, the Eagles and Trojans met for preseason joint practices in August. This year’s exhibition game between the two was the closest yet with MDI topping Ellsworth/Sumner 28-27.
When the 2018-19 school year comes to a close, the faces at both Ellsworth and MDI will change as some players graduate and others arrive. Yet at these two schools, where athletes have to play with and against each other in sports of all kinds before they’re able to walk, the next chapter in the rivalry is always just around the corner.
No matter who wins or loses those matchups, the words of MDI baseball’s Nick Stanley will ring true: “Whenever you have Ellsworth and MDI playing, it’s going to be a fun ride.”