Winslow and Mt. Desert Island knew they’d play a rematch of last season’s tight Big Ten Conference championship game at some point this season. Week 1? Sure, why not.

“This is one of the top games in our league this season, if not the top game,” Winslow coach Mike Siviski said.

With a 12-7 win in the conference final, MDI snapped Winslow’s state championship run at two, and snapped the Black Raiders state game appearance streak at four. It was the first regional title for the Trojans, who went on to lose to Wells in the state championship game.

This season, both MDI and Winslow are again among the top contenders for the Big Ten Conference title. Saturday’s game could set the winner as the team to beat in the league.

Here’s a look at the MDI-Winslow matchup:

Where: Poulin Field, Winslow

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

MDI coach Mark Shields on Winslow: “I’ve always thought Winslow is the best-coached team in the league. You’re not going to out-coach them, so we have to outplay them.”

Winslow coach Mike Siviski on MDI: “This MDI game is a real big game for us. If we let MDI get into what they do, we’re in trouble.”

Three keys for MDI:

• Tick tick tick.

Few teams in the state are as good at grinding out clock killing drives as MDI. In last season’s conference championship game, the Trojans’ go-ahead drive went 82 yards in 16 plays. More importantly, the drive chewed close to eight and a half minutes off the clock. If the Trojans can shorten the game with clock consuming drives, it could be a long day for the Black Raiders.

• Keep your cool.

MDI has beaten Winslow twice in school history, and never at Winslow’s Poulin Field, Shields said. Saturday afternoons against a good Winslow team can lead to frazzled nerves. Win or lose, Shields said he expects this game will reveal a lot about his team.

“I guess if you face Winslow right out of the gate, you find out what kind of team you are,” Shields said.

• Contain Gagnon.

Winslow lost a pair of all-conference running backs, Nate St. Amand and Kenny Rickard, to graduation. The Black Raiders now have talented but untested backs such as Ryan Fredette, Ben Dorval and Alex Demers carrying the ball. Quarterback Ryan Gagnon does return, however, and Shields said slowing down the senior signal caller is crucial.

“They have strong running backs, and Gagnon runs the ball very well. He throws a good ball, too. They’re tough to stop,” Shields said.

Three keys for Winslow:

• Down and distance.

MDI’s offense primarily lines up in the T formation, and the Trojans want to grind out drives on the ground, picking up 4 or 5 yards each play. Winslow’s defense needs to be strong on first and second down, forcing the Trojans into third and fourth and long situations. In the regional final game last November, MDI was 3 for 4 on fourth down attempts. The conversions all came on tries of 1 or 2 yards. When the Trojans went for it on fourth-and-7 from the Winslow 34-yard line midway through the second quarter, they gained just 3 yards and turned the ball over on downs.

• Control the line.

To get MDI’s offense off the field, the Black Raiders have to win the individual battles in the trenches. Line play will be the key to this game, Siviski said.

“This will be a battle of the hogs,” Siviski said.

• Out-MDI the Trojans.

While MDI is known for its run game, the Black Raiders are pretty good at wearing down opponents with long drives, too. In last season’s 40-20 regular-season win over the Trojans, Winslow put together scoring drives of 60, 52 and 87 yards in the second half to pull away with the win. The 87-yard drive in the fourth quarter took 17 plays, all runs, and took almost nine minutes. Winslow needs to take a page out of MDI’s book, and mount a few of those drives on Saturday afternoon.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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