BAR HARBOR — It was a dream start for the Trojans Friday night.
After a strong defensive stand forced a three and out on the visiting Waterville Purple Panthers’ first possession of the game, Mount Desert Island running back Aiden Grant took a handoff and rumbled almost the entire length of the field for a touchdown. MDI was up 8-0 after one play from scrimmage and a successful two-point conversion.
But the Purple Panthers, who bounced MDI out of the playoffs last fall on their way to a Northern Maine Regional Championship, were far from ready to load up the bus and head home. They responded with a huge play of their own. Sophomore Dustan Hunter turned a short pass into a long gain, after juking a few tacklers on his way to a touchdown. Suddenly, the score was all knotted up and the game was on.
Both teams kept looking for the knockout blow, taking deep shots down the field to try and pull away early. But the defenses stiffened up for the remainder of the first quarter, with the Trojans forcing several punts and Waterville picking off one of those aforementioned deep passes from MDI quarterback Spencer Laurendeau.
MDI eventually broke through, however, and regained the lead early in the second quarter. After executing a fake punt on a fourth and five, the Trojans took advantage of the fresh set of downs with Grant again breaking free for another long run and his second touchdown of the game. Grant would finish the night with 229 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns, leading the way for what head coach Mark Shields felt was a formidable rushing attack.
“I was pleased with our run game overall,” said Shields. “I thought we were able to move the ball on the ground consistently most of the night.”
The Purple Panthers responded with another long touchdown of their own when Hunter, now playing quarterback, found a receiver with a size mismatch deep downfield and hit him to tie the game up at 14.
MDI mounted a solid drive, attempting to respond and take back the lead before halftime. But a fumble, recovered by Waterville, led to another long touchdown run by Hunter and gave them a lead that they would not relinquish the rest of the game.
Despite a valiant comeback effort by the Trojans and backup quarterback Alex Gray, who entered the game after Laurendeau was injured on a blocked punt and picked up 66 yards and a touchdown on the ground plus 44 yards through the air, the Purple Panthers punched in one more score and held on for a 26-20 victory.
“Turnovers were the theme of the night for us,” said Shields after the game. “Having four turnovers and a blocked punt … It is difficult to beat a good team like Waterville turning the ball over that much. Ball security will be a major focus for us this week.”
The Trojans, now 1-1 on the season, will travel to face Yarmouth this Friday. Their next regional game will be on the road against Ellsworth Sept. 30.