BAR HARBOR — The Mount Desert Island High School Trojan football team spent last Friday night playing kickball, watching movies and eating s’mores around a campfire.
The boys had spent the night at Schoodic Woods Campground in Winter Harbor for a night of team building.
But after the fire burned down, it was back to business at 6 a.m. on Monday for conditioning in preparation for that night’s scrimmage against Waterville High School.
The combination of dedication, hard work and their unity as a group of players is what head Coach Mark Shields thinks could propel the Trojans back into the Class C state championships.
Although it’s early in the game, that strategy seems to work for this team: the Trojans scored five touchdowns on Waterville while the Purple Panthers scored none.
“We played very well versus Waterville,” Shields said Tuesday morning. “I thought we played well on both sides of the ball for offense and defense.”
A group of powerful players graduated last spring. But Shields is confident that the 2016 season can match – or even outdo – last year’s strong showing.
“We had an amazing season on and off the field, and we are hoping we can replicate that,” he said.
Last year, the Trojans went 6-2 in the regular season and beat out Rockland’s Oceanside High School in the state quarterfinals. But the team got a 21-0 walloping from Winslow High School in the semifinals. That team went on to win the state championship.
“Obviously, they were a very good team,” said Shields.
Some positions already have been set this season, but Shields is waiting until after the first two preseason scrimmages to fill out the rest of the roster.
“Like at the beginning of any season, there are a lot of questions right now,” he said. “We graduated a good class of seniors last year so we are filling a lot of their positions in the offensive backfield.”
About 30 players will round out this year’s team, most of whom are juniors and seniors.
Junior Andrew Phelps will return as the team’s starting quarterback, a position he held last year as a sophomore.
Croix Albee, also a junior, will return as the starting fullback.
“He is a big, strong, fast kid, and he’ll be getting the ball a lot,” said Shields.
The team lost an asset after All-Conference Running Back Taner Bickford graduated in the spring. “Those are some big shoes to fill,” said Shields. He has confidence in Colby Lee who will again start at running back.
Micah Hallett, Graham Good and Drew Rich all are returning on offense.
Some players will be used on both sides of the ball.
Hallett and Albee both will play at middle linebacker, and Rich will start as a defensive back.
Chris Farnsworth also will start as a defensive back. Josiah Joy again will be the starting nose tackle.
So far, Shields is happy with the progress the team has made during the grueling two-a-day practices.
The team works on conditioning in the morning and does football drills and runs plays in the evenings.
“We’ve had a good week of practice,” said Shields. “We are really pleased with how hard the kids are working. Their attitudes have been excellent.”
An anonymous donor provided the team with the retreat to Schoodic Woods Campground last weekend. The team watched a film on concussion awareness and the motivational documentary “The Rivals” about the Mountain Valley and Cape Elizabeth High School football teams.
“We are unified, and I think [the team] enjoys spending time with one another, which is always nice,” said Shields.
The Trojans will put their skills to the test this Friday at 7 p.m. when the team hosts the Ellsworth High School Eagles at home for a preseason scrimmage.
“That’s a fun game because you have the MDI-Ellsworth rivalry, so the kids on both sides get excited about that,” Shields said.
But the real test will come on Friday, Sept. 2, when the Trojans hosts the Foxcroft Academy Ponies at home in the first official game of the season.
“That’s really what we are looking forward to,” Shields said.