BAR HARBOR — Before the Mount Desert Island football team even took the field for Friday’s Homecoming football game, something special was in the air.
As fans packed the bleachers at the football field behind MDI High School, the scene resembled a party as much as a football game. Balloons, streamers and banners lined the fence on the fans’ side of the stadium, and a big paper banner was made to greet the team as the Trojans made their way to the sidelines.
The party in the stands, though, was only the beginning. From the moment MDI kicked off the penultimate game of the regular season, the Trojans gave their home fans even more of a reason to celebrate.
MDI sent a message to the rest of Class C on Friday with a 36-22 win over visiting Leavitt, maintaining their narrow lead over Winslow at the top of Class C North. The Trojans outscored the Class C South-leading Hornets 36-0 in the first half.
“We made the plays we needed to make right from the start and showed we can compete with the best,” Coach Mark Shields said. “The fans were loud and behind us, and our guys got out there and came away with a big Homecoming win.”
The game started with a stroke of luck for MDI when the Trojans recovered Andrew Phelps’ kickoff, which hit a Leavitt player in the leg. Leavitt was then called for pass interference on fourth down a few plays later, and the Trojans capitalized with a Croix Albee touchdown run and a Billy Kerley 2-point conversion inside four minutes to make the score 8-0.
Leavitt converted twice on fourth down on its first possession, but MDI (6-1) stopped a third attempt and took over near midfield. Colby Lee scored on a 33-yard run three minutes later to make it 16-0, and the Trojans increased that lead to 24-0 with 9 minutes, 32 seconds in the half when Phelps ran the ball in on a bootleg from 10 yards out.
Lee added a 19-yard touchdown run to make it 30-0 with 5:52 left in the half, and Albee scored his second with 36 seconds left in the half for the Trojans’ final points of the night. Leavitt (6-1) scored 22 points on MDI’s backups in the second half, but the home team’s victory was never in doubt.
Sam Hoff led the MDI defense with six tackles, and Elijah Joyce added five. Lee’s 152 yards on 15 carries led the Trojans on offense, and Albee, who was playing in his second game after returning from injury, had 41 yards, two touchdowns and a 2-point conversion run.
“It feels great to be back,” Albee said. “It was tough not being able to play, but I’m healthy now and ready to help these guys make a playoff run.”
The team’s rushing attack, Shields said, began with the team’s total control in the trenches. MDI’s offensive line gave Lee, Albee, Kerley and the team’s other running backs the space they needed to run through, over and around Leavitt’s defense.
“We weren’t sure if we would be able to move these guys up front, but we found out pretty quickly that we’d be able to do that,” Shields said. “Those players might not get the glory the guys at the skill positions players get, but that’s what allows our guys to find the holes and make plays in the backfield.”
MDI’s final regular-season game will be at home against Nokomis on Friday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m. It will be Senior Night for the Trojans, who can clinch the No. 1 seed in Class C North with a victory.
To do that, MDI will need a performance similar to the one they had against Leavitt. Nokomis (6-1) is tied with MDI and Winslow for the best record in Class C North and will be fighting to earn a high seed of its own in the regional playoffs.
“It’s going to be a tough one, but we’re confident in what we’ve done and have guys who trust and believe in each other,” Phelps said. “When you get going and start winning all those games, it’s a sign that it’s working and your team is coming together as a family. That’s what MDI football is all about.”