PITTSFIELD — Maine Central Institute and Orono are the best two teams in the Little Ten Conference this season. On Friday night, two-time defending conference champ MCI was just a little better.

The Huskies used a strong run game and a defense that made three key stops in the second half to take a 35-25 victory in a battle of undefeated teams.

MCI improved to 7-0, while Orono fell to 6-1.

The win was also the 100th of MCI head coach Tom Bertrand’s career.

“Orono is a good team. They came out ready and we answered,” said MCI senior Eli Bussell, who ran for a game-high 172 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns.

The Huskies took the lead for good in the final minute of the first half, when Adam Bertrand caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Josh Buker with 15 seconds left, giving MCI a 21-18 lead.

On the second play of the third quarter, Buker broke a 56-yard touchdown run, and MCI’s lead was 28-18.

Orono answered with a 9:05 drive but came up empty when it ended on downs at the MCI 12. After forcing the Huskies to punt, the Red Riots next drive started at the MCI 22. This time, it stalled at the six yard line.

The Riots got the ball in great field position again, this time after Buker shanked a punt, but on first and 10 from the MCI 21, Orono quarterback Jackson Coutts was intercepted by Will Russell at the nine.

“We just came out and we played how we know how to play,” Eli Bussell said of the defensive stands. “We played as a team.”

Still, the game wasn’t over. The Riots stopped the Huskies at the 1-yard line, setting up a 99-yard touchdown pass from Coutts to Matt Fowler, cutting the MCI lead to 28-25 with 2:47 left in the game.

The ensuing onside kick didn’t go 10 yards, however, and MCI took over on the Orono 42. Six plays later, Bussell scored on a 2-yard run for the final margin of victory.

“Two good football teams going at it,” Orono coach Bob Sinclair said. “The Bussell kid a tough runner, so is Buker. We had our chances.”

Orono took an early 6-0 lead when Coutts scored on a 1 yard run. The Huskies answered with a 25 yard touchdown run by Buker (136 yards rushing).

The teams traded scores in the second quarter. Josiah Grace’s one yard touchdown run gave Orono a 12-7 lead, but Bussell’s 21-yard touchdown run gave MCI a 14-12 lead and began a string of three scores in the final 2:17 of the half.

Fowler (six catches for 169 yards) caught a 38 yard touchdown pass from Coutts with 1:20 left, giving Orono a brief 18-14 lead before MCI answered with Bertrand’s touchdown catch.

Coutts threw for 288 yards. Keenan Collett had nine catches for 113 yards for Orono.

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