BAR HARBOR — Handling a home loss in the first game of the season is never easy, but the Mount Desert Island football team sees the bigger picture.
For a team comprised largely of sophomores and juniors, Friday’s opener against visiting Oceanside was one in which a young squad grew up fast. The Trojans stuck with the visiting Mariners the entire game before a late surge from the visitors proved too much to handle.
MDI fell to a 40-30 defeat in its regular season opener against Oceanside. The result gave the Trojans their first regular season home loss in nearly three years, but still marked an encouraging start to the year for a team looking to keep pace in a challenging Class C North field.
“All we ask from our kids is that they give us a good week of practice and come out and play hard from the first whistle to the last,” head coach Mark Arnold said. “We did that in this game, and we get a chance to go back and look at the things we need to work on when watching film.”
Oceanside (1-0) got the ball to start the game and went ahead 8-0 just 2 minutes, 14 seconds later with a touchdown run and 2-point conversion. Although MDI had a chance to respond in the opening drive, a fumble on the visitors’ goal line saw a chance to tie the game go to waste.
The two defenses stifled one another for much of the half, but that changed when Elijah Joyce caught a short screen pass and took it 70 yards. A successful 2-point conversion attempt made the score 8-8, and an MDI defensive stand on the ensuing drive kept the game tied going into halftime.
A 2-yard run from Joyce late in the third quarter and another successful 2-point conversion gave MDI (0-1) a 16-8 lead, but Oceanside responded with three unanswered touchdowns to take a 12-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. Although the Trojans pulled within six following a 30-yard touchdown pass over the middle from Baylor Landsman to Hunter Gray, Ben Ripley scored from 32 yards out on the ensuing drive to put the Mariners ahead 34-22 with 1:45 to play.
MDI cut the deficit to 34-30 when Elijah Joyce ran in both a touchdown and 2-point conversion but did so with only 1.8 seconds left in the game. Needing only to prevent the Trojans from recovering an onside kick and completing a desperation pass to the end zone, the Mariners provided one last touchdown of their own as time expired when Zach Cody took the short kickoff 46 yards to the end zone.
Landsman completed 8 of 19 passes for 165 yards in the game, and Joyce had 128 rushing and 95 receiving yards. Gray, a sophomore, had two catches for 44 yards in his first career start.
Despite the loss, Arnold was pleased with how his team battled against an Oceanside team that returned nearly 30 players from last year’s Class C North semifinal squad. Just as the Trojans had shown improvement from their preaseason scrimmage against Waterville when they played Ellsworth/Sumner in Week 1, he felt they did the same Friday night.
“It was 8-8 in the first half, and we were in there with a shout the entire game,” Arnold said. “Even when it came do that onside kick with a second or two left, our kids kept playing and fighting.”
MDI’s next game will be on the road against Hampden Academy (0-1) at 7 p.m. Sept. 7. The Trojans and Broncos scrimmaged one another in the preseason last year but have not met in the regular season since 2012.
“I definitely expect we’ll see more passing from Hampden compared to this week,” Arnold said. “[Oceanside] ran a tight, double-wing offense, and Hampden is a lot more spread out. It’ll be a good test to see how we do against that system.”