BAR HARBOR — One of Mount Desert Island High School’s biggest nights of the year provided the perfect backdrop for the school’s football team to claim an emotional victory.
After students decorated the stadium bleachers with banners and streamers and parents and family members of athletes gathered on the football field Friday, all eyes turned to the 30 players wearing green helmets and uniforms. MDI celebrated Homecoming and Senior Night in style Friday with a 52-8 blowout win over John Bapst.
“Winning is a process, and that process sometimes takes a while,” head coach Mark Arnold said. “We knew what this one meant for us with Homecoming and Senior Night coming in the same game, and we wanted to come out and do this in front of our home fans.”
After forcing John Bapst to punt to start the game, it didn’t take long for the Trojans to take an early lead. On the home team’s first offensive play, Elijah Joyce scored a 74-yard touchdown before running in the 2-point conversion to give MDI an 8-0 advantage.
John Bapst then backed up the Trojans to their own goal line on the ensuing drive after taking the ball to midfield and punting. Yet MDI went up 16-0 with 5 minutes, 8 seconds left in the first quarter on another big play by Joyce, who ran past the visiting team’s defensive line and sprinted 88 yards to the end zone before the Trojans added a second 2-point conversion.
“I stumbled a little bit on that initial hit of the hole on that run, but my blockers stayed in front of me,” Joyce said. “Once I was able to keep my balance, I looked ahead of me and didn’t see anybody. So I just kept going.”
Joyce scored another touchdown with 7:08 left in the first half after a Sam Hoff interception gave MDI (2-5) the ball in the red zone. The senior then had a 28-yard run on the Trojans’ next possession to set up a 40-yard score by Hunter Gray with 3:23 left in the half as the home team took a 30-0 lead into halftime.
After John Bapst (1-6) broke up the shutout to start the second half, Joyce added two more touchdowns to bring his total to five on the night. Archer Hill provided the Trojans’ final points when he intercepted a screen pass and took it 11 yards with 2:27 left to play.
Joyce finished the game with 325 rushing yards on 15 carries, and Hunter Gray added 63 yards on eight carries. The MDI defense forced five turnovers, four of which came in John Bapst territory.
“All week long, we were stressing toughness and physicality on defense,” Joyce said. “We have a lot of guys who hadn’t even put on pads before this year started, and having some of those young dudes come out on defense and hit hard and force turnovers was exactly what we needed.”
The win kept alive MDI’s hope for a berth in the Class C North playoffs. The Trojans are currently in ninth place, one short of the final spot. The team will have one last chance to rise through the ranks with a road game against sixth-place Belfast (2-5) at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19.
As the Trojans are still 20 points behind Waterville and 20.3 points behind Belfast and Oceanside in the standings, a win in and of itself won’t be enough to take them to the playoffs. Yet if MDI can close out the regular season with a win and get some outside help — Arnold’s team would benefit from John Bapst upsetting Waterville and Hermon beating Oceanside — it might live to play another week.
“If we win next weekend, it’s probably going to come down to one of our opponents’ opponents making the difference,” Arnold said. “What we do know, though, is that it’s over for us if we lose. All we can do is go out, win and hope for the best.”