BAR HARBOR — The Mount Desert Island High School Trojan football team marked the start of another playoff run Friday when they defeated John Bapst 36-6 in the Class C North quarterfinals.
All season long, the team has used its running game to bowl over its opponents. With that run game sputtering a bit early on Friday night, the Trojans decided to mix things up.
MDI had won plenty of games already this season, but this game, which came against what Head Coach Mark Shields called a “sneaky good” John Bapst team, showed an added dimension.
The Trojans’ run-heavy offense was on display again, but the big breakthrough came through in an area the Trojans needed to use as much this season: a solid passing game.
“One big difference between this year’s team and some of the ones in the past is being able to get that passing game going,” Shields said. “We still run the ball a lot, but we have so many weapons and guys that can make plays when we’re passing it, too.”
The quarterfinal win moved MDI within two games of another trip to the state championship and marked the team’s third regional semifinal appearance in as many years.
MDI started the game off on a sour note after fumbling on the opening possession, but the Trojans were able to force a John Bapst fumble on the ensuing drive. The Trojans then drove 95 yards and capped off a touchdown drive with a 25-yard pass from Andrew Phelps to Sam Hoff and a successful 2-point conversion attempt to make the score 8-0.
The Trojans turned to Phelps once again on their second drive, and the senior quarterback delivered. After escaping two defenders for a 20-yard run in a third-and-long situation, Phelps found Abrahm Malloy for a 44-yard touchdown pass with 10 minutes, 28 seconds left in the first half to give MDI (8-1) a 14-0 lead.
“We’ve been pounding teams up front, and they were stacking the box against us tonight expecting us to hand the ball off every time,” Phelps said. “That gave me some space to roll out and find my receivers, and they made good plays.”
John Bapst, though, didn’t roll over. The Crusaders (3-6) responded with a 73-yard touchdown drive on their next possession, and it wasn’t until the final seconds of the first half that MDI added another touchdown and 2-point conversion to regain their two-possession lead.
After a Colby Lee interception on the opening drive of the second half, the Trojans extended their lead to 30-6 with a Croix Albee touchdown run. The Crusaders turned the ball over again, and MDI scored what would be the game’s final touchdown on a 40-yard run by Billy Kerley seconds later.
Lee led the Trojans with 100 yards on the ground, and Kerley, Albee, Phelps and Elijah Joyce combined for 206 to put the Trojans over the 300-yard mark. Phelps also had 90 yards through the air, and Joyce added seven tackles on defense.
John Bapst might have sported a 3-5 record coming in to the game, but Shields knew this contest would be far from a cakewalk. He had spent much of the week watching the Crusaders on tape and knew the visitors would be tough to stop.
“People were saying all week, ‘Oh, you’re the No. 1 seed, and they’re the No. 8. This should be easy,’ but we knew they were better than their record said they were,” Shields said. “If you looked at the score, you might think we handled them easily, but we didn’t. It was a hard-fought game.”
The Trojans’ next game will be at home in the Class C North semifinals against fifth-seeded Oceanside (6-3) on Friday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m.
The Trojans didn’t play Oceanside in the regular season. Stopping the Mariners’ offense, which has averaged nearly 50 points per game over the past four weeks, will be a difficult task.
“They have some really good athletes and some really big guys up front, and that makes them tough to beat,” Shields said of Oceanside. “We know we have to play our best football from here on out.”