BAR HARBOR — The Mount Desert Island football team’s season didn’t end with the playoff berth the team wanted. It did end with one of the team’s best performances to date.
MDI won 56-14 on the road against Belfast on Friday in what turned out to be the team’s season finale. The win marked an excellent ending to the season for the Trojans on the field and showed the progress the team’s coaching staff had hoped to see after a difficult stretch of midseason games.
“It definitely feels a bit bittersweet because we won’t be going to the playoffs, but I thought this was the best we played on defense all year,” head coach Mark Arnold said. “We did an excellent job of fixing some mistakes we’ve made in past games, and when we looked at the film, there were almost no missed assignments.”
Fans of both teams had barely had time to find their seats before MDI began running away with the game.
After the Trojans (3-5) intercepted Belfast on the third play from scrimmage, senior Elijah Joyce proceeded to score three touchdowns in a matter of four minutes to take a 20-0 lead over the Lions.
The Trojans then scored their fourth touchdown of the first quarter with 1 minute, 10 seconds remaining when Joyce threw a pass to quarterback Baylor Landsman on a trick play. That put MDI ahead 28-0, and the Trojans would reach the end zone twice more on runs from Elijah Joyce in the second quarter before Belfast (2-6) finally scored to cut the lead to 42-6 going into halftime.
Neither team scored in the third quarter, but MDI found the end zone twice in a matter of minutes midway through the fourth on a pass from Landsman to Joyce — Joyce’s seventh total touchdown on the evening — with 6:34 to play, and another on an interception return on Belfast’s next possession.
Joyce carried the ball a total of 24 times for 201 yards, and Hunter Gray, Sam Mitchell and Sam Hoff also reached double-digit rushing yardage on the night with totals of 41, 30 and 19, respectively. More importantly, the Trojans held Belfast to a total of 0 net yards in the first half and fewer than 100 in the second.
Despite winning the game, MDI finished one spot behind Belfast in the race for the final Class C North playoff spot. The Lions finished with 37.5 points in the final release of the Heals, and the Trojans saw their season end without a playoff berth for the first time in four years with 29.7.
Belfast’s only wins on the season came against Medomak Valley and Boothbay Region, the latter of which plays in the Class E developmental league. That win over Boothbay ended up lifting the Lions over the Trojans, who boasted better overall and league records in addition to having won the head-to-head matchup by six touchdowns.
“We have nothing but respect for the programs that made it, but I do think it’s a bit unfair for teams to be awarded Heal points for games played against those Class E teams,” Arnold said. “Those teams drop down to that class because they’re struggling with numbers and want to keep varsity football. So I don’t think MPA should be awarding points for that, but for now, it is what it is.”
Despite missing out on the postseason, though, Arnold continues to be very confident with the direction of MDI’s football program. He will have 26 of his 33 players back next season and 21 of those players will be on schedule to return yet again in 2020.
“We showed in these final two games that we’re continuing to follow the road map we laid out for the program before the year,” Arnold said. “We’re going to continue to build, get better in the offseason and then prepare to have even more success in 2019.”