Mount Desert Island’s Aiden Grant hauls in a pass as Bucksport’s Jordan Malenfant defends during the first half of a 7-on-7 high school football game Oct. 23 at Bucksport High School. The Trojans opened their 7-on-7 season with Friday’s game against the Golden Bucks. ISLANDER PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

MDI opens 7-on-7 football season against Bucksport

MDI freshman Eric Rodriguez defends against Bucksport’s Owen Gaudreau during the second half of a 7-on-7 high school football game Oct. 23 at Bucksport High School. MDI, which was scheduled to play on the road against Ellsworth on Wednesday, will host the Eagles at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29. PHOTO COURTESY OF RICK MCHALE 

BUCKSPORT — The first Hancock County battle of the 7-on-7 football season provided quite the contrast of experiences.

When the Bucksport football team took the field for Friday night’s game at Bucksport High School, it was less than 24 hours removed from a win over Bangor in its fifth game of the season. The games have been numerous this year for the Golden Bucks, an experienced group fresh off a Class D North title a year ago.

Meanwhile, visiting Mount Desert Island entered the night having yet to play their first game. The Trojans, who had two scheduled contests against Ellsworth postponed in a span of just five days, brought a squad comprised primarily of young players, many of whom had never participated in a varsity football game of any kind.

As MDI has found out, though, 7-on-7 play has a way of leveling the playing field for teams of all kinds. With roster sizes and experience levels meaning far less in the alternative form of the game, both teams took away positives from the Golden Bucks’ 44-7 win in a contest that would never have been scheduled in a typical season.

“You look around the field right now and you see two teams that are happy and excited about this chance to play,” MDI head coach Mark Arnold said. “Even though we’re very different teams, we were still able to get together and play a game.”

Bucksport (6-0) went up 14-0 early in the first quarter as Aiden Day threw touchdown passes to Gavin Billings and Jaxon Gross. The Bucks then stretched the lead to 21-0 with 2 minutes, 29 seconds left in the opening period as Day tossed a 10-yard touchdown to Owen Gaudreau.

Bucksport took a 27-0 into halftime after Day connected with Gavyn Holyoke on a 2-yard touchdown pass with 6:17 left in the first half. MDI (0-1) then got on the board three minutes into the second half as Spencer Laurendeau threw a 5-yard bullet to Eric Rodriguez with 5:18 left in the third quarter.

Day threw his fifth touchdown pass of the night later in the third on a 10-yard toss to Billings. Bucksport went up 37-7 with 11:57 left in the fourth on a 27-yard Ty Giberson field goal before scoring the final points of the night on a 6-yard pass from Logan Stanley to Holyoke with 3:35 remaining.

Although Bucksport and MDI have played each other as recently as 2017, a matchup between the two in the traditional form of the game this year would have impossible. That’s because the Trojans, who have been a Class C team in recent years, were set to move to the eight-man classification for the 2020 season.

With the loss of preseason practices and the long wait for its first contest, MDI missed out on valuable time that could have been spent bringing an extremely young roster up to speed. Yet the chance to be on the field against a quality opponent was a well-received one for the Trojans, who Arnold said improved significantly as the game progressed.

“We brought our freshman class into school without a lot of the preparation we normally do to prepare them to be successful in high school,” Arnold said. “That’s the kind of thing that’s been missing for us so far this year, so to finally get them a little bit of experience under the lights tonight is a big first step.”

MDI, which was scheduled to play on the road against Ellsworth (0-0) on Wednesday afternoon, will host the Eagles at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30. The games follow postponements against Ellsworth on Oct. 16 and Oct. 20.

With the 7-on-7 slate already nearing its end, teams will soon turn their attention to a possible spring season. With nothing guaranteed, Arnold’s team will first relish in the few fall contests that remain.

“Whether it’s in life or in football, our kids have been resilient throughout everything that’s been happening this year,” Arnold said. “We’ll be looking forward to those two games against Ellsworth.”

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected]

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