Mount Desert Island’s Brendan Graves runs with the football during the second half of a high school football playoff game against Ellsworth/Sumner on Oct. 22 in Bar Harbor. MDI followed a 52-14 win over Ellsworth/Sumner in the regular season finale with a 56-0 victory in Friday’s eight-man Large-School North play-in game. ISLANDER PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

MDI football breezes past Ellsworth/Sumner in playoff battle

BAR HARBOR — The second gridiron matchup in as many weeks between two Hancock County rivals didn’t go much differently than last Friday’s historic clash. 

Mount Desert Island reached eight-man football’s Large-School North semifinals with a 56-0 win over Ellsworth/Sumner in Friday’s play-in game in Bar Harbor. The Trojans ruled on both sides of the ball from the early going to follow up their 52-14 win over the Eagles in the regular season finale with a victory in their first playoff game in four years.

MDI (3-4) couldn’t quite match last Friday’s blistering start of two touchdowns in the first 39 seconds, but the Trojans still took the lead over Ellsworth/Sumner early when Alex Gray scored from 6 yards out just two minutes into the first quarter. Spencer Laurendeau then threw touchdowns to Alex Gray and A.J. Lozano to put MDI up 24-0 through one quarter of play.

Laurendeau continued his strong game in the second quarter as he threw touchdown passes of 17 and 6 yards to Gray and Jacob Shields, respectively. The sophomore quarterback then accounted for his fifth touchdown of the opening half as he scored on a 12-yard run to put the Trojans ahead 48-0 a minute before the break.

“Really, our offense is built around his skill set,” MDI head coach Mark Arnold said of Laurendeau. “He’s really turned it on here at the end of the season, but he’s shown the entire season the special traits he has as an athlete. It was really nice to see him have a good night.”

MDI rounded out the scoring with a 3-yard touchdown run from Logan Blanchette with 2:50 left in the third quarter. The Trojans also kept Ellsworth/Sumner (0-5) out of the end zone the rest of their way to earn their first shutout since a 22-0 win against Hampden Academy on Sept. 7, 2018.

The win came in MDI’s first playoff game since the 2017 Northern Maine championship against Maine Central Institute. Just like last week, the Trojans showed out in front of a packed Alumni Stadium — even with members of the boys’ and girls’ soccer teams on the road to compete in playoff games of their own.

MDI’s Alex Gray pursues Ellsworth/Sumner quarterback Camden Barker during a high school football playoff game Oct. 22 in Bar Harbor. No. 4 MDI (3-4) will face No. 1 Waterville (5-1) in the semifinals at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30, at Waterville Senior High School. ISLANDER PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

“It was disappointing that [those kids] couldn’t be there because the athletes at our school always do a great job of supporting each other, but the turnout at both of these games has still been outstanding,” Arnold said. “It’s great to see that excitement around football at MDI.”

Laurendeau completed 9 of 10 passes for 135 yards for MDI and also rushed for 38 yards on three carries. The Trojans also got 111 rushing yards on 11 carries from Gray, four receptions for 60 yards from Shields and two receptions for 49 yards from Lozano. MDI successfully converted all seven of its 2-point attempts.

Camden Barker completed 9 of 19 passes for 59 yards for Ellsworth/Sumner. Jack Johnston had nine rushes for 42 yards and three catches for 14 yards for the Eagles, and Matt Carney added 40 yards on eight carries and one reception for 17 yards.

The season was a difficult one for Ellsworth/Sumner, which suffered lopsided losses in all five contests and played just four regular season games as a result of COVID-19 cancellations. Nevertheless, head coach Dave Svec was impressed with his players’ resilience and attitude in the face of a challenging season.

“They’re a tight group,” Svec said. “They’re really a special group of kids. They went through a lot this year, but they kept working hard and taking it one play at a time.”

Going forward, Ellsworth/Sumner’s returning players will be hardened by the challenges of the past year. With all but one player set to be back in 2022, the Eagles will no longer be strangers to varsity football when two-a-days roll around again next August.

“Twenty-two of our players just earned their first varsity letter,” Svec said. “That tells you something about where we are and where we’re going. A lot of us were new to varsity sports this year, and it was a learning experience. They’re going to get better and keep rising from here.”

MDI will take on top-ranked Waterville (5-1) at 1:30 p.m. next Saturday, Oct. 30, at Waterville Senior High School. The winner of that game will play in the Large-School North championship game the following weekend at the site of the highest remaining seed.

Next Saturday’s game will be a rematch of Waterville’s 30-28 overtime win over MDI earlier this month. The Trojans have been itching to get back at the Panthers after letting a two-score lead slip away in the fourth quarter, and after Friday’s win, Arnold’s team now has that chance.

“We didn’t win that first game, but our players learned that they can be competitive against any team that they play against,” Arnold said. “We have a team that’s looking forward to the opportunity this week and that believes that they can compete.”

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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