PITTSFIELD — It became apparent early in Saturday’s game. If the Mount View High School football team was going to have any success running the ball against Maine Central Institute, it wasn’t going to be up the middle of the field.

Of the Mustangs’ first six rushing attempts between the tackles, only one gained for more than three yards. Mount View’s first three drives ended in punts and it wasn’t until the Mustangs ran a perfectly executed option play to the left late in the first quarter did they move the ball.

The Huskies controlled the middle of the line of scrimmage in large part because of the play of senior nose guard Curtis McLeod. The 6-foot-3, 280-pound McLeod, a captain, is a four-year starter on MCI’s defensive line. This season, McLeod moved from defensive tackle to nose guard, where so far he’s helped make running up the middle on the Huskies a difficult chore.

“Curtis certainly is respected well by his teammates, just by the physical way he plays the game and how well he does,” MCI coach Tom Bertrand said. “He’s kind of a big giant teddy bear. He’s in the vocal jazz group. You see him kicking butt on Friday night and he’s singing in the vocal jazz group on Saturday. He brings a lot to the table and the kids really respect him for it.”

McLeod is the latest in a string of strong nose guards for the Huskies. With starter Eric Hathaway graduating, McLeod was next in line for the job.

“Between Hathaway and before him, Briar (Bussell), we’ve had some good nose guards,” Bertrand said. “We had (McLeod) at D tackle. He could always play nose. This year, we decided the middle of our defense needed to be secure before we could worry about anything else. He’s been doing it for a long time, and gotten better and better each year. He’s somebody that we look to, year in and year out, to anchor that defensive line.”

When McLeod joined MCI’s defensive line as a starter his freshman season, the Huskies struggled. They went 0-8 that season. The following year, MCI won six games, before winning the Little Ten Conference title last year.

“Sophomore year, going into it, you could tell the energy was up. We were ready to compete. That set the tone for last season and this season to come,” McLeod said.

Last season, McLeod was a first team all-conference selection at defensive line and guard. If he had to choose, McLeod prefers offensive line.

“Offensive line just has that feeling about it, that everybody’s working together. Everybody’s got the same goal. We’re all ready to get out there and block for our team and get the score,” McLeod said. “Whenever we drive the ball, whenever we just run the ball up the middle, that’s always the best moment. Trying to make a statement.”

With McLeod leading the line, the Huskies scored a state-high 185 points in their first three games.

“He’s the leader of our offensive line. We’ve got five seniors, when we’re healthy, on the offensive line, and Curtis is sort of the anchor of that offensive line as well. We’ll run to both sides, but when we want some yardage, we’ll run behind Curtis and Mike (left tackle Mike Steeves), there’s no doubt about it,” Bertrand said.

Lately, McLeod has added another position to his resume, fullback. It started in MCI’s week two win at Orono, and continued on Saturday at Mount View. McLeod had one carry for four yards, and also ran in a 2-point conversion.

“It’s just a good way to make running the ball up the middle even easier,” McLeod said. “I always know my position is on the line. When I go in there at fullback, it’s business as usual.”

Bertrand said the plays with McLeod at fullback are designed to take advantage of his quickness and athleticism. If McLeod lines up in the backfield and doesn’t get the ball, then he’s a guard with a five-yard head start.

Put him next to Alex (Bertrand, MCI’s starting fullback), and give the ball to Eli (Bussell) behind them, teams have to be able to make an adjustment or we’re going to pick up three or four yards a pop,” coach Bertrand said.

McLeod said he’s not sure if football is in his college plans. If he competes in a collegiate sport, it may be track and field. Last spring, McLeod was the Class C runner-up in the discus and shot put (where he finished second to teammate Hathaway). For now, He’s getting ready for Friday’s game against Mattanawcook Academy, an undefeated opponent who should challenge the Huskies for the conference title.

“Expectations are very high, and we’re just excited for the rest of the year. We’re rolling, and we’re not going to stop,” McLeod said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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