The playoffs are nothing new to the Maine Central Institute football team. The Huskies won the Class D state championshiup last season, and three consecutive regional titles. Now, MCI is in the postseason in a new conference, and the Huskies opponent in the quarterfinals is a team that’s new to the playoffs in any league.

Nokomis (6-2) earned the first winning season in the progran’s 11-season history, and in doing so, reached the playoffs for the first time. As the No. 3 seed in Class C North, the Warriors host No. 6 MCI (4-4) Saturday at 1 p.m. Jake Rogers, Nokomis’ first year head coach, is eager for Saturday to arrive.

“I’m glad it’s MCI, because it makes for a great playoff atmosphere with neighboring towns. Being at Lawrence for so long, it seemed like every first round playoff game we had was against Messalonskee,” Rogers said. “It jacks up the energy. You’re not going to hear crickets chirpping. It will be a really great crowd on Saturday.”

Also in Class C North, No. 7 Waterville (3-5) plays at No. 2 Winslow (7-1). In Class B North, No. 5 Brewer (4-4) is at No. 4 Messalonskee (4-4). In Class D South, No. 7 Dirigo (3-5) plays at No. 2 Madison (7-1).

MCI and Nokomis met in Pittsfield in week two, with the Huskies taking a 12-0 win. Both teams have changed quite a bit since that early September matchup.

“Just watching them on film, you can see they’ve gotten a lot better, and they were good the first time around,” MCI coach Tom Bertrand said of Nokomis. “They deserve to be in the situation they’re in. We feel we’ve gotten better as the season went on, in so many ways.”

Injuries tested MCI’s depth early in the season, but the Huskies are now healthy across the board, Betrand said. A backfield of Adam Bertrand, Pedro Matos, Seth Bussell, and quarterback Ryan Friend, along with wideout David Young, gives MCI a number of offensive weapons.

“We’re getting the ball to a lot of different guys, which is what we want to do,” coach Bertrand said.

Rogers said MCI’s running game looks much like the power run game of Mt. Desert Island, the region’s top seed, and Nokomis’ opponent in last week’s regular season finale.

“They’re going to pound the ball. They’re bunching everyone up, very similar to what MDI’s doing. It’s just hard to stop when it’s all coming downhill at you,” Rogers said. “They’ve simplified a lot, it seems. They’re putting less on Ryan (Friend).”

A freshman, Friend has shown marked improvement at quarterback for the Huskies.

“Ryan, each week we see him grow, and we can expand the things we do with him,” coach Bertrand said.

Nokomis allowed the fewest points in Class C North, 126, just under 16 points per game. Linebacker Quinton Richards lead the Warriors with 75 tackles and three sacks. Offensively, Nokomis likes to spread the ball around. Tyler Pelletier, Colby Pinette, and Alex Costedio lead the run gamne. Quarterback Andrew Haining threw 10 touchdown passes with one interception in the regular season.

• Waterville is in the playoffs after a two-year absence. The Purple Panthers bounced back from a winless 2016 with offensive depth and more experience around the field. Chase Wheeler, Trafton Gilbert, Nick Wildhaber, and Tyrone Giger lead Waterville’s run game, along with quarterback Jack Thompson, who can run and pass.

This is the third Battle of the Bridge playoff game between Winslow and Waterville since the 2013 season. Winslow won each of the other two meetings in the conference championship game. The Black Raiders enter the playoffs with a six game win streak. Ryan Fredette is Winslow’s leading rusher, with 756 yards over the last four games.

• In the Pine Tree Conference Class B, Brewer at Messalonskee is a rematch of a week six game won by Messalonskee, 36-33. The biggest difference this time around is the health of Messalonskee running back/safety Austin Pelletier. The leading rusher in the conference with more than 1,200 yards, Pelletier suffered a knee injury in the second quarter of the season finale at Lawrence and spent the second half on crutches. Earlier this week, coach Brad Bishop said Pelletier was able to put weight on the knee and walk, but was unsure if the senior would be able to play. If Pelletier does play, his workload will likely be decreased, and back Tyler Lewis and Alden Balboni will see a bigger share of the carries.

The Witches closed the regular season with back-to-back wins, and bring a strong running game of their own into Friday’s game. Backs Bryce Largay, Bryant Kiley, and Andrew Kiley lead Brewer’s run-heavy attack.

• Madison has been dominant throughout most of its first season back in Class D, losing only a close game to undefeated Wells. Friday’s playoff game against Dirigo is a rematch of a week two game won by Madison, 51-6.

Dirigo has battled injuries all season. Freshman Cole Brown is the third quarterback the Cougars have used this season, thanks to injuries to veterans. Cooper Chiasson and Cam Turner are key runners for the Cougars.

Madison averaged just under 41 points per game in the regular season. A veteran group of skill players leads the way for the Bulldogs. Running backs Sean Whalen and Eric Wescott, quarterback Evan Bess, and receiver Zach Belanger are big playmakers for the Bulldogs.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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