PITTSFIELD — At Maine Central Institute, the football revolution is not patient. It is in a hurry, and it is working.
The Huskies went to a no-huddle offense this season and it has helped turn the Huskies from a team that went winless in 2012, to one that is unbeaten at the midpoint of the season, and one that is scoring points at an incredible rate.
“It was not difficult at all. Our kids bought into it. I think some of it was the confidence we instilled as a staff. We knew what we were doing,” MCI head coach Tom Bertrand said.
The Huskies average 52.5 points per game, and are the highest scoring team in Class D. Statewide, only Waterville and Cheverus have put up more points than the Huskies, who improved to 4-0 last Friday with a 67-18 win over Mt. View. Against Mt. View, MCI ran up 500 yards of offense.
“Coach Bertrand does a really good job,” Mt. View head coach Haggie Pratt said after the game. “They’re running on all cylinders at this point in the season.”
The Huskies lead the Little Ten Conference in total offense, averaging 417.5 yards per game. Running back Jonathan Santiago leads the league with 653 yards rushing. As a team, the Huskies average 7.6 yards per carry.
“It was a new concept for all of us, so at first it was difficult. As we started to get it down and understand it more, it really came together,” said sophomore quarterback Greg Vigue, who has 240 yards passing and five touchdown passes.
MCI’s no-huddle offense came from a coaches clinic Bertrand attended last March. At the clinic, Bates offensive coordinator Daryle Weiss talked about how easy the no huddle offense can be.
“(Weiss) was talking about simplicity being the key to the whole thing,” Bertrand said.
Bertrand thought the up tempo pace might work with his team, but put the idea aside until Woody Moore joined his staff as an assistant coach. The former head coach at Oceanside and its predecessor, Rockland, Moore had experience with the no-huddle working with Weiss at Rockland.
“When Woody got here, I was telling him that, and he said ‘Let me work on it.’ He and I spent a lot of time, coming up with signals and pictures and everything,” Bertrand said. “I trusted him. He’d done it before. I trusted in his confidence that we could get it implemented.”
Added Moore: “We kept building on it until we had a product we thought the kids would buy into. The kids loved it.”
The Huskies learned the offense over the summer, and debuted it with a 41-6 win at Orono in the season opener. Since then, MCI’s points total has gone up every game, from a 46-0 win over Stearns, to a 56-18 win at Ellsworth, to last week’s win over the Mustangs.
“The more repetitions you get, the easier it comes. Our motto is, keep your head and keep going,” said junior wide receiver Austin Tolman, who caught a pair of touchdowns last week.
Added senior guard Briar Bussell: “During the summer, it was working really good for us, and we couldn’t wait to try it out on some other teams. When we did, it worked.”
To quicken the time between plays and avoid huddling up, MCI’s offensive players look to the sidelines before each play, where a coach gives hand signals and a yellow sign decorated with various symbols is held up to relay in the play call.
It’s word association, Bertand said.
“We want to make sure, between the hand signals and the pictures and the numbering system that we’ve got, we’re getting in the play and the formation, whether it’s a run or a pass, whether we’re using motion or not,” Bertrand said. “Every single thing we do means something. There’s a sequence to it, and the kids have picked it up.
“All those little details you don’t think about until you’re out there and you’re doing it. Where do you stand? Who’s signaling in what? All little details that, when you see it in the game, you may not have an appreciation for how much goes into those little details. Even down to the color of the boards.”
The Huskies aren’t worried about an opponent making tape of their signs and trying to match up the play on the field with the pictures.
“We have so many ways to make it multiple, even if we thought somebody was picking up on it, we could change it on the spur of the moment,” Moore sad. “You could film it, and you could have somebody break it down, and you could figure out a few things, but you’d never know what’s going on.”
Learning the offense was just part of being able to run the system. To move quickly, the Huskies had to be in tip-top shape to run a play every 10 seconds.
“The hard work we put in during the summer, not just learning the offense but the conditioning to be able to run it, it really pays off,” Vigue said.
In the second quarter of Friday’s game, the Huskies had a scoring drive that went 62 yards in five plays, culminating in a 27-yard touchdown pass from Vigue to Tolman. It took 1 minute, 5 seconds. MCI’s drive to start the second half went 67 yards in three plays, ending in the end zone on a 31-yard run by Tanner Littlefield. That drive took 40 seconds.
“There’s times it’s worked in every game. There’s times that it hasn’t. Overall, it’s good,” Bussell said.
Huskies, after all, are built to run.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242