Shortly after Maine Central Institute’s Class C debut, a 24-point loss at Oceanside, MCI head coach Tom Bertrand showed his team a Facebook post making the rounds in the Oceanside football community. It was a photo of a Mariner crushing Huskies freshman quarterback Ryan Friend. Welcome to Class C, the caption read.

“It took us some time to adjust. We definitely took our lumps,” Bertrand said.

When the adjustment period was over, MCI did what it had done in Class D the last few seasons: win. After a 4-4 regular season, the Huskies won three road game against the region’s top three seeds to take the Class C North title, then MCI beat Cape Elizabeth to win its second straight state championship. In victory, MCI became the first team since Marshwood in 1988 and 1989 to win back-to-back state titles after moving up a class. The Huskies playoff run included wins over Winslow, Mt. Desert Island, and Cape Elizabeth, teams that beat MCI in the regular season.

For leading the Huskies on an unprecedented run to the Class C state championship, Tom Bertrand is the Morning Sentinel Football Coach of the Year. Also considered were Jake Rogers, who coached Nokomis to its first winning record and playoff appearance, and Ryan Libby, who coached Skowhegan to the Pine Tree Conference Class B title.

“We had high expectations and set the bar very high,” senior co-captain David Young said. “(Bertrand) just boosted our confidence, but at the same time, didn’t make us feel too confident or cocky.”

After each of the losses, Tom Bertrand and his coaching staff at Maine Central Institute felt a win wasn’t far off. A play here, an adjustment there, and the outcome could be different.

“We knew we had opportunities we had missed. We knew we could be more competitive in each of those game than we were,” Bertrand said.

A key to MCI’s postseason run was its flexibility on both sides of the ball. Rather than try to force a game plan, even if it wasn’t working, the Huskies were committed to taking what was given. Knowing they couldn’t get into a smashmouth game against Winslow, the Huskies came out throwing. They did the same in the first half at Mt. Desert Island, before running the ball effectively to run time with the lead in the second half.

“There’s so much we can do. It was letting the kids find their groove,” Bertrand said.

Defensively, the Huskies lined up in multiple fronts and coverages. It came down to trusting the team could process so much information and run it correctly on the field.

“Our key philosophy is, put kids in plays we know will work if we execute them,” Bertrand said. “You can expect some mistakes and breakdowns, but bend, don’t break.”

Bertrand calls himself a conservative coach by nature, but he took more chances this season, often with great success. There was a halfback pass for a touchdown and a fake punt pass for an important first down in the playoff win at Winslow. At Mt. Desert Island in the regional final, the Huskies ran a fake punt run from deep in their own territory. It worked, and extended the game’s key 20-play, 88-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter. Against Cape Elizabeth in the state final, MCI ran the biggest trick play of the season.

It was the final minute of the second quarter, and MCI held a 14-13 lead with the ball at the Capers six yard line. After starting to line up in a normal formation, seven Huskies ran to the left, setting up on the far end of the field. Receiver Andrew Whitaker lined up to snap the ball to quarterback Ryan Friend, with David Young and Pedro Matos flanking Whitaker a yard behind the line of scrimmage. The play drew the Capers offsides, giving the Huskies the ball at the three, where they ran the play again. This time, Whitaker cut to the right after the snap, where he was wide open for Friend’s pass. MCI led 21-13, and went on to the 30-13 win.

“This is more than I’ve ever really run,” Bertrand said of the trick plays. “None of it is ego-driven. It’s all with the same common goal of getting our kids a win… Three of our four halfbacks threw a pass this season.”

Added Young: “Coach (Bertrand) didn’t like practicing those. We only repped it once or twice.”

For Young and the other seniors, high school careers ended with four state game appearances and two Gold Balls won.

“Coach has high expectations and set the bar very high,” Young said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM