When the Maine Central Institute football team’s 2012 season ended with a loss at Dexter, the Huskies’ eighth loss in as many games, the team got together and discussed how to ensure improvement in 2013.

“We talked about, if we wanted to turn things around, it was going to be about commitment,” MCI coach Tom Bertrand said. “They responded. They worked hard as a team.”

The 0-8 of 2012 was quickly forgotten once the 2013 season started. In one of the best turnaround in the state, the Huskies went 7-2 this season, reaching the regional semifinals.

“He’s an amazing coach,” MCI junior running back Jonathan Santiago said. “He gives us confidence during the week and puts us in situations where we can be successful.”

For his part in turning the Maine Central Institute football team into a Little Ten Conference contender one year after a winless season, Bertrand has been named the Morning Sentinel Football Coach of the Year. Winslow coach Mike Siviski, who led the Black Raiders to a second consecutive regional title, Matt Friedman, who coached Skowhegan to its first playoff appearance since 2008, and Frank Knight, who guided Waterville to the Eastern Class C championship game were also considered.

Bertrand began the Huskies rebirth by focusing on the little things. The team wouldn’t be a contender, he said, until it put in the effort in the offseason.

“He really emphasized the weight room. It would start right there,” MCI junior Mitchell Hallee said.

With the addition of Woody Moore, the former head coach at Rockland and Oceanside, to the coaching staff, Bertrand was able to have each assistant focus on teaching one position, on one side of the ball. Moore stepped in as strength and conditioning coach, and also helped Bertrand implement the Huskies’ no huddle offense.

“Having Woody here was a big lift for us,” Bertrand said. “I trust and have very good coaches.”

The no huddle offense worked. MCI led the Little Ten Conference in yards per game (455.4) and scoring (46.3 points per game).

“I didn’t know if we were going to be able to pull it off,” Hallee said of the new offense, “but it was perfect for us.”

Bertrand made sure the Huskies ended each practice and game with the same cheer, “Who are we? Champions!”

“He just made us believe,” Hallee said. “He doesn’t treat us as just his players. He takes us in, and treats us each as one of his boys.”

Added Bertrand: “We had some good kids. Once we started winning, they started capitalizing on that.”

The goal now, Bertrand said, is to keep the success of 2013 going in 2014.

“We have a foundation of success. That presents a different challenge to build on,” Bertrand said.

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

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