HAMPDEN — Mark Arnold had one goal when the Mount Desert Island football team began practice last week: Get tougher.
The first-year MDI head coach was pleased with how his team had played against Oceanside, but he also felt the team needed to be more aggressive in the games to come. Starting with last Monday, the Trojans sought to hit harder and get to the point of attack quicker on both sides of the ball.
“We talked a lot after the Oceanside game about becoming a tougher football team physically because that was what we thought hindered us the most from getting a victory,” Arnold said. “What we saw in that first game is guys waiting for other players to come up to them instead of going out and striking first, and that’s the biggest place we wanted to improve.”
When the Trojans took to the field for the second game of the season Friday, that improvement was evident. Playing what Arnold called “hard-nosed, physical football,” the MDI players were able to give their head coach his first career victory.
MDI scored a big victory Friday night with a 22-0 road victory over Hampden Academy. The win saw the Trojans dominate in the ground game and on defense and gave the team a confidence boost ahead of a tough upcoming slate of opponents.
After a defensive stop to start the game, MDI went up 6-0 when Elijah Joyce scored on a 25-yard touchdown run with 8 minutes, 49 seconds left in the first quarter. The Trojans then forced another stop and stretched their lead to 14-0 with 3:01 remaining in the quarter after Joyce scored from 6 yards out and broke the plane on the ensuing 2-point conversion attempt.
“Those two early scores helped us because we got confidence by going ahead early,” Arnold before. “Against Oceanside, we gave up a touchdown on the opening drive and had to play catch-up for much of the game. We made it a point to avoid that this time.”
MDI used a powerful run game to get the ball into the red zone twice in the second quarter, but the Trojans were unable to get into the end zone either time. Yet the team’s defense stood tall, and the visitors finally put the game out of reach with 8:25 to play when Elijah Joyce scored his third touchdown of the game on a 35-yard run.
Joyce recorded 314 rushing yards on 36 carries for the Trojans, who compiled 381 rushing yards as a team. Hunter Gray and Sam Hoff had interceptions for the MDI defense as the team posted its first shutout since beating Hermon 50-0 two seasons ago.
“Our defensive effort was much (better) because we saw that extra toughness and players having the mentality of going on there and making plays rather then waiting for them to come to you,” Arnold said.
MDI’s next game will be at home Sept. 14 against Maine Central Institute (1-1). MCI defeated the Trojans 27-6 in the Class C North championship game last season, and if the Huskies’ 63-0 Week 2 win over Medomak Valley is any indicator, they will be a tough matchup for the Trojans once again.
After that, MDI will take on Winslow, Hermon and Nokomis teams that are among the other contenders in Class C North. How the Trojans fare in those games will give the team a good assessment of where it stands in the Big 10 picture.
“We’ve got a bunch of the top teams in the conference coming up starting with MCI and then over those next few weeks,” Arnold said. “We have to play well on special teams and avoid turnovers and penalties because those teams will make you pay if you make mistakes.”