BAR HARBOR — Hancock County’s first football game under the Friday night lights this year gave two rival schools one last chance to leave good preseason impressions.
Whereas the visiting Ellsworth/Sumner Eagles returned the vast majority of the roster that led them to a historic playoff appearance last year, the Mount Desert Island Trojans brought a new head coach, brand-new uniforms and a relatively new group of freshmen and sophomores to the table.
MDI edged Ellsworth/Sumner 28-27 on Friday in a hard-fought four quarters. The exhibition game served as a final tune-up for both teams with the regular season set to begin this week.
“It’s a weekly process with a lot of learning for every team this time of year, and it’s important to get that last good look of where you are building up to the season in a game situation,” MDI head coach Mark Arnold said. “I think if you ask both coaches, we’ll both say our teams showed growth.”
With the teams agreeing not to use kickoffs, Ellsworth/Sumner got the ball first at its own 35-yard line. Five plays later, the Eagles took a 6-0 lead with 10 minutes, 24 seconds remaining in the first quarter when Javon Williams ran a quarterback bootleg down the right sideline and sprinted 48 yards to the end zone.
MDI responded with a drive all the way to Ellsworth/Sumner’s 4-yard line behind three big gains from senior running back Elijah Joyce. The Trojans took a 7-6 lead with 8:23 left in the quarter with a touchdown run from starting quarterback Baylor Landsman and the first of four extra points from kicker Alex Fernald.
“Elijah is going to carry a big workload for us,” Arnold said. “He’s a reliable senior and a great two-way player. We expect a lot from him from him this year.”
After Ellsworth/Sumner regained the lead 13-7 with 4:46 left in the quarter, Joyce scored from 65 yards out on the very next play to put MDI ahead 14-13. MDI forced a defensive stop on the next series and stretched its lead to eight points 21-13 when Joyce added a 32-yard touchdown run with 10:26 remaining in the half.
Ellsworth/Sumner cut the deficit to 21-20 on another Williams touchdown run shortly after recovering a botched MDI snap, but the Trojans would respond again. With 4:53 remaining the half, Landsman found senior Coady Modeen for a 41-yard touchdown pass to make the score 28-20.
“Baylor came out and made some big-time plays like that in this game and showed a lot of progress,” Arnold said. “Looking back on the time I’ve spent here at MDI, I’d say he’s about as developed as any quarterback we’ve had as a sophomore. He’s one of many guys who have put in a lot of time in the weight room.”
With both sides switching to their second-team offenses in the second half, the scoring spree stalled. Ellsworth/Sumner provided the only points of the half when Dustin Dupert scored a running touchdown from 28 yards out with 2:11 left to play, but MDI’s offense ran out the clock on the ensuing possession to ice the win.
Joyce ran for 202 yards on 10 carries to lead MDI, and Landsman completed three passes for 56 yards. Williams carried the ball nine times for 104 yards for Ellsworth/Sumner and completed two passes for 25 yards.
The Trojans’ performance, Arnold said, marked a significant improvement from the team’s showing in Waterville four days earlier. The young Trojans made a number of mistakes in that controlled scrimmage, but Friday’s showing marked a big step forward.
“The first time you go into it with a number of kids with no varsity football experience, it’s going to be difficult,” Arnold said. “What we saw in this game is those guys coming back and getting better. They showed they improved on what the coaches have been stressing.”
Both teams will kick off their regular seasons at home at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31. MDI will battle Oceanside in a rematch of last season’s Class C North semifinal encounter.