WATERVILLE — The phrase “complete team effort” gets thrown around a lot in football circles. On Saturday at Drummond Field, that’s exactly what the Waterville Senior High School football team needed and got to beat Mt. Desert Island, 42-27.

The Purple Panthers defense held the Trojans to minus-1 yard and without a first down in the second half. Waterville’s offense dominated with old-fashioned smash mouth football, and the Panthers avenged their only loss of the season.

Waterville (8-1), the No. 2 seed in Eastern Class C, will play at rival, No. 1 Winslow (8-1) next Saturday for the regional title. No. 3 MDI ends the season at 7-3.

“We had some adversity this week. We overcame it. We did the job today. That’s a really good football team we beat today. We feel fortunate we were able to do it,” Waterville head coach Frank Knight said.

The Panthers lost eight players this week, three to academic ineligibility and five for breaking school rules. By game time, that was just a minor nuisance. Waterville ran for 398 yards, led by Dan Pooler’s 305 yards on 37 carries. Pooler scored four touchdowns, including the game-tying and go-ahead scores in the third quarter.

“Our offensive line is really tough, and Danny Pooler is just one hell of a running back. Three hundred and five yards. Are you kidding me? We rode his shoulders today, and that takes a line,” Knight said.

Added Pooler: “I didn’t expect to (carry the ball so much), but they relied on me, and the line did an amazing job opening up holes and leaving me untouched… We looked pretty good out there.”

The Panthers trailed 21-14 at the half, and on the first play of the third quarter, Pooler sprinted around the left end 63 yards for the tying touchdown.

“We knew we were getting the ball back, and we needed a score right then and there. The holes was right there. They just blew open a hole,” said Pooler, who added a key interception in the fourth quarter.

With 5:23 left in the third quarter, Pooler’s 5-yard touchdown run gave Waterville the lead for good, 28-21.

“We just didn’t have an answer for (Pooler) all day long. We knew he was tough. We saw him the last game,” MDI head coach Mark Shields said. “He’s a guy, I don’t know if early on in the season he was their go-to guy, but he emerged throughout the year. We couldn’t stop him today.”

Jared Spear (94 yards on 16 carries) scored on a 34-yard run to push Waterville’s lead to 35-21 late in the third quarter. It was more than enough for Waterville’s defense. The Trojans gained eight yards on their first play of the second half, but that was their longest play of the half. MDI went three-and-out three consecutive times in the third quarter, and turned the ball over on two fourth quarter possessions. It was a huge turnaround for the Panthers defense after allowing 221 yards in the first half.

“We just got our heads in the game,” Waterville lineman Ben Cox said. “We did more of a 6-2 front and we got more meat up there to stuff the holes.”

The Trojans’ only bright spot of the second half was an 87-yard punt return by Jon Phelps, which cut Waterville’s lead to 35-27 early in the fourth quarter. Pooler’s 1-yard touchdown run with 1:46 to play sealed the game for the Panthers.

“I think the bottom line with this game is, they just came out in the second half and outplayed us. They took away what we want to do. We want to run our base stuff right up the gut, and they did a nice job,” Shields said. “They were pinching down all game long, so we were trying to get outside with them. Then they made some adjustments to stop the outisde run.”

The teams traded scores throughout the first half. Quarterback Phelps scored on a 23-yard run to give MDI a 7-0 lead, before Pooler tied it minutes later with a 31-yard touchdown run. Teagan Candage (80 yards on 12 carries) scored on a 44-yard run to give MDI a 14-7 lead, only to see Waterville tie the game midway through the second quarter on a 5-yard pass from Aidan FitzGerald to Troy Gurski.

Phelps’ 8-yard touchdown run with 37.5 seconds left in the half gave MDI a 21-14 lead at the break.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242[email protected]Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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