BAR HARBOR — Mark Arnold woke up Monday morning knowing what he wanted to call on the first play of a historic game.
Days before his football team’s regular season finale against Ellsworth/Sumner, Arnold, MDI’s head coach, wanted his team to set the tone in the game’s opening seconds. The play call he felt would do so was etched in his mind: a deep ball from quarterback Spencer Laurendeau to receiver A.J. Lozano.
“At the end of our team meeting, I told them we were going to come out on the very first play and do that,” Arnold said. “They knew right away where I was at with how aggressive I wanted to be as a team coming into this game, and they were excited about it.”
Although the right look wasn’t there to call the play on MDI’s opening snap, the Trojans’ second play, a 52-yard touchdown pass from Laurendeau to Lozano, saw Arnold’s team execute his plan to perfection. That play would be just the start of a scoring onslaught for an MDI team hungry to send a message in a new rivalry on the gridiron.
MDI rampaged its way to a 52-14 win in Friday’s eight-man football game against Ellsworth/Sumner in Bar Harbor. The Trojans blew the game open early as they led 46-0 after the first quarter in the first-ever regular season matchup between the two Hancock County rivals.
MDI (2-4) sent possibly the largest student section to ever pack the bleachers at Alumni Field wild on the second play as Laurendeau hit the wide-open Lozano for the opening score. On the next play from scrimmage, Alex Gray recovered a fumble and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown to put the home team up 14-0 with just 39 seconds elapsed.
The Trojans went on to score four more touchdowns in the opening quarter. Two of those came on the ground courtesy of Brendan Graves, who scored from 1 yard out and later from 8 yards out on an option play. Laurendeau added a touchdown pass of 30 yards to Lozano midway through the period and then threw his third of the night with a toss of 25 yards to Graves on fourth-and-20.
“We had a good feeling we were going to get rolling early,” Lozano said. “We had the right mentality, and we wanted right away to put something together. That’s what we did.”
With the two teams agreeing to running time, MDI’s only other score came on a 7-yard run from Gray with 7:32 left in the opening half. Jack Johnston scored for Ellsworth/Sumner (0-4) against the Trojans’ junior varsity unit with 3:47 left in the third quarter, and Obrian Robinson added the Eagles’ second touchdown with 1:51 remaining in the game.
Laurendeau completed 5 of 6 passes for 172 yards for MDI and added 36 yards for the Trojans on the ground. MDI also got 88 receiving yards from Lozano and 84 receiving and 34 rushing yards from Graves. Camden Barker completed 11 of 22 passes for 104 yards for Ellsworth/Sumner, which got 49 rushing yards from Jack Johnston.
For MDI, the win came a week after a hard-fought 30-28 road loss against Waterville, the top-ranked team in the Large-School North division. Following a defeat in a game it led by 14 entering the fourth quarter and eight in the final seconds of regulation, the Trojans were foaming at the mouth to use a generational rivalry matchup to get back on track.
“It sucked losing that game, but we had a great attitude, and we wanted to come in with that same attitude this week,” said Lozano, who had four interceptions on defense in that Waterville contest. “We knew where we were at, and we came in ready to kick some ass tonight. We knew we had to.”
Both in their weekly practices and during the game, the Trojans were without Mark Shields, a valuable assistant coach and Arnold’s predecessor as head coach. A staple on the MDI sidelines, Shields was instead in the hospital, where he is currently recovering from surgery.
After the game, Graves, Lozano and Alex Fernald led the team in ringing the Mark Shields Victory Bell in celebration of the win. The Trojans have rung the bell after every home victory since the 2018 season, but doing so in the context of this game was even more meaningful.
“Shields is really a one-of-a-kind guy, and having him in the hospital and not with us, I think that’s really what was driving us through all of this week,” Graves said. “We were doing this all for Shields this week. We wanted to win it for him.”
The significance of the win, which marked a new era in one of Maine’s most heated rivalries, was not lost on Arnold or his players. In the team’s post-game huddle, the head coach reminded his players that the victory over the Eagles forever booked them a place in MDI football history.
“Just like I told them, there’s players on this team that will be able to come back here to watch football games with their kids, and they’ll be able to tell them that they won the very first matchup,” Arnold said. “They knew they had that opportunity, and they worked hard during the week. They should be really proud of that.”
Those players might get a chance to tell future generations that they won the rivalry showdown two weeks in a row. It’s not official yet, but with the Trojans now fourth in the Large-School North standings and the Eagles fifth, the teams are slated to meet again next week for a postseason play-in game.
That game will be played either next Friday, Oct. 22, or next Saturday, Oct. 23, in Bar Harbor. MDI would advance to get another shot at top-ranked Waterville (5-1) with a win, but the Trojans will first set their sights on earning another victory over an Ellsworth/Sumner team that will be aiming for a better showing.
“I think Ellsworth knows what’s coming for them,” Graves said. “It’s going to hurt more next week for them than it hurts now.”