WINSLOW — As the Maine Central Institute football team warmed up for the second half, coach Tom Bertrand prowled behind the Huskies, imploring them to focus on the next 24 minutes of football.

“What is your legacy?” Bertrand shouted.

The Huskies legacy is intact.

Ahead of Winslow by 15 points at halftime, MCI used a perfectly executed fake punt to douse Winslow’s momentum, then ground out a pair of long scoring drives to pull out a 43-42 victory in a C North semifinal Saturday at Poulin Field. No. 6 MCI (6-4) — in its first season back in Class C — will play at top-seed Mt. Desert Island (9-1) at 7 Saturday night in the regional final.

It took a couple perfectly executed trick plays, a few big defensive stops, and even a little luck, but the Huskies are moving on.

“Coach (Bertrand) talks about heart and never giving up. We knew we were down and needed to come back and score,” said MCI senior Pedro Matos, who scored three touchdowns and gained 116 yards of offense.

No. 2 Winslow (8-2) dropped its first home playoff game since 2008, when it fell to Morse.

Winslow pulled to within 36-34 when Tyler Crayton caught a 60-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Gagnon with 7:20 left in the game and Ben Dorval ran in the 2-point conversion, The Huskies took over at the Winslow 47 after a long Matos return, but quickly faced third and 9 after an offsides penalty and two short runs. Freshman quarterback Ryan Friend connected with Adam Bertrand for a 16-yard pass to pick up the first down, and MCI ran six straight times, taking a 43-34 lead when Matos scored on a 6-yard run with 1:41 to play.

Winslow answered, when Gagnon hit Hunter Campbell with a 4-yard touchdown pass with 18.9 seconds left, and Dorval scored the conversion to cut MCI’s lead to one. The Huskies recovered the ensuing onside kick, though, and took a knee to end the game.

Two trick plays stand out for MCI. First, facing a third down and 24 on their own 40, the Huskies went to a halfback pass that’s been in the playbook only a few days. David Young made the deep throw to Matos, who out-jumped the Winslow defender for the ball before running untouched for the game-tying touchdown. One of MCI’s best receivers, Young said he’s never been asked to make a pass before.

“I got really excited. I mean, we put it in two days ago, so I was looking forward to trying it out, and it worked out in our favor,” Young said. “(Matos) made a great play and scored on it.”

Added Matos: “We needed a touchdown because this was such a big game. I knew I could out-jump the other guy, so I did. I came down with it and fortunately I scored.”

Trailing 29-14 at the half, Winslow scored two touchdowns in the span of 1:52 in the third quarter to pull within 29-26. First, Ryan Fredette scored on a 33-yard run. After Dorval returned an interception 30 yards to the MCI 5, Fredette scored on a 3-yard run, and the Black Raiders trailed by three with 4:30 to play in the third. Fredette and Gagnon sat out most of the first half with ankle injuries. Gagnon was pressed into service when backup quarterback Colby Pomeroy suffered a wrist injury late in the second quarter, and Fredette finished with 97 yards on eight carries, all in the second half, after spraining an ankle in last week’s win over Waterville. Playing on his bad ankle, Gagnon was unable to kick, forcing the Black Raiders to go for two points after each touchdown.

“We’re really proud of our kids, the way they came back. Particularly when you consider that Fredette and Gagnon couldn’t even walk two or three days ago,” Winslow coach Mike Siviski said. “We’re really proud of the way we battled. I really can’t believe Ryan Fredette and Ryan Gagnon, what they did. They were in dire straits.”

MCI’s second trick play came just minutes after Winslow cut the deficit to three points. Facing fourth down and 9 from midfield, the Huskies went for a fake punt, with Will Russell completing a 21-yard pass to TJ Kuespert. Four plays later, Matos scored on an 18-yard run to give the Huskies some breathing room, 36-26. The fake punt called for some trickery inside the trickery. When the Huskies first lined up in punt formation, Bertrand called timeout, pretending the team had made a mistake.

“I called timeout to make it look like we’d done something wrong out there, trying to hope (Winslow) wouldn’t pick up on it. It was all part of it to make sure we had it right. Sometimes in these games you just go with your gut. Today we did. The kids played with a lot of heart,” Bertrand said.

Bertrand said the trick plays came from his assistant coaches. Woody Moore designed the halfback pass, and Bertrand’s son, Alex, suggested the fake punt.

“It’s just something we saw on film that (Moore) liked. I asked him to write down 10 plays that he thinks we could do, and that was one in there. It looked the way it was drawn up. It was Alex telling me on the sideline, you’ve got a fake punt to throw to TJ. Let’s do it,” Bertrand said. “You have the bag of tricks, and you have to throw them out there once in a while.”

Ahead 15-14 late in the second quarter, MCI scored twice in the final 36 seconds of the half. First, Adam Bertrand scored on an 8-yard run with 36.8 seconds left. On the first play on Winslow’s ensuing drive, Bertrand returned an interception 26 yards to the Winslow 34. Friend hit Young (four catches, 61 yards) for an 11-yard gain, then connected with Bertrand (three catches for 60 yards) on a 23-yard touchdown pass. The Huskies threw for 202 yards, 165 coming in the first half.

“We knew we could throw the football on them and it would be tough sledding running the football, so we mixed it up. It took us a while to develop some rhythm, but once we did we were executing pretty well,” Bertrand said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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