WATERVILLE — When the entire offensive line at Maine Central Institute graduated, junior PJ Plummer and Aaron Schanck knew they’d get the chance to earn starting spots. David Young saw graduations at tight end and defensive end and thought the same thing. Adam Bertrand, who missed the second half of the 2015 season with a broken ankle, knew he’d have to work hard to reclaim his spot as a starting linebacker for the Huskies, as well as snaps at fullback, where his brother Alex had started for three seasons.

“I knew I was going to have to step in,” Bertrand said before Wednesday’s practice at Colby College. “Obviously, I had to prove myself to the coaches again, but I was expecting to step in and be a key player, and do as much as I can for the team.”

Plummer, Schanck and Young exhibited the same confidence when given the chance to be a key player. The success enjoyed at MCI over the previous two seasons had rubbed off. Younger players knew that the hard work they put in throughout the offseason would work because they’d seen it happen. Now, these four juniors are two-way starters, and a big reason the Huskies are going to the Class D state championship game for the third consecutive season.

MCI (11-0) will take on Lisbon (8-1) in the Class D state championship at 6 p.m., Saturday at Portland’s Fitzpatrick Stadium.

None of the four take their playing time for granted.

“They know it’s hard to get, and they know it’s up for grabs. The competition’s there, and it’s healthy competition,” MCI head coach Tom Bertrand, Adam’s father, said. “Adam was starting at linebacker for us. The other guys were pretty much spot players, and they’ve stepped up this year as two-way starters right off the bat.”

Plummer, a guard, and Schanck, a center, stepped into a rare situation at any level of football, an offensive line built from scratch. All five starters from last season’s Little Ten Conference championship team graduated. That left opportunity, but also pressure.

“They were really good players, all five of them, and we’re just trying to do our best to live up to them,” Schanck said. “The pressure really goes away after the first play of the game.”

Added Plummer: “There’s definitely some pressure. With the whole line being replaced this year, it was big shoes to fill. It took us a while to fill it, but I feel we’ve made out just fine.”

Schanck and Plummer became key pieces of an offensive line that quickly jelled and made sure the Huskies never slowed down, averaging more than 42 points per game, and a season-low score of 35 points in a 35-25 win over second-place Orono.

“They’ve stepped in and melded real nice. We’ve got a bunch of sophomores right behind them. We’ve gained some depth through the season on the offensive line, for sure,” Coach Bertrand said.

Young had to wait his turn behind a pair of talented tight end/defensive ends, Mitchell Hallee in 2014 and Dillon Fitts last season.

“I was really confident coming in. Over the summer, I put in a lot of work. I showed up to every lifting session and set my expectations really high. I felt like I’d grown as an athlete and a football player,” Young said.

Young caught 11 passes in the regular season. Eight went for touchdowns. Listed as a tight end, Young often will line up split wide in more of a receiver role.

“I get to play so many different positions, it doesn’t feel like I’m playing tight end. If I need to go in and play tight and block for my running backs, I can do that. If I need to go get split out and catch some passes, I can to that, also,” Young said.

As a defensive end, Young had two sacks and two fumble recoveries in the regular season.

“I’ve been behind some really good defensive ends and I just got to learn and play against them in practices,” Young said. “I didn’t feel any pressure. All of us juniors knew we were going to do well. We just had so much confidence.”

Of the four two-way junior starters, only Adam Bertrand was a starter last season. Before his injury in a mid-season exhibition game against Hyde, Bertrand had started at linebacker and seen some time in the offensive backfield. Two weeks before suffering his season-ending broken ankle, Bertrand ran for three touchdowns in a win at Mount View. Bertrand scored 60 points in the regular season, second on the Huskies only to senior quarterback Josh Buker. Bertrand added a touchdown run in an LTC semifinal win over Bucksport, and caught a 42-yard touchdown pass from Buker in last week’s conference championship win over Dexter. Along with his head coach father, Bertrand is coached by his brother Alex, who joined the Huskies staff this season.

“I guess I could never fill his shoes. He was a pretty good fullback. It feels pretty good to play his positions,” Bertrand said.

Sometimes, the brother’s discussions can get heated.

“He’s an assistant. He gives me advice, but it’s that brotherly love on the team, you know? We’ve got to find a happy medium. We get into arguments sometimes and my dad has to tell us to cut it out. That’s just the way it goes,” Bertrand said.

For MCI, each of the last two seasons ended with a loss to Oak Hill in the state championship game. The opponent is different this year, a strong Lisbon team, but the goal remains the same for the Huskies.

“I guess we all try to do as much as we can to make sure our seniors have a pretty good ride,” Adam Bertrand said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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